Mention “remote work” and people will react with love or hate. In the last couple of years, more workers have experienced remote work as offices closed. Most workers agree that remote work saves you the commute and helps you to avoid annoying coworkers. But there is also a darker side.
People who suddenly switched to work from home (WFH) may have converted their dining room into an office, allowing work and home to blur together. Workers who enjoy collaboration may have struggled with a new feeling of isolation from their colleagues.
However, remote work does come with great perks if you prepare yourself for the lifestyle. A big plus is having more flexibility in your schedule, and a casual dress code that allows comfortable clothes.
Plenty of other pros and cons make remote work a love or hate situation. Here are four downsides to working from home, along with some top tips for working remotely:
Social media is more distracting than your surroundings
You may be working remotely, but you’re not entirely in isolation. Even if you live with family or roommates, and you’ve arranged for them to leave you alone during office hours, you’re not alone.
In the Information Age, you’ve got plenty of distractions on your computer and phone. Facebook posts, IG reels, text messages, and group chats give you easy excuses not to work. If you’re stuck on what to write for your report, an easy press of a button will have five minutes rushing by as you watch an amusing TikTok video.
The break is for inspiration, you say. You can tell yourself you needed that quick recharge; it’s no different than a quick chat with a coworker as you grab a coffee from the company kitchen.
But similar to your set up at the office, you choose how you arrange your work area at home. You’ve found a place where you can work undisturbed. Next, set up boundaries for social media and communications with some quick changes.
Turn off notifications and check messages only when it’s a designated break time.
Update your availability status so coworkers or clients see that you don’t want to be disturbed. Another option is to quickly scan your work messages and emails to see if they must be answered right away. Otherwise, wait until you arrive at a natural stopping point in your work task or workday before replying to those messages.
Your loved ones will be in your personal and professional life
One of the best things about remote work is the shortened commute because you wake up in the same building where you work. It also means your loved ones will have easy access to your office.
It can be challenging to draw a firm boundary between your work life and personal life. If you don’t set boundaries, both worlds will blur together.
Some people are comfortable allowing family into their workspace. During virtual work meetings, their children drop by to ask permission to watch a TV show, or the family pet observes your discussions. Remote work has allowed coworkers to meet family members in a way that they wouldn’t have before, when you worked at the office. If you aren’t comfortable with this lack of boundaries, you have other options.
Some remote workers rent an office co-working space or go to a coffee shop. Others set up office hours at home. For example, when the study room door is closed, it means you’re working, and you can’t be disturbed until your next break. If you’re working at a desk in the kitchen or living room corner, you can signal that you’re working whenever you have headphones on.
Setting regular work hours can be more difficult when you’re working remotely. It’s easy to get distracted and put off working on a project now so you can work on it tonight. With flexible hours, you have the convenience of scheduling doctor’s appointments during the day. You can excuse yourself from work to pick up the kids from school.
However, because your office is where you live, it’s also easier to be working all the time. You no longer have a long commute, so you could work a bit longer to finish that task instead of waiting until tomorrow. Coworkers could also expect you to be more reachable because you are at home, where you should see that email notification after hours.
For these reasons, it’s vital to set boundaries for yourself. Log off at a set time each day. Avoid answering messages and emails once you’re officially “away” from the office. When people know you’re not reachable before and after certain times, they will not expect to get a reply from you.
Setting boundaries is essential for your mental health. The most significant upside to remote work is you get to set those boundaries. If you’re a morning person, plan to complete projects in the early hours. If you’re a night person, complete your most challenging projects at night. Also, block off time for yourself and your loved ones.
Working from home doesn’t mean work life and home life should coexist.
Lack of productivity or lack of a routine
Working remotely allows more freedom in your schedule. You can plan your work hours around family events and routines. It’s easier to schedule dental appointments, car servicing, and grocery shopping at more optimal times during the day.
Having a set work schedule is also helpful for getting yourself organized and keeping track of tasks. For example, check for meetings you need to prepare for as soon as you get started. Always log in your project hours as your final task for the day. Having a routine also mentally prepares your brain for the start and end of the workday.
Plan out your tasks for the day. One way is to schedule your most challenging tasks first, so you’re working on them when you have the most energy. If you have a lot of repetitive tasks, you can complete some, then reward yourself with a break.
Remember to break for lunch. When working from home, it’s easy to keep working if you’re engaged in what you’re doing. You don’t have the distraction of coworkers leaving their desks to remind you when it’s lunchtime.
Communication skills become a lifeline
Communication is important at the office, but it becomes your lifeline to your boss and colleagues when you’re working remotely. Silence can be detrimental, so over-communication is preferred when working from home.
Your supervisor and coworkers don’t know what you’ve been doing unless you leave an electronic paper trail. Communicate clearly in group chats what you’re working on and what you’ve accomplished. Leave links to completed reports so people can find them.
If you haven’t completed what you’d planned to by the end of the day, take the initiative to update team members on new delivery dates. Don’t wait for them to chase you for an update. Taking on responsibility also shows your accountability.
If you weren’t clear about your task or role, send an email outlining what you believe you’re responsible for finishing by specific dates. This allows your boss the opportunity to clarify any misunderstandings before any errors occur.
When you work from home, there are fewer opportunities to socialize. However, you can still take advantage of opportunities to see how a coworker is doing. The start of a virtual meeting is a chance for some small talk to see what people plan to do for an upcoming holiday or to check if a coworker’s arm has healed from an accident.
Group chats are also an informal opportunity to chat with coworkers. For example, after asking if your coworker has completed the spreadsheet, ask how she is coping with the weather.
Depending on your rapport with the team and the company culture, you can send a photo for some humour. For example, sending a photo of your cat’s latest humorous antics. Group chats are less formal than email and can offer opportunities for coffee break conversations.
Communication is also about setting firm boundaries. Your boss may request an impromptu meeting at an inconvenient time (which could mean you aren’t camera-ready). In that case, you can suggest another meeting time or request to have the task by email instead of discussed at a meeting.
Remote work has become a household term in the last couple of years. Some people were forced to work from home, while others prefer it. Regardless, remote work has its pros and cons. Applying some top tips to your remote work set up at home will increase the perks of working from home.
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