I, Mark Roemer, know that many people who have historically worked in an office have been moving to work from home in recent weeks, possibly for the first time. It takes some getting used to going from an office-based setting to working from home full-time, even if only temporarily.
To assist those of you who are new to remote work, I want to advise you on how to be more effective while working from home, stress the need for communication, and present a list of tools that have shown to be helpful in our firm.
But first, to kick things off, I’ll discuss some of the challenges people experience when they work from home. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and everyone’s experience with remote work is unique, but I felt that the points I will be laying out over this blog should more than cover the basics of working from home.
Remote Work Challenges
Working remotely is advantageous since it allows you to work when you choose, without commuting, and fewer work distractions. On the other hand, remote work has its own set of challenges.
After Work Downtime
If you’re working from home for the first time, you’ll quickly learn that logging out might be tricky. You could find yourself checking your work email frequently outside of business hours. The lack of separation between work and home is one explanation for this (geographical and temporal). Working at an office provides physical separation, but commuting home provides the temporal separation that helps your mind move from work to rest.
Many of us have had to negotiate with the feeling of isolation that comes with remote work. This may be less of a problem for folks who live with family members or flatmates who work remotely as well. However, for most of us, in-person human connection is a physical and emotional necessity. Losing many of those connections and tiny personal encounters that we take for granted in an office atmosphere can be unsettling.
Communication and Collaboration
If you’ve never telecommuted or worked remotely before, you could find that connecting with coworkers is more complicated. When people can’t just sit next to each other and talk about the things they’re working on, project collaboration becomes more difficult. Having to make a call or type something to ask a coworker the same question you could have asked at the office may be a big time and effort drain, and it frequently results in the question never being asked in the first place.
Working from home eliminates the possibility of being distracted by coworkers who come to your desk to ask a question. If you don’t live alone, though, you may be interrupted by family members or roommates who want to talk to you as you work. Small things, such as duties that need to be done or movement in your building or outside your window, may also distract you.
Keeping Yourself Inspired
It’s challenging to stay motivated when you’re working alone for days or weeks at a time. One of the causes is a lack of structure in your schedule. Another advantage is the lack of pressure to complete tasks, which is often felt more intensely while working in an office alongside coworkers. When everyone is physically dispersed, the sense of satisfaction you get from hitting targets as a team can appear lessened.
When working from coffee shops or other public places, most remote workers struggle to find a reliable Wi-Fi Internet connection. It is, however, a problem that remote employees encounter at home. When downloading large files or participating in a conference call with a large group of people, you’ll need fast internet. According to an article on Medium.com, effective video calls require downloading and upload speeds of 8 Mbps and 1.5 Mbps, respectively.
Suggestions for Overcoming These Obstacles
The challenges listed above are just a sample of what you could encounter when working remotely. There may be more, or some of them may be more important to you than others.
While working remotely, I’ve discovered a few tactics that have helped me overcome the challenges listed above. My recommendation for starting your remote work journey, based on what I’ve learned, is as follows:
- Locate or develop a designated work area. This helps you create a physical barrier between work and home, and it’s beneficial for unplugging at the end of the day.
- Stick to a schedule. Working from home gives you the latitude to work whenever you want but having set work hours helps you mentally detach from work at healthy, regular intervals.
- Set up a work browser and a personal browser. If you use the same laptop for business and play, using (for example), Safari for work and Chrome or another browser for leisure will make unplugging easier.
- When speaking with coworkers, be concise. Before sending, provide context and double-check your messages. If making a quick phone call is more convenient than typing up a dialogue, do it.
- Collaborative tools should be used. Many offices use Slack, Basecamp, GitHub, and Google Docs when it comes to communication at work.
- Take a break when you need it. When switching tasks or if you’ve been working uninterrupted for a long time, make a cup of coffee or go for a walk alone. Allow your mind to rest before moving on to the next item on your to-do list.
- Use fast.com to check your internet speed. You should check to see if your home internet connection can handle conference calls.
Another suggestion is to pay attention to your posture. When working from home, it’s all too easy to fall into the habit of sitting on the couch, lying in bed, slouching, raising your knees, and so on. This could lead to back problems in the future. To avoid slumping, sit in a decent chair or create your own standing desk.
Working from home for the first time can be a thrilling experience. Finding the best way to complete the same work responsibilities at home and learning how to use new technology to simplify remote work comes with a lot of excitement and frustration. I, Mark Roemer, hope you find the suggestions above to be helpful.