If a job can be done from home, it’s common for employees to have the option to do so.
As of 2023, about one-third of U.S. workers work completely from home — and even more have a hybrid work schedule. In any case, the COVID-19 pandemic altered the way employers approach flexible work schedules. This has presented immense benefits but also some unique challenges for employees to navigate.
As more people are introduced to a flexible schedule, they are faced with hurdles specific to remote work. The ability to work from anywhere seems enticing, and it is beneficial in many ways. However, you must be aware of obstacles that can occur when working from home or in any work environment that is detached from your coworkers and superiors. Some of the most salient challenges that remote workers cite include:
While working remotely takes away the stresses of a daily commute, busy office, and in-person pressures, it adds some unique stressors like dealing with children and families, frustration with tech, ineffective space, and communication challenges. Luckily, the wide adoption of remote and hybrid work has led people to become resourceful. Use the following tips to make the most out of a work-from-home situation.
The drawbacks of working from home have to be considered in conjunction with the positives. Remote work benefits can outweigh the cons in plenty of circumstances. Consider that this type of flexible work environment is beneficial for individuals, companies, and society by:
Lowering environmental impact, with less commute pollution and office energy usage;
Lowering costs, without physical infrastructure overhead and upkeep and eventually lowering residential housing costs;
Freeing up time for social good, like volunteering and donating extra funds;
Opening up talent pools, allowing companies to hire globally;
Offering a better work-life balance, giving employees a chance to live a more fulfilling life and be more satisfied with their careers.
When employees are happy with their jobs, their performance and loyalty to the company skyrockets. You can reap these perks by optimizing how you approach remote work.
It’s important to set clear boundaries around work time, especially if you are new to working outside of a traditional office. Remote employees often struggle to establish barriers between their personal and professional lives due to the shared space they now hold. However, this can quickly lead to distractions or burnout. You may be interrupted by pets or family members or working in a space that isn’t conducive to focusing.
Whatever the case, designating a specific workspace helps create a mental divide between work and personal life. Consider creating a home office with a sign on the door during working hours, or you could even create a professional haven in your garage. Just make sure to establish fixed working hours and communicate them to colleagues and family members. This reinforces the idea that just because you're at home doesn't mean you're available all the time. If they start infringing upon this, gently remind them. You can be firm with your work time by letting them know that you’ll be more present for quality time later in the day.
You also may be tempted to continue a project or check messages after hours. Instead, turn off work-related notifications during non-working hours, and resist the urge to check emails before bed. This not only fosters productivity but also ensures that your downtime is truly relaxing. Balancing the flexibility of a home office with well-defined boundaries is the key to a harmonious and effective remote work experience.
Clear communication with those you love and live with is important to keep things running smoothly in and around your home office. Further, you can take steps to optimize your remote team communication. Sometimes, it can be difficult to get a message across if you aren’t face-to-face. Instead of focusing on the negatives of this mediated communication, use the differences to your advantage.
Remote communication tools;
Synchronous and asynchronous meetings;
Regular voicing of feedback and ideas;
Many of these things will be determined by your employer, but use all of their features to your advantage. For example, engage in Slack channels that are relevant to your job or company culture. Share a Google Doc with coworkers involved in the same project. Bring up opinions for improvement in video meetings. The more effort you put in to communicate, the more you will get back from your distributed team.
Most modern companies will have also adapted their data security policies to include remote best practices. However, you won’t have the luxury of an IT professional able to pop up at your desk at your beck and call. Instead, it’s important to take ownership of your own data security and follow employer regulations and general best practices to safeguard your and your company’s information. Make sure to use strong passwords, secure and encrypted communication tools, and regularly update software. Be vigilant against phishing attempts and avoid public Wi-Fi for sensitive work tasks to further shield your data from potential breaches.
If your company has a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy, you will be responsible for setting up your personal device(s) for success. BYOD policies can present security challenges, but working with your IT department and online resources can help. Pick software and devices that are equipped to handle your daily tasks. You can also enable two-factor authentication wherever possible, and consider using a virtual private network (VPN) to add an extra layer of protection. In this era of remote work, being proactive about data safety is not just a responsibility but a strategic move toward a resilient workforce.
Although you’ll want to be as productive as possible, you should also monitor your physical and mental well-being. Showing up as your best self for work every day still counts when working off-site. You can hack your remote productivity by focusing on your overall wellness. Stick to a routine, switch up your atmosphere now and then, and limit external, stressful distractions. Remote productivity thrives when it coexists with a commitment to self-care, creating a holistic approach that ensures long-term professional and personal success.