As many of us are finding, working from home comes with its perks. According to a new report from Clutch on remote work trends, the lack of commute, a more flexible schedule and not having to dress up are the three biggest benefits. There are plenty of people that have avoided wearing anything but sweatpants from the waist down for the last month-and-a-half—and props to them. Odds are you can relate to at least one of these upsides.
These findings are also consistent with research showing that long commutes to the office are linked to increased anxiety and giving employees more flexibility in their schedules makes them happier and more productive.
Though with the pros of remote work come newfound obstacles. In this article, we dig into the top 5 challenges employees across the U.S. are experiencing while working from home and how digital agencies and freelancers can overcome them.
Here are American workers’ top 5 work-from-home challenges, according to Clutch:
Collaborating with colleagues
Sticking to a routine
Stopping work at the end of the day
Feeling isolated or lonely
1. Collaborating with colleagues
While we used to be able to step over to a co-worker’s desk to ask a quick question or meet face-to-face to discuss a project, we now have to rely on email, chat, video conferencing and shared documents to collaborate. More than one-third of workers (33%) polled in the Clutch study report collaborating with colleagues as the biggest challenge of remote work.
Solution: Keep in close touch
To keep collaboration across your agency strong while everyone’s working apart, make sure you stay in close touch with your colleagues or employees and make your communication as personal as possible. A daily huddle by video conference can help everyone get on the same page. You can use that time to quickly recap what everyone accomplished the day before and get an overview of the next tasks you plan to tackle.
There are hundreds of communication and workflow tools you can choose from to keep everyone aligned. These are the most popular ones remote workers are using today, according to the Clutch survey:
Microsoft Teams (19%)
Google Hangouts (9%)
Each of these tools offers different features and capabilities, so we suggest exploring your options to determine which will work best for your agency. You also don’t have to stick to just one. You can always use multiple platforms and integrate them when possible. Additionally, you might decide to switch up your tools if you find one is better suited to your needs. Especially during this time, it’s important to be flexible and adapt your workflows as you go.
Frequent interruptions ranked as the second biggest challenge of working from home in Clutch’s survey with 27% of respondents saying this is something they struggle with—and understandably so. In our new environments, the same roommates, pets or children you’re glad to be spending more time with might also be your main sources of distraction. This can be especially problematic for web designers and developers when your work requires sustained concentration or getting into a creative flow.
Solution: Define your boundaries
To help keep yourself on-task and block out those distractions, we suggest defining your boundaries with those you live with. If you’re a parent, map out a childcare schedule with your spouse that works for both of you. If you have roommates, it may mean having an open conversation about your needs and theirs, and laying some ground rules that’ll make everyone as productive and comfortable as possible. Additionally, playing instrumental music, white noise or soundscapes can help you zone in and keep out unwanted sounds that pull your focus.
3. Sticking to a routine
Without the structure of going to the office and having set spaces for different aspects of your life, from work and socializing to dining and exercise, getting into a new groove can be tough. 26% of those surveyed said that sticking to a routine is their main challenge.
Solution: Structure your day
While you can’t always control all of the factors in your immediate vicinity, there are steps you can take to get into a groove and strike the right work-life balance when working from home. To name a few, we recommend creating a designated workspace, taking breaks throughout the day and making plans for after work. These strategies can help you feel more refreshed and stay productive while working remotely.
4. Stopping work at the end of the day
Without being able to leave the office, you may find you’re losing yourself in your day-to-day tasks or projects, and working later than you should or need to. The Clutch report found that this is also the case for 22% of those surveyed.
Solution: Ignore non-urgent work messages at night
It’s important to give yourself the space to decompress and maintain a personal life outside of work, even when it’s all happening in the same place. Plan to stop working at a specific time each day, barring any urgent tasks. If you’re getting emails from colleagues well into the night and they’re not time-sensitive, give yourself permission to ignore them and reply in the morning. You may even see others start to follow your example.
5. Feeling isolated or lonely
Working from home means being away from your teammates and for those who live by themselves, away from other people, period. This dynamic can breed feelings of loneliness and isolation and 21% of those who responded to the Clutch survey said this is their top work-from-home challenge.
Solution: Stay connected with colleagues
Promoting a sense of camaraderie and belonging is key to keeping up morale during this challenging time. Holding daily video conferences can bring people together and help everyone stay connected.
You can also support your team while working remotely by scheduling short, virtual coffee breaks together. As a substitute for your usual team outings, you might consider eating lunch as a group on a video call or getting together for an online social hour once a week.
Finally, you don’t have to be at the top of your agency’s hierarchy to be a leader. At a time when all organizations are all hands on deck, everyone has the ability to be an agent for change, initiate team-building and support each other while creating the best outcomes for your clients. You may be surprised by how much your colleagues appreciate the initiative.
Check out the full Clutch report, Working From Home During the Coronavirus Pandemic: The State of Remote Work.
Share your experiences and best practices
We’re curious to know: What have been the biggest challenges for you or your team while working remotely? How have you overcome them? Which of the above tips resonate with you most? Share in the comments below!