Working remotely/online is alluring – it promises the freedom to work on your own terms and on your own time, doing more of the things you love.
But it isn’t all rainbows… There are unique challenges of remote working that can make you think twice about going in… and it feels like we have been through them all.
For example, isolation, productivity, and time management are the most common challenges of remote working.
And, believe it or not, balancing work and travel is a challenge in itself.
But don’t worry – we’ll go through the unique challenges that remote workers face, along with tried-and-true strategies both we and our online team members have used to conquer them in the past.
So, whether you’re a seasoned remote professional or new to the world of online work, buckle up as we dive into the challenges and solutions for a successful remote work journey:
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Table of Contents
1) Lacking a clear “why”
The idea of remote work is extremely appealing, but it isn’t all pros and zero cons – remote work has disadvantages, too.
So, having a strong “why” that goes beyond the allure of working from home is crucial. Figuring out what really drives you provides:
- A clearer picture of the types of remote jobs that align with your passions and talents.
- Specific goals to work towards. These will be your guide. Every decision you make during your remote work journey should bring you closer to your goals.
- An easier way to overcome every challenge mentioned below.
A way to do this is by finding your intrinsic motivation. This sounds like a fancy term, but it means finding the deep-down reason(s) that makes you want to work remotely.
How to find your why and your intrinsic motivation:
Take some time to introspect and identify what drives you in your career. Ask yourself questions like:
- What are my long-term goals?
- How can remote work help me achieve them?
- How will remote work contribute to my personal and professional growth?
- What aspects of remote work excite me the most? And what aspects excite me the least?
- What do I enjoy doing in my free time?
- What kind of work tasks make me feel excited?
- What skills do I have that I’d love to use more often?
Taking the time to answer these questions will help you find a remote role that connects with your inner motivation.
It will also make it easier for you to overcome the challenges of remote working. You’ll see them as bumps on the road towards your end goals.
Having a clear WHY is the single most important thing when working online. This will keep you motivated to sit down and work. When travelling full time you can easily get distracted by all the activities around you.
2) Establishing a productive work environment
Working from home can be a double-edged sword when it comes to productivity. You have the freedom to design your workspace, but distractions lurk around every corner.
Traditional work environments have the advantage of a predetermined layout – you go to the same office every day, which establishes a routine. It makes it easy for your brain to get into “work mode.”
This can be challenging to achieve at home. You can find yourself working all the time, not knowing how to set boundaries between your job and rest.
Or, you can easily get distracted by family members, chores, or even the temptation of the TV next room, leaving your work tasks to the last minute.
How to improve your productivity as a remote worker:
- Create a dedicated workspace that is free from distractions, preferably a separate room or a quiet corner in your home. This creates a psychological distinction between work and leisure areas.
- Establish a routine similar to a typical workday, including designated work hours and breaks.
- Set clear boundaries between work and leisure time.
3) Time management
Remote work allows you to choose when and where you work, which can be both a blessing and a curse.
The lack of set working hours and the comfort of home can lead to distractions and procrastination. Without a clear schedule and routine, it becomes easy to lose track of time and productivity.
Moreover, the blurring lines between work and personal life can lead to overworking or not dedicating enough time to essential tasks.
Poor time management can result in missed deadlines, decreased productivity, and increased stress, negatively impacting your overall work performance.
How to improve your time management skills:
- Prioritize tasks. Focus on completing high-priority items first to ensure critical work is done on time.
- Use time management techniques, like the Pomodoro Technique.
- Identify potential distractions in your remote work environment and minimize them, e.g. turn off social media notifications, or let your housemates know when you need uninterrupted work time.
- Set achievable goals for each day or week. Breaking larger tasks into smaller, manageable chunks can make them less overwhelming and easier to complete.
- Use productivity tools and apps to help manage your time effectively, like task organizers, project management software, and time-tracking apps.
4) Working while travelling
Juggling work tasks with sightseeing, exploring, or dealing with travel logistics can be a real challenge.
You need to adjust to unfamiliar surroundings, different time zones, and even unpredictable internet connections, all of this while maintaining productivity.
Also, travelling is incredibly exciting, and it’s easy to get distracted by all the attractions and activities around you. Staying focused on work when there’s so much to explore requires a great deal of self-discipline.
Not to mention finding a suitable work environment while on the move. Coffee shops and public spaces might not always offer the ideal conditions for focused work.
How to make “work and travel” work:
- Plan your travel itinerary and work schedule in advance (we try to work Monday – Wednesday on the laptop no matter what).
- Identify reliable internet hotspots, reserve quiet workspaces when possible, and schedule work hours that align with your travel plans.
- Designate specific times for work, but also allow yourself to fully immerse in the culture and enjoy your travels.
- Be realistic about your work expectations during your travels.
- Set achievable goals for each day.
- Communicate with your team about your availability and potential delays.
5) Communication hurdles
This is one of the biggest challenges when managing remote teams. Since you’re not all in one place, you rely on technology to communicate – emails, video calls, and messages.
And most of the time, this communication happens asynchronously. The lack of real-time, face-to-face interaction is prone to misinterpretation, which can lead to confusion or misunderstandings.
How to improve remote work communication:
- Be proactive with your updates, any delays that may come up, the next steps you plan to take and so on.
- When possible, use video conferencing tools to discuss complex topics, intricate projects, or sensitive matters.
- Be clear and concise when sending messages or emails.
- Schedule regular check-ins with your team.
- If you’re unsure about something or don’t understand a message, ask for clarification. It’s best to ask and be clear than to make assumptions and get things wrong.
6) Career advancement opportunities
In a traditional office setting, you have daily face-to-face interactions with colleagues and supervisors, making it easier to showcase your skills and contributions.
However, remote work can limit your visibility within the organisation. You may need to work harder to ensure your accomplishments are recognized, which can give you more opportunities to grow.
You’ll also have to be more proactive regarding your career growth. That means actively seeking networking, mentorship opportunities, etc.
How to ensure your career growth while working remotely:
- Have regular conversations with your manager about your career goals and performance.
- Request feedback on your work to identify areas for improvement and growth.
- Attend virtual conferences and webinars to expand your knowledge and network with professionals from your field.
- Showcase your achievements through remote work and highlight your adaptability and self-motivation to potential employers.
- Be open to occasional visits to the office or attending in-person events if possible.
7) Isolation and loneliness
In a regular office setting, you have coworkers around you, opportunities to chat during breaks, and team gatherings that give a sense of community. These provide emotional support, promoting overall well-being and connection.
This is extremely challenging to recreate when working remotely. The physical distance and time zone differences make it difficult to connect with remote team members on a personal level, which can lead to feelings of isolation and disconnection.
Moreover, the lack of face-to-face interactions can hinder effective communication, leading to misunderstandings and a sense of detachment from the team.
This isolation can take a toll on your mental well-being, potentially affecting motivation and overall job satisfaction.
How to overcome isolation and loneliness:
- Stay connected with your team and colleagues through video calls, instant messaging, virtual meetings, etc.
- Consider joining an online community or professional network related to your field.
- If you crave the energy of a shared workspace, consider joining co-working spaces.
Travelling and working full-time can get quite lonely. You have to make an effort to reach out and meet new people and friends. Instagram is great for this. Connecting with like-minded people.
8) Health issues
Working remotely means you have to juggle your work with the lifestyle you are living. This can actually get quite stressful if you do not manage it.
Sitting for long hours at a desk that might not be set up properly (cafes, caravan chairs etc) can cause problems like back pain, neck strain, eye strain, and mental challenges.
Plus, with the fridge nearby, it’s tempting to grab anything and everything, instead of the careful meal planning that often comes in a traditional office setting.
How to prevent health issues related to a sedentary lifestyle:
- Plan your week. Have select days for working (we do Monday – Wednesday) and make sure you know where you will work the day before.
- Take short and regular breaks throughout your workday. Stand up, stretch, and move around to give your body a break from sitting.
- Incorporate physical activity into your daily routine. Take a walk, do some stretches, or follow an online workout routine.
- Plan healthy and nourishing meals and snacks ahead for when hunger strikes.
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Proper hydration also helps you stay focused and alert.
- Ensure you get enough quality sleep each night.
9) Technology glitches
When you work remotely, your computer and internet connection become your lifeline to the outside world. You need them to communicate with your team, attend virtual meetings, and get your work done.
But internet outages or slow connections can disrupt your work and cause delays. Software or app malfunctions might freeze your computer or prevent you from accessing important documents.
How to avoid inevitable technical challenges:
- Have backup plans in place, such as mobile hotspot devices or alternate internet connections.
- Keep your software and devices updated to reduce the chances of technical glitches.
- Learn some basic troubleshooting tricks. Restarting your computer, resetting your router, or clearing your browser cache can often solve common technology issues.
And when the inevitable technology glitch happens, stay calm and be patient. It is an annoying but unavoidable part of remote work.
What are the pros and cons of working remotely?
The pros of working remotely include:
– Flexibility and freedom to set your schedule and work from any location.
– Better work-life balance.
– Save money on transportation and work attire.
– Higher productivity levels (for some remote workers).
– Access to more opportunities worldwide.
The cons of working remotely include:
– Potential isolation, loneliness and disconnection from your coworkers.
– Communication challenges due to asynchronous communication.
– Lower productivity levels, as working from home can be distracting.
– Limited career advancement.
– Technology glitches.
Are people happier working remotely?
Yes, people tend to be happier working remotely (according to a study). However, the level of happiness experienced while working remotely depends on the person.
Some are happier with remote work because of the flexibility, reduced commute, and improved work-life balance.
But it’s the opposite for others, as the feelings of isolation and lack of camaraderie affect their mental health. It can be challenging for them to balance work with leisure time due to the lack of structure.
Ultimately, it’s up to the person. If you haven’t tried it yet and are curious, don’t let the potential challenges of remote work stop you – try it out and see how it feels!
Why is remote work stressful?
Remote work can be stressful due to various factors, including:
– The feeling of isolation is caused by the lack of face-to-face interactions and social support from colleagues.
– Communication challenges, such as misinterpretations and delays.
– The flexibility can blur the lines between work and personal life, leading to difficulties in setting boundaries and avoiding burnout.
– Pressure to prove their productivity.
– Distractions in the home environment.
– Technology glitches.
– Limited career advancement opportunities.
Addressing these challenges through better communication, setting clear boundaries, and creating a productive work environment can lead to a better experience with reduced stress levels.
The bottom line
While remote work offers dozens of benefits and opportunities, it comes with its fair share of challenges. But these shouldn’t deter you from starting your journey!
Understand these challenges and implement the practical solutions mentioned above. That way, you’ll be able to successfully navigate the world of remote work and make the most out of this flexible and rewarding lifestyle.
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