Perils of Remote Work


Along with many benefits that come with working remotely, there are also some obstacles. Let’s examine a few of them here and explore ways to remove them. We need to look at each as an opportunity to learn and change.

Isolation

Working from home can make you feel like your alone like Tom Hanks on an island. Before you start talking to volleyballs take some time to figure out ways to be social. Make sure you have other social outlets on your schedule. Maybe you enjoy sand volleyball or disc golf. Join a league or schedule something fun. Try working a few days from a coffee shop or a co-working space.

Anxiety

The feeling of isolation can lead to anxiety if it builds up. We can feel like we are not engaged and are concerned about if we are still part of the team. Make sure you take the time to reach out to your leader and your team. Schedule a call or engage in conversation over IM. This will help you come back into the fold and be visible. John a manager of some remote employees tries to get them to always call in via video for their daily huddles. “When you see someone’s face you can read their non-verbals. Over the phone miss a lot.”

Unplugged

The day to day interactions with co-workers helps build camaraderie. When you are working in a remote environment you miss out on talking about last night’s games or who got the rose. One way to fight this unplugged feeling is to have “work buddies” who check in with each other daily. The idea is not to just talk about work but make a connection.

Reporting progress

An old manager of mine used to say, “work isn’t done until you tell someone.” Usually, the someone you should tell is who asked for it. I did not realize how important project status was until I was asked to manage a few of them. Before this, I thought the long meeting was for the project manager to update their project plan. On remote teams reporting out status becomes more important. Make sure and close the loop and report the status.

Disconnection

The normal connection can be fostered in an office when you collaborate and work together on a project. Remote teams need to look for ways to get people engaged and collaborating. Seek novel ways to bring people together and get them discussing ways to coordinate their tasks. We can’t allow the lack of collaboration to break the team apart. The disconnection that can set in is dangerous for the esprit de corps.

Reading

Many nonverbal cues are easily picked up when we are in the same room. “John is slouching, I have lost him.” We can glean this when we share a space. When the person is on the phone we miss a lot. Leverage technology when available to help “read” the person you are talking with. Another technique I have learned to help engage with people on the phone is to pause frequently to allow time for the other person to talk. Make sure you don’t try to fill the air with noise. Not everyone needs to hear a voice all the time.

Tech Issues

As Murphy’s law states anything that can go wrong probably will. Working remotely you have to become accustomed to troubleshooting issues with your internet connection and other technology. Whether you want to or not we need to learn a little bit of the basics to function as a remote worker. The help desk isn’t flying over to where you are to fix it. They can walk you through things over the phone of video chat. Of course, if your internet connection is spotty or not working then you have to call them. Be patient when things run amok and try your best to resolve them. Call in reinforcements when needed!

Distractions

My wife has great concentration. She can focus on one thing and entirely tune out many other distractions. I am on the other hand have a tendency to get easily distracted or get a random thought about something I need to do later. Working remotely can be challenging for someone like me. I need to find a quiet area where I can focus on my work. I have a small office in my basement that helps me escape the normal noises. Find a place that works for you and that removes many of the things that bother you.

Sedentary

I never realized how sedentary office work could be until I took my first job. In college, I played sports and worked out a lot. Soon after my first job started I noticed I was adding a little weight and feeling sluggish like a wet sponge. I knew I needed to change something and started to workout a few times a week. Remote work can be more sedentary though. Walking from your bedroom to your home office doesn’t build your cardiovascular strength. I got a Fitbit for a present recently. As I work from home it prods me to get my 250 steps every hour during my work day. Find ways to make sure you have exercise breaks.

So with any challenge, there are many possible solutions. We have explored a few here. I am sure you may come up with a few yourself. Overcome the feeling of disconnection and your technical issues to find success with your remote work.

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