5 Challenges of Remote Work, and How to Combat Them

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Many freelancers work remotely, and remote work has become increasingly common among full-time employees as well. Between the growth of technology and the global economy, remote work has become more accessible than ever. The advantages of working remotely vary from person-to-person, but the flexibility, autonomy, and geographical freedom of remote work make it a desirable lifestyle. But with each benefit also comes challenges.

The State of Remote Work 2018 Report categorized the major struggles of remote workers, from keeping up with communication to staying motivated. Here are some simple tactics to help combat these common challenges.

1. Solitude

Loneliness was one of the biggest struggles for remote workers, according to 21% of those surveyed. While being away from office politics and interpersonal distractions can be a great relief, working remotely means taking away the social aspect of an office.

Incorporate social interactions when possible with phone calls or video chats with your collaborators. If your work is naturally independent, find breaks in the day to interact with others, even if it’s going out for lunch with a friend.

If the quietness of working remotely bothers you, try listening to music or putting the TV on in the background. Even read your emails aloud to change up the sound in your space. If that’s too distracting from your work, add the noise when you’re taking a break or pausing for a meal.

Try changing up your space by spending time working from a coffee shop, co-working office, bookstore, or outdoor space. Even working from different rooms in your house can help add some dynamism to your day.

2. Collaboration & Communications

Collaborating and communicating was just as significant of a struggle as loneliness, with 21% of those surveyed identifying this as a major challenge. If you’re working on a team remotely, interacting with your collaborators can be difficult. Set up standing meetings, one-on-one chats or video calls, and regular group chats to help keep everyone connected.

Part of combating this challenge is setting up clear communications channels among the team. Find a communications tool that would work best to keep everyone in-the-loop, and set the expectation of actively using such platforms.

3. Distractions

Distractions in the workplace are varied, just as they might be at home or wherever you’re working remotely. Whether it’s the TV, your family or roommates, or a comfy couch that calls your name, 16% of survey respondents identified distractions at home as their biggest struggle.

Choose your daily schedule wisely. Know what time your distractions are most likely to kick in, and navigate those periods with your work. Commit to one workspace for a chunk of time, and schedule breaks to refrain from constantly stepping away from your work.

Wear headphones to tune out noise, or even work outside of the house when distractions are at a peak. If your distractions are primarily due to others who share your space, be transparent with them about what environment you need to work effectively, and how they can help you stay productive.

4. Motivation

According to the State of Remote Work 2018 Report, 14% of remote workers find staying motivated a big challenge. Having discipline can be extremely productive for remote workers, but not everyone has that inherent drive to stick to a schedule.

Try a project management or time-tracker tool to keep yourself accountable to your projects, and develop a daily routine. At the start of each day, review all of your tasks. Prioritize and schedule your work throughout the day, based on how long each task will take. Give yourself an “easy” task to start with, and build that momentum over the course of the day.

Allow yourself a little leeway, too. You might not always stay on schedule or finish a task as quickly as you thought you would, but don’t let that halt your progress. Consider these work-life balance tips for more ways to stay motivated.

5. External Factors

Sometimes the challenge isn’t something you can control or help alleviate, and those struggles are perhaps the most frustrating. Based on the Report’s findings, 13% of respondents considered timezone to be a challenge, and 8% shared that finding reliable WiFi was bothersome.

When these external factors affect your work, it can be easy to give up. However, there are some simple ways you can help prepare for such challenges, such as researching WiFi options in advance of a trip or using a timezone tool on your browser.

Most of all, manage your team’s and client’s expectations if you anticipate that external factors may affect your work. Keep them updated with your status if you’re traveling, and be prepared with backup solutions if something unexpected were to happen.

No matter what struggles impact you the most, know that you’re not the only one. Above all else, be flexible and stay communicative with your colleagues if you are dealing with a challenge. Trying different methods to stay productive, motivated, and in-touch with others will help you strike the right balance to make the remote lifestyle work for you.

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