3 Remote Working Challenges – And How to Overcome Them

Many articles have been written about the benefits of remote working, as well as the transformation remote working has had on the work force, unemployment rates and job satisfaction. Nothing is perfect, though.  So, what about the downside and what can be done to overcome remote working challenges?

Here are three common issues, with suggestions on how to best overcome them.

1. Working too Much

This may not appear to be a downside from an employer’s or supervisor’s perspective, but job burnout is a lose-lose scenario. Burnout arises in large part because the lines blur when working from home. Are you on “personal” time or “work” time? It is easy to err on the side of working too much, which can lead to an out-of-balance lifestyle, too much stress and a loss of productivity.

One way to overcome this challenge is to set appointments for non-work activities on your calendar, just like you would do with a client appointment. This helps to ensure you spend time on “non-work” activities, and don’t work all day and all night. Perhaps you like going to the gym, in which case, set up a recurring appointment on your calendar to make sure you go. As a bonus, you can take advantage of going in the morning when the gym isn’t as busy. Then, if you work later that evening, it all balances out.

Another factor to consider is that you are productive for only 90 to 120 minutes at a time, after which time you effectiveness drops off. This has been scientifically proven, leading to the emergence of “burst” work schedules. Take a 15-minute break after working for a couple of hours. Take a walk; grab a coffee or catch up on the news. These mental breaks are important to help you re-group, and can often lead to creative ideas on how to best address a challenge you are working on. And, if you were in the office, you would take these anyway; treat your home office in the same way. Then, when you go back to your work, you will be more focused, productive and effective.

2. Avoid the Trap of “Where did the Day Go?” Syndrome

We have all had these types of days. It seems like we were busy all day, but in the end, we really didn’t seem to get anything done. And, when working remotely, there are greater expectations on documenting or “proving” you have been working all day – even if it isn’t said. This is really a time management issue – a challenge that can certainly impact you whether you are a remote worker, or if you work in the office. The key is to realize that the big tasks need to be tackled first (even if they are the unpleasant ones). The best way to get them started is to hit them early in the day, setting the stage for a successful day. Identify 2-3 things that you want to get done today, and set aside the time to make it happen. Then you are halfway there to having a successful day.

Here is a video that captures this point very well, so worth watching:


3. Minimizing Unplanned Disruptions

We all get interrupted during the work day – supervisors more than others. This is just part of the job. We need to expect that some of the day will be spent on unplanned calls, unexpected visitors and “must do tasks” that suddenly drop on your desk. Speaking of unexpected visitors, those with young children in the house can appreciate the delicate balance of wanting to have a close relationship with your kids, but at the same time, having a way to ensure you have your “place” to work as needed. Just as you wouldn’t bring your children into the office every day, the same can be said of the home office. The same applies to other distractions such as pets, house guests or roommates.

Those of us who have kids and work from home can empathize with this viral video of a live interview broadcast on the BBC gone wrong:

To Professor Robert Kelly’s credit, he had a system in place that involved locking the door to his study to avoid unplanned interruptions. The problem was that on this day the lock didn’t quite get set right, resulting in his children joining him for his interview on a live, televised broadcast.

The way to avoid this type of situation occurring is to have clear boundaries on when it is ok for your kids to visit with you, or other interruptions to occur. If you are a parent working from home, you will likely need to hire daycare services or a nanny for at least part of your day.

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