Telecommuting offers people life-changing options. But successful remote workers know that such arrangements take effort on their part to deal with certain inherent remote work challenges.
Here’s a look at three common remote work challenges and how to overcome them:
1. Time Management
Control over your day can seem glorious—or overwhelming. Start by scheduling personal and professional demands into a central calendar that gives every important task its due. Obligations won’t overlap, and hours won’t slip away aimlessly.
Likewise, get in the habit of creating a to-do list at the end of each day when things are fresh in your mind. With a prioritized list in hand the next morning, you can jump into work instead of wondering where to start.
And watch out for this hidden saboteur that won’t do your quest for work-life balance any favors: “Most people who work from home find they work too much rather than too little,” says Megan Shroy, founder of Approach PR & Marketing. “It’s easy to see 5:30 p.m. come and go or work right through lunch when you’re in the comfort of your own home. Try to set a regular schedule, including what time you will start and end your day, and build in a regular lunch where you leave your office space. You’re not always going to follow this schedule, but try your best to leave work at the ‘office’ and recharge in the evenings.”
Of course distraction is not unique to telecommuters, as any in-office employee who has browsed Amazon when they should have been writing a report will attest. But the pulls at home can be more enticing and numerous, and colleagues aren’t around to “keep you honest.”
Good self-discipline is a must for telecommuters, but it doesn’t hurt to structure the environment in ways that decrease temptation.
“Creating a sacred workspace at home is crucial in order to succeed,” says Rachel Ritlop. “As a career and business coach, all too often I hear about telecommuters who have gotten sucked into binging on Netflix or distracted by kids. As a telecommuter, it is your responsibility to create a boundary for your ‘work space’—a distraction-free zone.”
A closed door with a do-not-disturb sign on it that states when you’ll be available again can do wonders for keeping others from being accomplices to distraction. And when you set up that daily schedule mentioned earlier, be sure to include breaks. Knowing you have a given time to throw in laundry or call your sister lessens the lure.
Finally, while working by yourself really may be your cup of tea, watch that “alone” doesn’t turn into “lonely.” Loneliness can be a common remote work challenge. Consider joining a coworking space or heading to the library occasionally for a change of pace. Likewise, look for non-work-related opportunities for interaction, such as volunteering or taking a class.
And definitely keep in contact with people from work, which can be good for the soul and the career.
“Stay top of mind with your boss and peers,” says Crystal Donald, business consultant and personal finance coach. “Schedule lunch outings with your manager or colleagues to catch up on the social and political scene in the office so you’re not caught off guard when the latest organizational announcement is released.”
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