COVID-19 has forced many businesses to move their operations online, leading to a sharp increase in employees working remotely. While it took a global pandemic for most organizations to offer remote work opportunities, it would not be surprising to see the digital workplace become a staple moving forward.
Most people have only dreamt about the opportunity to work from home. The idea of working when you want, wearing what you want, and controlling where you work is the kind of flexibility that every employee deserves—or so you thought.
Now that many of us are getting the chance to work remotely for the first time, we’re learning that it’s not as carefree and flexible as we imagined. Working from home can be a double-edged sword, with more distractions than the office.
Here are 6 lessons about working remotely that no one told you.
1. Communication Is Much Harder
There is an overwhelming amount of communication channels for organizations. You have email, text messages, phone calls, messaging platforms (Slack), conferencing tools (Zoom), project management software (Trello), and many other mediums for companies to communicate internally.
While these tools and resources make the task of communicating easier, they also complicate the process leading to misunderstandings and communication gaps. A conversation that might take a few minutes in person could take hours or days if done via email.
With staff potentially working different hours now, learning new tools, and managing several communication threads, it could take longer than usual to get the information you need—leading to bottlenecks.
Not only are businesses seeing delays in communication, but without clear guidelines and consistency, information might not be shared in the right place.
For example, team members might discuss feedback or updates on a project via video call, messaging platform, or project management software. With 3 different channels to discuss the same project, it makes it difficult to recall information quickly or guarantee that all necessary parties were informed.
2. Household Chores Just Got a Lot More Fun
There’s nothing worse than coming home after a long day of work to find dishes piled in the sink and a mess of dirty clothes that need to be washed. Generally, household chores are not fun.
Yet, for some reason, when working from home, you feel innately drawn to these chores. There’s something about working remotely that makes you want to procrastinate and focus on other, often less important, items on your to-do list.
Unfortunately, household chores can be just as distracting as unruly children or a binge-worthy TV series. Instead of getting completely off-course with your around-the-house chores, consider integrating time for them into your scheduled breaks or completing them once you’re done working for the day.
3. Your New Coworkers Are Just as Demanding
You may not be the only one working from your home right now. Maybe your kids are taking online classes while schools are closed. Maybe your spouse is also working remotely if the job allows for it.
Unlike your traditional officemates, these coworkers can be loud, demanding, and less interested in giving you personal space. If you don’t have children or a significant other, you could still have a pet begging for your attention.
Try to set barriers with your “house coworkers” to create a place where you can focus. This step may be something as simple as closing a door or creating a work schedule if you need to share a workspace and balance other household duties.
Whatever the case, find ways to maximize your productivity by limiting the effect of others in your home.
4. Maintaining Boundaries Is Significantly Harder
When you work in an office, it’s easy to physically and mentally discern between work and home life. You can leave your work phone or laptop at the office. You can use the drive home to mentally decompress.
However, when you work from home, this delineation is significantly harder. You’re technically always “at” work even though you may not be working—so checking work emails or answering business calls around the clock becomes second nature.
If you don’t set and maintain boundaries between your work and personal life, you may burn out and experience more stress than usual while working remotely.
Create a routine for clocking out each day to symbolize the end of the workday. This action could involve taking a walk around the block or playing a video game. There’s already a global pandemic happening—don’t make it worse for yourself by putting in free overtime.
5. Your Health Is Improving
On the positive side, working from home has probably made you healthier. There are a dozen reasons why working from home is better for your health than going into the office.
You are mentally happier now that you aren’t sitting in traffic for hours each day, you are likely enjoying more natural light and cleaner air than the average office, you can eat healthier by preparing meals and skipping breakroom snacks, and you have more free time for at-home workouts.
Within the past few weeks, you might have discovered that you have more energy at the end of the day and are eager to go outside, play with the kids, or exercise. Enjoy this time and the health benefits that come with it.
6. You Don’t Have to Love It
Remote work tends to be glorified as a fun break from the office, but that doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone. Some people enjoy the routine of walking into the workplace at the start of the day and leaving work behind at the end.
They enjoy talking with coworkers and collaborating in person. It is okay if you don’t like your remote work situation—you will hopefully be back in the office again soon.
Working remotely requires discipline and focus. It takes practice. Some people are comfortable working remotely for years and can balance work with pets and household chores. If you have been struggling with working remotely, don’t worry; it will get better if you take the time to focus on what works best for your situation.