Over 4.3 million people in the U.S. work remotely. While many thrive in the new work-from-home space, some still struggle with the various psychological challenges that present themselves in remote work. These challenges not only inhibit the productivity of workers but also play a key role in the mental and physical well-being of employees.
Below are some of the most common challenges remote workers face and strategies to help overcome them.
In 2021, unplugging was the most common challenge faced by remote workers and continues to be the number one challenge in 2022 as well. It can be easy to forget to take a break or overwork yourself when working from home. However, not taking breaks or forgetting to unplug when the work day is over can lead to feelings of fatigue, stress, and burnout.
Remember, it’s okay to take breaks and allow yourself to reset once in a while. Productive breaks are important during the work day both at home and in the office. It allows you to concentrate better, maintain your energy, stay motivated, and keep you mentally refreshed.
If you struggle with taking breaks, try out the Pomodoro Technique. The method advocates working in chunks and taking often, but brief, breaks throughout the day. This time management strategy can be a great way to encourage breaks, increase focus, and allow you to optimize your productivity without feeling overwhelmed.
Along with breaks, it’s important to set a hard start and end time or goal each day; so you know when to stop working. When working remotely, it can be easy to stay on the clock even throughout the night. When your work day is over, shut down your computer and silence your work notifications. This will allow you to truly unplug and enjoy your personal time.
Separating Personal and Professional Life
When you work where you live, it can be hard to separate your personal and professional life. This can increase feelings of anxiety, stress, and frustration. As a remote worker, it’s important to maintain a barrier between work and personal life.
A great way to separate the two is by having your own dedicated workspace. Create an office separate from where you sleep. It’s important to avoid doing work in your bedroom to help practice sleep therapy, maintain your room’s relaxing nature, and have a physical barrier between your personal and professional life.
To maintain that division, try renting a coworking space or working in a coffee shop. However, if you want to avoid paying fees or having to purchase coffee daily, create your own office space right at home. If you own a home, consider using a home equity loan to construct an optimal covid safe office. This will give you the divide you need while also increasing the value of your home. Constructing an office space is especially advantageous if you have others in your household who work from home, you have kids that need parental supervision, or if you have conditions that don’t allow you to leave your home. Having this space will allow you to create that needed divide, while still being able to enjoy the advantages of working at home. Regardless of what you chose, having a physical separation will clearly define your work and personal life, allowing both to coexist without interfering with each other.
Another major psychological challenge remote workers face is feelings of isolation. It can be easy to forget to leave your house when working remotely. Additionally, not having the typical social interactions from a traditional workplace can make working from home a lonely experience.
To help avoid feelings of loneliness, make an effort to leave your house. Take the time to go for a walk or do an activity outside of your workspace to get your daily dose of sunlight. If possible, take one day a week to work outside your home. This could be as easy as working from your porch or backyard. If you have friends or coworkers in your city, consider meeting up at a coffee shop, public university, or library to do work together. Leaving your home office will help you to feel less isolated, and working with others will help mitigate feelings of loneliness.
Making Meaningful Connections
Making friends is tough when you enter the workplace, especially when you never got the chance to meet with your coworkers in person. Because of this, it can be difficult for remote workers to feel like they belong and are connected to the company.
In a traditional workspace, conversation happens naturally, but with remote work, it takes a little more effort. Take the extra step to meet your fellow remote workers in a virtual one-on-one to get to know them better and help foster that meaningful connection. Whether it be a casual hello, a shoutout for good work, or starting a conversation, don’t be afraid to speak up in the communication channels you have set up. If allowed, start same-interest group chats, like a music group chat or a movies chat. This will connect you with like-minded people and stimulate fun and more personal conversations.
Along with reaching out to fellow employees, there are also little things that you can do to help create a deeper connection. When possible, have your camera turned on. Seeing a face rather than a still image will create a more personal connection with your teammates. Likewise, participate in video and chat discussions to establish your presence. This will make people more comfortable reaching out to you and allow you to open up to others more.
There are many distractions at home that can make you lose focus and motivation. When working from home, regardless of your position, you become more of your own manager. Since there isn’t anyone watching over your shoulder or coworkers present to keep you motivated, you have to find ways to self-motivate. For some, this may be easy, but for others finding motivation is a difficult task.
Having a dedicated workspace away from the noise is always a great start. But what’s perhaps more important is having a morning routine. Just like how a nighttime routine gets you ready for bed, a morning routine can give you an energized start to the day and allow you to stay motivated to accomplish your goals. Start your day with food and an energizing beverage. Create daily goals and a schedule to keep you guided while working from home. Rather than working in silence, play music, or, if it’s not too distracting, a podcast. If allowed, put away your phone or have it on do not disturb during the work day. All of this will mitigate common work from home distractions and keep you focused on the task at hand.
Another way to help you stay motivated is by having virtual study halls with teammates. If you’re the type of person to be motivated by others, hosting virtual study halls is a great way to work alongside your coworkers remotely. As mentioned earlier, remember to take breaks when needed. Try going on a walk to get some fresh air and a clear mind. Energizing breaks like these can be the perfect reset and give you more balance during your work day.