Telecommuting has become the new norm for many professionals across the United States as the coronavirus pandemic has caused a need for social distancing. Businesses that previously did not support remote work have adapted, enabling companies to continue running while providing employees with a safe and effective way to complete work.
According to a survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 24% of employees worked from home some or most of the time in 2019. This number has significantly increased during the coronavirus pandemic, but employees don’t seem to mind working from home. Another study showed that 77% of workers said that they would be more willing to accept a job offer if they had the option to telecommute at least some of the time.
Although working from home has many benefits, including increased productivity, better work-life balance and higher levels of career satisfaction, it’s not without challenges. Here are five common drawbacks to working from home and how you can overcome them to have a positive work from home experience.
1. No physical separation between work and home
Although you can avoid the morning commute, the walk from your bedroom to your living room or office might be too close. It is nice being able to work from home, but some people can feel as though their work is invading their private space. If you are someone who can be a bit of a workaholic, it might be challenging to leave your work unfinished at the end of the day.
One way to separate your work from your personal space is to create a dedicated workspace in your home. Not only will you have everything in one location, but this should allow you to keep your living space separate from your workspace. Setting an alarm for yourself to finish work and being clear with your team about when you are done for the day is a great way to set a clear boundary between work and home.
2. Feeling out of the loop
While working from home can provide you with autonomy and independence, it can also feel isolating. Some professionals may feel like they are also out of the loop on important business processes and updates since they don’t have the chance to talk to people in person. They also miss out on those coffee break conversations and spur-of-the-moment visits from colleagues.
Try maintaining regular communication to help you stay connected to your work community. Here are a few tips that can help:
- If you work with a team, set up a weekly check-in to learn about progress, new projects and future goals. If you’re concerned about a timely matter, make impromptu phone calls to your teammates or supervisor if needed.
- You can integrate more face-to-face interactions using online conference platforms like Zoom or Skype. Skype also has a text chat option so if you have a quick question or concern, you can reach out to your coworkers as regularly as you would if you were in the office.
- You could also try using Slack for communications that don’t necessarily require a formal email. The platform features direct messaging and group chat rooms that you can organize by team, project, etc., among other convenient functionalities.
- You can also use online tools to help manage projects and workflow of your team. There are numerous different solutions such as TimeCamp or Asana that help keep everyone on the same page and up-to-date on progress.
3. Access to technology and technology platforms
In the office, your employer has likely provided most of the technology you need. While your company might also provide you with additional technology for working remotely, you could encounter some challenges with reliable Wi-Fi or connect to a virtual personal network (VPN). Some positions might require items like a second monitor, a headset, webcam or access to specific programs. Try talking to your employer about whether they could loan additional equipment to you from the office or purchase it new. Be sure to explain how these tools would help you do your job more effectively.
Additionally, make sure you have a backup plan. Confirm the location of the nearest coffee shop or library that offers internet access in case you’re in a bind and consider setting up a mobile hotspot device. Back up your work in multiple places, like the cloud or a flash drive, if your employer allows it.
Because you are working from home, colleagues, clients and others might assume that you are always available, but most individuals deal with some sort of distraction that takes their attention away from work from time to time. Parents with children might encounter significant challenges, especially if their children are also at home throughout the day. Even a pet could make it more difficult to perform your job.
You can avoid or minimize these distractions by setting up an office or workspace in a part of the house that is removed from everyone else. You could also invest in a pair of noise-canceling headphones to help tune out background noise. If you work in a small living environment, you might also find it helpful to set clear boundaries with your family or other housemates. Have an honest conversation with those around you so that expectations are clear.
Working from home can increase productivity, but it can also challenge it. When working in the office, you know that you generally have a set time amount of time to get work done. You also have other employees working around you, which can help keep you accountable and help minimize distractions. However, when working from home you also have fewer external motivators to keep you on task. You are responsible for managing your schedule and completing your work, which requires a significant amount of self-discipline.
Although this can be a struggle for some people, being self-disciplined is a great skill to practice and hone. Employers want employees who can keep themselves motivated to work. One way to help combat distractions is to use a task management system and set a timer for yourself to complete work. If you set goals for yourself during the day, with scheduled breaks, it may be easier to stay on task.
If you’re unsure where to start, you’re not alone. There are endless amounts of advice and free resources addressing this topic that are available online. You could also check out books that are dedicated to helping people develop habits, stay focused and be more productive at work and in life.
Despite all the challenges, telecommuting can be very rewarding. With a little hard work and perseverance, you might find yourself enjoying the flexibility and autonomy of working from home!