For a lot of people, remote work seems like an absolute dream. The opportunity to travel, set your own working times and have greater flexibility are all attractive when stuck in the office. We’ve all seen the digital nomads, jetting from country to country and somehow managing to work at the same time. Remote work isn’t all beaches and cocktails however! There are a number of unique challenges that it presents that you may not have already thought of. Some of them are obvious. Loneliness and motivation can become an issue. Collaboration with team members across the world can be one too. Getting into remote work can throw up all these things and sometimes make your remote dream turn into a remote nightmare. That’s where we at Remote-how come in. We’ve been through it all and know the best tips and tricks for getting over these hurdles. So, we thought we’d outline some of the biggest challenges in remote work and the best ways to overcome them. With a little bit of preparation and research, you’ll be on your way in no time and making the most of remote work conditions.
Loneliness can be a big issue for all kinds of remote workers. You may think this only affects those who choose to stay and work at home. However, even those who are travelling the world can feel lonely sometimes too. Not having your friends around and being away from family can be a fairly daunting experience. Loneliness can have a big effect on the quality of work that you produce as well. A study from California State shows that team work, work completed and your overall contribution are all negatively affected by loneliness.. This can lead to further issues of anxiety and depression if left untreated, which can then affect your overall physical and mental health.
Trying to incorporate some social time into your working day can help combat loneliness. This could be something as small as trying to work from a different location like a coworking space or cafe. If travelling, you could also try to meet up with other digital nomads who are probably looking for company too. However, if loneliness is getting too much then seek some medical help. Sometimes some external help is needed, so try not to be afraid to ask if you feel this way.
Staying motivated throughout your working day can be difficult in an office, let alone when you are unsupervised at home or travelling around. Being surrounded by distractions like your TV, home comforts or other people makes it much more difficult to stay on task and keep your concentration up.
Depending on where you are, there are a number of things you can do to help improve your self motivation. If you’re working from home, it’s easy to stay in your pyjamas all day and work from the comfort of your bed. It can be tempting, but it's not the best practice to do this. Try working from a dedicated space free from distractions such as a spare room or even in your kitchen. Getting dressed in the morning in suitable clothes can also help give a good start to your day and get you in a more motivated mood.
Even though a lot of us choose remote work for the flexibility and freedom it gives in working times, it’s good to set some limits and have regular breaks to help you avoid getting bored. Tailor this around your natural working times. Some of us produce better work in the morning, and some in the evening. Take this into account and find out the best times that you are naturally motivated. You should also reward yourself after completing long or difficult tasks. This usually comes from a supervisor or manager, but when you’re outside the office you should take on this role yourself.
Feeling part of the team
Working in a co-located office naturally brings people together. Simple being in the same space for long hours in the day makes it difficult not to socialise and feel part of a team. So, when your only contact is through online means and not physically, it can be easy to feel left out.
If you’re in a managerial position, there are some policies you can put in place to help combat this. If not, then you can always suggest these changes to your boss to improve social cohesion in the remote team.
Research in fact shows that the most social workers end up being some of the most productive in a team. Setting up a virtual water cooler can really help bring about this kind of effect. This can be done normally in whatever instant communication tool you happen to be using, such as slack or google drive. By having a dedicated zone for more informal chat between remote team members, you’ll help them socialise more. This can be a great place to let off steam and relax a bit. In order to make it work however, you need to be enthusiastic about it! Make the most of having a little time out of your day to get to know your coworkers and you’ll feel part of the team in no team.
This may not apply to all remote teams, but a great deal of them are made up of people from a number of different countries and cultures. By not being dependent on people having to come to a physical location, remote companies can hire the best people from all over the world. Working in a culturally diverse team is a lot of fun and helps you to learn more about how other people work. However, sometimes miscommunication can occur and differences can lead to offense or confrontation.
It’s worth taking some time to get to know a little bit about the different places that your remote co-workers come from. While it may seem totally normal for you to joke about certain topics or ask more informal questions, for some people this can be a bit of a culture clash. When a situation like this occurs, take a step back and try to understand why someone may be confused or offended by something you have done. Apologise if needed and learn from the experience. Even better is to anticipate this kind of scenario and try to be as culturally aware as possible.
Communicating with your team
There are a lot of different ways that you can communicate nowadays with your team. Picking the right one for the right situation can however be difficult when faced with so much choice. Sending an email can get lost in someone’s inbox, and video call may not always be an option when people are working across different time zones. This can all lead to a knock on effect in the quality of work produced and your overall team collaboration. This can all be overcome by implementing a communications policy in your remote workplace.
Not all methods and techniques will work for every remote team, especially if the remoters are flung all across the world. What is important here however are clear rules that should be stuck to. This avoids confusion and allows everyone to know how they should be communicating when setting tasks, organising meetings or giving feedback.
Solve your remote work problems today
With remote work becoming more common in the workplace, more and more of us are experiencing flexible working conditions for the first time. Whilst it’s incredibly rewarding to take control of your own schedule, you need to be careful and tackle remote challenges head on.
About the Author
The Remote-how Academy is the first all-in-one platform connecting companies with full-time remote employes all around the world.