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Remote work is becoming more and more attractive to a broad workforce all over the world. Forced into home office during the pandemic, many workers are now realising the many benefits of remote work and strive to extend their home office indefinitely. However, finding yourself suddenly working in a remote team and without the usual office environment does come with some challenges: Isolation, distraction and added pressure to perform can take a toll on your well-being. But identifying these risks early on might just help you find the right strategy to deal with them.
Working from home might be fun at first, but a lot of workers find it tough after a while to resist all the lurking temptations within their own home. After all, it does save you a lot of time to quickly put on a load of washing or clean out the dishwasher in between meetings. And then again, why not quickly watch another episode of your favourite Netflix show after lunch or squeeze in a quick trip to the supermarket around the corner?
No matter how disciplined you are, handling all the distractions of a non-office environment can be tough for anyone. You have to get used to working in your own home and still stay focused on your tasks - and feeling guilty for finding your mind frequently wander off won’t help a bit. Give yourself some time to adjust to the new situation and observe your behaviour for a bit. Maybe you are able to identify a pattern, for example you find it harder to concentrate after your lunch break or might just struggle to get going in the morning.
Realising your personal challenges can help you find a strategy to deal with them. Maybe schedule a really easy and fun task just after your lunch break to get you back into working mode, or deliberately plan meetings in the morning to get you out of bed. Whatever it is, know that you are not alone with your struggle - and it does become easier with time.
Another thing people tend to underestimate is the feeling of isolation when working remotely. You don’t have your colleagues around you to ask a quick question and you probably won’t meet anyone at the coffee machine to have a little social chat. The isolation of working from home can become a big issue, so knowing how to break out of it and engage with people even if they are not in the same room is crucial for maintaining a happy and fulfilled work life.
In the best case scenario, your remote employer or freelance clients already have a thriving remote culture in place and understand the importance of social chats and personal interactions. But if that’s not the case, you can still organise these things yourself. Most of the time, all it takes is reaching out to other people and sharing your experience. You will probably find that many of your remote colleagues feel the same way and are happy for someone to take initiative and organise a digital get-together.
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This is probably one of the biggest challenges when working remotely: Many employees who work from home feel obligated to work harder and longer hours than their office counterparts. This can lead to a lot of over-time, weekend work, and lunch breaks spent in front of the computer. Oftentimes, remote workers even feel the need to leave their communication tools running at all times and respond to emails immediately, which leaves them being alert even when they should be unplugging and taking time off.
Understanding that working from home does not mean you are working less than anyone else is the first step to tackling this problem. Again, in a perfect world, you have an employer that looks out for you and encourages regular breaks and time offline. However, you need to take care of yourself as well and make sure you are not burning yourself out.
Reaching out to your supervisor or other colleagues to share your experience is a great way to start. Ask what is really expected of you in terms of response time and active communication, and explain your own boundaries and limitations. And sometimes, little things such as blocking a one-hour lunch break in your calendar can already have a big impact.
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