Working from home comes with the perks you’ve dreamed of: no bumper-to-bumper traffic, less office gossip, and fewer distractions overall. But you may be surprised to learn that working from home has its own set of challenges not unlike those experienced by your onsite colleagues. Working too many hours, communication breakdowns, interruptions, and various other problems can be prevalent for all workers, but most especially for those who work from home. We’ve compiled a list of common work challenges for remote employees and gathered useful tips for overcoming those issues.

If you’re considering working from home, learn about the common work challenges you could face and how you can overcome them:

Overworking

As a remote employee, there likely won’t be a physical punch clock that signals the end of the day. Working from home means you can quite literally work all the time unless you set up guidelines for yourself.

Tips:

  • Set your boundaries for work by making a daily schedule and sticking to it, but allow for a few extra hours per week when your workload is especially heavy.
  • Set an alarm for the end-time of your workday so you don’t allow work to overflow into your family and personal time.

Isolation

Working from home typically means that you’re working solely on your own with no office confidantes or coconspirators for a laugh or two. This can be a significant issue depending on your personality type. Outgoing extroverts will most definitely need to create a plan for some social outlets outside of work.

Tips:

  • Be sure to take advantage of any social networking opportunities available from your company to fulfill your need to connect with others. For example, FlexJobs offers its employees the opportunity to meet monthly for an open-office lunch date where staff gathers via videochat, provides a book club where interested employees can join to discuss selected books while bonding, and provides opportunities for team coffee breaks.
  • If your personality feeds from the energy of others, request more frequent check-ins with a teammate or schedule personal time to include social interactions on a regular basis to satisfy this need.

Communication

One of the most common work challenges as a remote employee is communication. Although you’ll have many communication tools at your disposal—cell phone, Skype, email, etc.—you could still experience times when communication breaks down.

Tips:

  • Discuss this potential concern with your supervisor to develop a game plan on how to get more clarification when needed. Find out your supervisor’s preferences in this matter and explore ways for more face-to-face or voice-to-voice contact.
  • Demonstrating exemplary communication skills is critical to success, according to a recent Harvard Business Review article. You may want to take an online course that will help you hone your distance communication skills.

Interruptions

Some days your home could become a minefield of interruptions. The doorbell, deliveries, neighbors, incoming personal calls, pets, and family members can all become sources of distraction.

Tips:

  • Place your personal phone on “do not disturb” during office hours so you can complete your work in a timely and efficient manner.
  • Post a sign on your front door that instructs delivery personnel where to leave packages and offers the time you’ll be available if a neighbor drops by. Also, place your office hours on your home office door to remind family members when you shouldn’t be disturbed, barring an emergency, of course.

Health

If your job keeps you at a desk and behind a computer, it can become inherently easy to become sedentary throughout the day, which can lead to unhealthy eating habits and a decreased desire to get moving.

Tips:

  • Start your day with exercise such as yoga or walking. This will get your blood pumping before you settle into your office chair. Also, be sure to take walking or stretching breaks throughout the day to keep your energy up.
  • Prepare healthy snacks in the evening to munch on while at work and prep your meals like you would if you were commuting to work. Prepping in advance is key to staying on track with healthy eating.

Support staff

Common work challenges as a remote employee can hinder your productivity. As an at-home employee, you likely won’t benefit from having technical support or a cleaning staff that tidies your office like onsite employees do.

Tips:

  • Budget for help in these matters, especially technical help when you’re having internet or computer issues. Post contact information in your home office for your internet service provider and local computer repair company for easy access when issues arise.
  • Schedule time for quick cleanup care of your home office environment each day.

Childcare

Depending on the age of your children, it’s likely there will still be a need to secure quality childcare so you can focus on your work.  

Tips:

  • If you’re able, change your hours at work to incur less childcare costs or hire a local teenager that you can rely on for quality care.
  • Locate other remote workers in your area and work out a childcare arrangement that works best for each of you.

Unexpected costs

While you may be counting the ways that you’ll save money by commuting less and requiring fewer hours of childcare, you may overlook the ways in which you could expend more financially as a remote worker. You may need to add or boost your internet service or invest in equipment that will make it necessary to be a successful work-from-home professional.

Tips:

  • Work with your company’s HR team to determine what the company will provide and what you’ll need to provide. Discuss items such as computer, monitors, printers, scanners, internet service costs, and other similar items that you may have to purchase and ask your home office contact for suggestions on reducing these costs.
  • Track these additional expenses quarterly and notify your supervisor or HR department should they become burdensome.

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