Modern technology allows many of us new freedom to work without commuting to an office every day. Telecommuting helps keep the planet healthier by reducing the number of cars on the road and gives employees back time otherwise spent sitting in traffic. But despite all the benefits of working from home provides, drawbacks likewise exist.
Remote workers often struggle to develop a structured schedule where they separate time for work and play. Those with young children at home must learn how to prevent interruptions from diminishing their productivity. Here’s how to address these and other telecommuting woes.
1. Feeling Forever on the Clock
While not all remote workers enjoy a flexible schedule, those who do can find themselves struggling to separate their work lives from their household and family responsibilities. This can lead to burnout as there’s always more work to get done.
If you enjoy a flex arrangement, discipline yourself to arrange your schedule so it follows your natural internal biorhythms. Set aside eight hours each day to focus solely on work. When the day — or evening, for night owls — ends, power the computer down and refuse to take any calls not constituting an emergency.
2. Feeling Separated from Your Team
Working remotely can lead to feelings of loneliness and disconnect from your colleagues. Those working in completely different parts of the country often miss out on fun after-work events like holiday parties that on-site employees enjoy.
Feel more in touch with your team by maintaining daily communication via email or instant message. Use Facetime for phone calls and turn on your webcam at least some of the time when attending virtual meetings. You’ll soon feel more included even if your coworkers are 3,000 miles away.
3. Maintaining Productivity Levels
In-office workers enjoy the opportunity to engage in friendly competition with coworkers for workplace efficiency. Remote employees lack this advantage and may face uncertainty over how much work they should complete daily.
Have a frank and open discussion with your supervisor about their expectations to avoid getting perceived as lazy. Communicate openly and honestly when projects take longer than anticipated. Positively explain delays like a desire to perform your best work, not with excuses of how you had to care for an ailing infant — use a sick day for those instances.
4. Managing Interruptions
Remote workers with families often find that telecommuting means getting interrupted by their children and spouses, which decreases overall productivity. To avoid this, locate your home office in a room with a door that closes instead of an alcove off the family room where noisy TVs and shrieking toddlers get overhead constantly. Hire a baby sitter or arrange childcare for kids younger than school age.
5. Dealing with Time Zones
Time zone differences make group meetings difficult and can result in embarrassing phone calls to clients still in bed. This proves particularly true for companies with employees all over the globe.
Rotate meeting times so that the same folks don’t always need to rise at 3 a.m, to collaborate. Use software to track which clients live where and to calculate time differences to avoid late night calls, and use apps like Slack to communicate with colleagues on opposite sides of the world.
6. Physical Effects
Besides the mental impact of working at home, some remote workers do their bodies physical harm by grinding too hard. Those staring at computer screens all day should give their eyes a break by focusing on objects other than their laptop every 30 minutes and should undergo regular visual exams. Workers developing back or neck pain should check the ergonomics of their desk and invest in a high-quality chair.
7. Keeping Documents Safe
PII stands for personally identifying information such as Social Security Numbers. To avoid liability for client identity theft, remote workers like attorneys and accountants must take measures to protect sensitive client data. All remote workers must safeguard proprietary company information.
To protect digital data, invest in high-quality virus protection and adware blocker software and use a VPN when accessing company data. Those with hard copies of documents like tax returns must lock them in a secure file cabinet.
Thriving While Working from Home
Many remote workers find the benefits of telecommuting outweigh the drawbacks. By avoiding common pitfalls, employees can do their best work from home despite the distance between them and their employers.