Remote work continues to be a normality in the post-pandemic working world. Simply put, the days of requiring supervised labor have been put to rest, right in a bed alongside antiquated working conditions like the punchout card, Industrial Revolution-based 100-hour workweeks, and Xerox machines. The idea of having to be in the office for jobs that can be done entirely over the computer is no more.
Though the pandemic is over, with the haunting and life-changing illness hitting new worldwide lows, some perspectives have remained. We were forced into the future with lowered office rates, and we may as well remain there. A recent study by UpWork theorized that 25% of American workers will be remote by the end of 2023, almost 4 calendars years after the peak of the pandemic.
I, for one, am writing this article in my pajamas.
So, even if you did not spend the majority of the pandemic working from your home office (or bed), you may still find yourself diving into the hybrid working world in the future. You never know where your future career endeavors will take you. It may even take you home.
As a staffing agency, Tier2Tek has spent the entirety of the last 3 years working remotely. Therefore, we know a thing or two about working from home and the problems it brings. In an effort to share our insightful and utilitarian knowledge, we are going to break down the 10 biggest hurdles of working remotely (or hybridly) and how to overcome them.
- Wait… Remote Work Isn’t Ending?
- The Biggest Challenges
Wait… Remote Work Isn’t Ending?
Often seen as a trend that would lose its flame after the COVID-19 lockdown ended, remote work and hybrid workplaces appear to be solidified in the labor lexicon going forward.
Though companies may be reluctant to remain hybrid in a world without immediate health risks, the instillation of a new norm may already be in place. Workers may hold enough power and want to keep the flexible working options a thing going forward, creating a permanent world of labor pliability for new generations.
Recently, we took the time as an employment agency to theorize on the subject. Will the return to office be mandated? We broke the argument down in our article, but we will quote from it here:
Employees aren’t as powerless as you’d imagine, though. In fact, after the massive impact of the Great Resignation, employees may never be as powerless as they were before the pandemic.
With the employee demand for hybrid work comes a scare of employers demolishing it. If an employer decides to get rid of hybrid and flexible workplaces, demanding their employees return to the office, they run the risk of losing the workers. Competitor businesses will be able to swoop up former workers by offering said hybrid capabilities. It now becomes a bargaining chip for companies striving for new talent.
Consequently, if employees continue to demand hybrid workplaces, businesses will continue to offer them to keep employees happy. Someone will be willing to do it, especially if it guarantees great talent.
“Companies who wind back progress on remote and flexible working risk demotivating their workforce and pushing them to competitors that offer more attractive options,” Josh Graff, managing director for the EMEA and LATAM regions at LinkedIn, told CNBC Make It. “Flexibility is going to increasingly become a matter of survival for businesses.”
Companies that are willing to compromise and adapt may find themselves at the forefront of employee happiness and positive recruitment.
“It’s those who see this period as an opportunity, who are prepared to adapt and iterate, and explore new ways of working that will outperform competitors in the long-term,” Graff concluded.
So, yes. Remote work is here to stay, even after all of the ruffling and shifting of the 2020 world. The aforementioned UpWork study hypothesized that 22% of Americans will be working remotely by 2025.
The Biggest Challenges
Regardless of if you work at home currently or will in the future, there are a plethora of challenges and hurdles to overcome. While the concept of working away from the office sounds beautiful, it can prove to be disastrous for those not prepared (or disciplined). Therefore, let’s give a heads-up.
Here are the biggest challenges of remote work and how to conquer them, regardless of your job or situation:
1. Finding the Gig
If you aren’t working remotely or work in a field where it’s virtually impossible (think hands-on work), then the first step to working a remote job is… Well… Finding one.
Luckily, remote jobs now make up more than 15% of the total opportunities in the U.S., a significant difference from the 4% in 2020. Therefore, out of every 10 jobs on Indeed, one of them is likely remote or hybrid.
As we stated, this number is likely to decline in the future. Even with large companies dropping a significant amount of employees (especially within the tech sector), many are moving toward bringing in hybrid or remote workers to fill the roles. For example, if a company in the tech sector drops 12,000 workers (cough Google cough), they still need the people to fulfill the roles. Therefore, they will outsource the positions to gig workers, allowing the production to be completed but the pay role to remain clean.
More than likely, a company looking for gig workers is looking for remote employees. They do not need a gig worker to come to the office every day. They do not need to create space for them. Henceforth, the recent layoffs may actually mean a dramatic increase in remote positions, even if they are only temporary or freelance.
Finding a remote gig may be tough, but it’s becoming more feasible than ever before.
2. Creating the Space
There’s something useful about a dedicated workspace. There’s a reason that artists spend extra money to have a dedicated art studio. It’s almost as if, through design or long-form practice, our minds are more motivated when placed in a space specifically designed for motivation. Even the blandest of offices is likely to flow more working juices than one’s living room.
Firstly, while working at home may seem like a dream concept of laying on the couch while typing emails, there’s a reason we sit at desks. A dedicated workspace is necessary for efficiency and productivity.
Therefore, it is utterly crucial to establish a place that you can go to for your work activities. Whether it be your kitchen table or a completely designated office, stay away from your normal comfortable places.
After all, explaining to your boss why you fell asleep in your bed during work is a lot harder than just sitting at a table. You need to create a place specifically for work, or you may find yourself overwhelmed, unable to focus, or snoozing.
Remember that there are benefits to working in your own space, though. You are free and able to have all the amenities you may need. Perfect lighting and correct seating arrangements are entirely up to you.
How to Overcome It:
Create a space specifically for working before you begin your remote job. If you have a room you can dedicate to at-home work, great. Make sure that it has the correct accommodations and furniture.
If you can’t afford the extra space, carve out an area in your living space that can double as an office or workspace. Once there, treat it like one. The key is to try and forget that the comforts of the rest of your home surround you. Treat the area like an actual office.
Consequently, treat the space like an actual office in that you only leave for bathroom breaks, lunch, or emergencies. That dedication to an area will help you keep the correct state of mind when you are in it, providing for increased productivity.
Bonus: ACI, an industrial design agency, stated that natural lighting is the most significant aspect of a productive workspace, saying, “Did you know that the average person spends 90% of their time indoors? — Humans by nature need access to natural light, and a lack of this in your office could be causing your employees to feel uninspired and show a lack of motivation in their surroundings. As a result, productivity and job satisfaction could begin to suffer.”
If you can work in natural light, do so!
3. Avoiding Comforts
It can be easy to see working from home as a luxurious call for creature comforts. Your feet are up, draped in a satin blanket as you answer calls from a beach chair. Your eyes are covered in thin slices of cucumber and your face is smothered with whatever cream they use in this cliche example. Though an enticing trap, remember that it’s just that, a trap.
We’ve all heard it from our friends that have previously worked from home. They note how nice it is at first, but the delirium quickly wears out. They swiftly realize that working from bed or in their pajamas is a detriment to productivity.
Surprisingly, a study by Standford of 16,000 workers found that working from home increase productivity by 13%. This was due to more calls per minute attributed to a quieter more convenient working environment and working more minutes per shift because of fewer breaks and sick days. But we can promise you, as experienced at-home workers, these employees weren’t in pajamas.
How to Overcome It:
Much like the office tip we stated above, this becomes a matter of commitment. Though working in your pajamas or bed can be a siren’s song, calling you toward rocky shores with beautiful bliss, avoid it. Pretend that entering your at-home office is the same as entering your normal workspace. Get dressed and ready and enter a space of productivity.
If you look good, you feel good. If you’re dressed like a normal workday, you will feel like a normal workday. Keep great posture, distractions far away, and your workspace. It will pay off in the long run.
While the concept of getting ready may not be as stressful as usual, wearing the pajamas you slept in will only make you feel sluggish. The idea is to feel like you are going to work. You might not need to wear a suit, but you definitely need to wear something.
Secondly, don’t let your personal hygiene fall by the wayside. Take care of yourself as usual. This will only help you feel better in the long run.
This next tip falls in line for two different issues.
Firstly, some people are too committed to their work. Even as an employment agency, we can admit this fault. Some people work more than they should. We understand that an honest and hard-working demeanor is something both established and admired in our society, but it can become too much. In fact, a study by Inc and Go found that about 95% of people felt external pressure to overwork. The three primary sources of pressure were work superiors (65%), friends and family (46%), and culture and media (43%).
When you are working from home, you can quickly find that overworking is both possible and unnoticeable. You can easily find yourself overworking even when your boss thinks you’re off.
Secondly, some people may just have a hard time stopping. They may start a project and get an intense form of tunnel vision, working until it’s finished. If there are no supervisors to tell them it’s time to quit, they may find themselves working way overtime. If you are unsupervised at home, you may find your work dipping into your personal life.
How to Overcome It:
Keep a hard schedule and stick to it. If your job has a fixed hourly schedule, don’t allow yourself to bleed over the edge. Set alarms on your devices and keep a high level of self-discipline (something necessary for every tip on this list).
Remember how important your time off of work is. There is a reason the 40-hour work was established and has held a hard mast for the last century. You need time away from work to both recharge and continue production. Overworking may seem beneficial, but it will lower your productivity rates in the long run.
Discipline is key. If you are prone to overworking or notice you do when working remotely, do your best to keep it in check.
We recommend having a hard schedule for your entire workday (if the specific job permits). Therefore, have set starting time, breaks, lunch, and ending. Following it will help keep you feeling as if you are at the office and from bleeding over.
As a species, we thrive in social situations. Just the simplicity of basic human interaction can improve mood, lower one’s risk of dementia, and improve brain health. It’s something we need to do to continue growing as both humanity and productive workers.
Remote work can lead to an overall feeling of isolation. If you work on your own out of the office, you may not interact with another team member for the entire day. If you do interact, but only over chat clients like Slack, you may not get the interaction you need to fulfill your social meter. Unfortunately, a lack of teamwork or social interaction can lead to a significant drop in productivity.
With no other brains to share ideas with, we can grow stagnant and jaded.
Though some people may be elated by the thought of remote work leading to less social interaction, it can cause even the most anti-social of workers to be stale.
How to Overcome It:
Unfortunately, if your remote work doesn’t call for interactions with team members, there’s not much you can do on that front. Theoretically, you could propose some type of collaborative effort to your boss, but it depends on the industry and company.
Fortunately, getting out of the house and having small interactions can help bolster your social media. Therefore, we recommend getting out of the house whenever you can. Take your lunch at a local restaurant, get coffee from a cafe, or stop by a store on your break. Just find a way to get out and speak to people when your schedule allows it.
Furthermore, you can always work remotely at the aforementioned places. Grab a coffee and work at the local cafe for a few hours. Plenty of remote workers do it. There’s a valid reason they do. Just being around others can help boost your productivity.
Also, if you do have coworkers, contacting them via work chat is a valid form of social interaction. It’s not as great and stimulating as in-person contact, but it still helps. Reach out to them and see how they are doing or ask how their project is going.
6. Outdated Technology
Remote work requires a wide array of technology, even if your job doesn’t include extensive usage of technology. You don’t have to be a senior coder to need a fast-working computer and an ergonomic keyboard. Even the simplest of at-home workers require a high-speed internet connection and a significantly-sized hard drive.
If technology isn’t your forte, you may quickly realize that your equipment is too outdated to keep up with your remote work needs. You may realize your local internet provider isn’t cutting it, keeping you from being able to keep connected throughout your weekly video meetings.
Don’t let your remote work be stinted by bad tech.
How to Overcome It:
Unfortunately, it’s impossible for us to predict what tech you need and what upgrades are necessary to do your job correctly. Overall, if you notice something isn’t working up to the necessary standards, upgrading it would be worth the investment. If you are going to be working remotely for the time being, you need to have the necessary equipment.
Depending on your employer, you could reach out to them and let them know that your current equipment does not suffice. Some companies will provide the technology needed to complete the remote job. If not, it’s always worth it to inquire.
7. Growing Your Career
Despite remote work being a commonality for over 2 years, we still sit in a strange and unknown area regarding it. Managers still believe that remote workers are less productive than those in-house. Teams are still not correctly managed, as supervisors continue to poke and prod at different leading ideas over remote spaces. It’s an entirely new concept for most, one that is going to take more than a couple of years to instill.
Therefore, it can be difficult to advance your career while working fully remote. Your boss may not be seeing how hard you are working, and if they’re like most supervisors, they may believe you are working less at home. This misunderstanding and unnecessary judgment can lead to a stifled career path.
Also, you aren’t meeting as many contacts in the field. You aren’t meeting as many professionals that may bring new career opportunities to the table.
Overall, if you are a remote worker, you may find career advancement more difficult than it was before the pandemic.
How to Overcome It:
In regard to showing your managers your worth, keep communication stable and detailed. Keep a list of everything that you do or take detailed notes you can share. Proactively update your team or boss with progress updates or monthly reports. Depending on your job and industry, these updates may be more frequent.
The key is to let the higher-ups know your worth and production for the company. They won’t be able to physically see it, so you will have to show it through detailed communication and updates.
In regard to finding new network pieces, reach out to other professionals on platforms like LinkedIn. Social media has made the world significantly smaller, making finding and meeting other professionals much easier. There are also still virtual conventions in some sectors. Look out for at-home ways to meet other people in your industry.
8. No Exercise
A Leeds Metropolitan University study found that workers who visited the gym during working hours were more productive, managed their time better, and felt more work satisfaction. And that’s just one of the millions of studies connecting physical activity to increased brain function and boosted mood.
It’s as simple as this: you need exercise to be your best self. This doesn’t mean you need to run a marathon every morning to be an excellent employee, but you do need to get the blood flowing every once in a while.
Remote work can quickly reduce your daily activity tenfold. You may find that you walked around the office more than you realized (especially if there are stairs). If you are working from a home office, you may be moving a fraction of the amount you did when working in person. This lack of exercise (though it may not feel significant) can lead to a reduction in performance and overall health.
How to Overcome It:
We aren’t here to combat underlying health issues or hammer in a fitness routine. We are just stating that movement is necessary to be a productive remote worker, even if just a little. Even a simple stretching routine every few hours can get the blood pumping and boost overall productivity. It’ll also help you feel better physically.
Sitting over a desk for 8 straight hours can be horrible for the body.
Luckily, there are tons of fitness routines and yoga seminars on the internet. Look into something that interests you. Even a walk during your break can be enough. Find some type of way to get moving during the day.
9. Managing Your Work Schedule
Structure is a critical human facet. While all of our jobs might not follow a rigid schedule, creating one can help boost work ethic and overall efficiency.
Though we discussed the concept of giving yourself a hard starting and ending time for your work day, you could find yourself whisked away into a dream world of wandering and fantasizing, waiting for that quitting bell to ring. Simply put, if you are the type to need a rigid structure, not having a work schedule can reduce productivity and increase daydreaming.
How to Overcome It:
Firstly, take note of what you need to get done for the day. How long do you need to answer emails? How long will it take to finish that report? Set a routine for yourself and stick to it.
Having your workday planned out can help keep you focused. You have no time for your mind to wander when you know what needs to be done.
Bonus: If things get stale (and your job permits) you can always switch up your routine to keep things fresh. Maybe work on that one project last instead of first.
Ever find yourself desperately explaining the intended tone of a text message? Though you meant the message sincerely, the lack of voice caused the receiver to believe you were being sarcastic. Now there has been an unfortunate misunderstanding. You didn’t mean to be mean, but the other party thought that you were.
We can’t all be amazing writers (cough like me), we all can’t naturally portray our tone and purpose through basic text. Therefore, communicating while at remote work can prove to be a difficult task.
Your quick Slack message to your boss or coworker may be misinterpreted in a negative (or positive) way, leaving you attempting to explain what the true purpose was. Your email may fall through the cracks of the interweb, leaving your boss thinking that you didn’t reach out.
Communicating during remote work can be tough.
How to Overcome It:
Ultimately, overcoming at-home communication errors takes time and practice. You will eventually notice the cracks and pitfalls and work to overcome them. It takes time, but it’s a normal hurdle for every employee involved.
If you are to write a message, make your intent clear. If you are joking, use an emoji or simply state you are joking. If you are upset, take a deep breath and think about the issue before you write. Remember that emotion can sometimes be lost in text translation. If you are unsure how other parties will receive the overall message, see if you can jump on a phone call instead.
As stated, this is something everyone will figure out in time. If a miscommunication does happen, apologize and change your method going forward.