The global trend towards remote workforces continues to grow. Workers face new challenges, especially in managing their time and tasks.
Messaging applications, task management software, instant chat, and video platforms make remote work possible. Whether it is from home, cafes, or co-working spaces, this lifestyle is a reality for many.
Remote workers don’t need to commute to work. They can work on their own flexible schedule. They can take a break whenever they need to, and they aren’t distracted by noisy coworkers. On the whole, remote workers tend to be more productive. They also allow companies to pull from a larger talent pool, cut down on expenses, and generally get more out of their employees.
Despite being rewarding for both companies and workers, it can be taxing on employees. Anybody working remotely has to be well-organized and self-motivated. As well, they need to manage not only their own tasks but also their communication with peers and employers.
Common challenges for the remote workforce usually regards technology, communication, and prioritizing of work. It isn’t always the fairytale some might imagine. Just because employees can work in the comfort of their pajamas does not mean their job is any less stressful.
In some cases, it might even be the opposite! Especially when employees fail to effectively manage their remote workload. So, the question is, how do remote workers and digital nomads do it?
When employees share an office, it is easy to stay in the loop, overhear discussions and cubicle meetings, share the burden of a task with a colleague, or talk issues over with a manager.
For remote work, however, all communication is done online or over a voice call. All interactions are either via messaging or video and conference calls.
The real challenge is in staying in that loop. To do this, teams need to communicate as much and as clearly as possible. They need to utilize the best software to meet the needs of the company or the job. It is important that all workers are on the same page, that all possible misunderstandings are clarified, and that all parties can get on with their work with no problems or delays.
The next problem for remote workers is dealing with time zone differences. Oftentimes, teams are operating around the globe. When one worker is just getting started for the day, another could be going to sleep.
This means workers can’t always rely on certain team members being available when an immediate need arises.The solution to this requires workers to be a bit more flexible with their schedules.
There needs to be at least some overlap in the team’s working hours to avoid lengthy collaboration delays. They might need to plan when to send their messages. In order to work out a system for moving work around or handing it off to others who can complete it during their workday.
Another problem for remote workers is technology. There is nothing worse than spotty WiFi or an internet outage when a worker needs to join an important meeting. Work laptops can break down unexpectedly, as well. In this case, if the worker doesn’t have a backup plan, they risk losing valuable time (and money!)
To solve this, workers must always plan ahead. Especially if they are working from a cafe or a place where the internet might be unreliable. Then, they need a mobile phone plan that allows for tethering or running a hotspot, just in case. They should also keep a backup PC, laptop, or even a tablet in case their main device malfunctions or breaks.
With more flexible, free form schedules, remote workers also need to be self-motivated. Accordingly, they should be experts in time management. There are a number of strategies employed to avoid procrastination and effectively manage the workload.
One way to get more out of the workday is starting the day with either the most important or “most difficult” task. Simply getting it out of the way immediately. If workers do not meet these tasks head on, they are more likely to procrastinate and get behind schedule.
Another way to prioritize workloads includes limiting the number of tasks to do each day. By doing this, workers can plan around their tasks and make a list of priorities, major and minor, and plan their days out accordingly. Then, beyond strategy, some workers install distraction-limiting tools on their devices or utilize time-tracking software throughout the workday.
Other areas of particular concern for effective remote work involve the workspace. Working from home can be particularly challenging for some workers, especially if they have families or pets “in the office.”
Anything that serves as a distraction may also make workers feel like they are not in a working environment. To solve this, it is important for workers to keep consistent work hours in a quiet space. If this cannot happen at home, then they have to consider working from cafes or co-working spaces.
If a worker doesn’t have a family at home, they might conversely find themselves feeling isolated and lonely. Even with messaging applications between colleagues, workers can still develop “cabin fever.” Meaning, they go insane from so much isolation!
In all fairness, remote workers probably won’t go insane, but everybody needs company. This is why it is important to plan “social breaks.” Either visiting others or finding a nice environment to work in with more opportunities for social interaction.
Beyond these problems, remote workers also need to beware of developing bad “home habits.” It is easy to walk over to the fridge and grab a snack at any time. For some, the opposite happens and they tend to skip important meals.
A person working from home can always have another coffee. They can eat poorly, or simply overwork themselves when they should be taking a break. All of these things cause more stress and, ultimately, result in being less effective.
Remote workers need to be aware of their routines, exercise daily, walk more to get out of the house, and even eating more fresh vegetables. Most importantly, they should make sure to drink plenty of water and establish healthy habits. All in all, if all aspects are continually assessed and improved upon, then working remotely becomes a wonderful opportunity.