Remote work is arguably one of the greatest advancements in the working life of people around the globe today. It gives new opportunities that nobody thought possible before – possibilities like working for a company that is located on the other end of the planet, or making a living right from your living room.
But all the benefits of remote work have their price. And new remote workers have to gradually face the challenges that the new workplace concept presents.
As one of the forward-looking SaaS companies these days, at Hubstaff, we’ve chosen to function as a fully distributed team. We’ve been working this way since the first day we started our operations.
Why am I saying this? Because we have encountered, at different stages of our development, most of the serious obstacles that all remote workers stumble on. From drops in productivity to difficult communication across time zones, we’ve seen it all.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Remote work is one of the greatest advancements in the working life of people around the globe today.” quote=”Remote work is one of the greatest advancements in the working life of people around the globe today.”]
But if you ask us today, we wouldn’t change a thing about our remote setup.
In fact, we are big proponents of remote work. Our products are dedicated to making the lives of people in distributed teams easier, and we regularly blog about remote work.
It’s important, however, to know what you’re getting into when you’re setting your foot on the path of remote work. It comes with a ton of positive sides, but it’s also a good idea to be prepared for the typical challenges so there’s no disappointment later. Here are the five main traps we’ve encountered – and how they can be overcome.
Postponing action on important tasks is one of the biggest enemies in remote working. It’s difficult enough to battle procrastination on its own, but when you add the factor of remote work, things can get really problematic.
However, curing procrastination is not impossible. The first step is to realize that you need structure in your days and to start enforcing it. This entails creating a clear task list before you start your workday instead of wasting hours deciding what you need to get done. Then you can apply the 2-minute rule to overcome the stress of getting started on a complex task.
Breaking down your work into manageable units is another important rule to follow. When you’re working on bigger projects away from your teammates, it can seem impossible to understand which task to start first. But smaller tasks are easier to tackle. You can get through them faster and check them off the list, which gives you a sense of accomplishment, starts some forward momentum, and motivates you to go on.
Another major trap that you can fall in when working remotely is dropping productivity. The peace of your home can seem alluring because the typical distractions of an open office are eliminated. But there are a bunch of other challenges that you will have to overcome.
From taking out the trash and walking the dog to chatting with your flatmates or partner, there are a myriad of ways to waste your productive hours. To counter these tendencies, you have to test different working locations and see how you perform there. Choosing a comfortable coffee shop or diversifying your workplaces can have a meaningful impact on your productivity by bringing freshness and forcing you to better structure your day.
It’s also important to put efforts into banning multitasking from your routine. Instead of tackling three things at the same time (which is especially tempting when working from home), it’s better to focus at one thing at a time and follow it through to completion. Time tracking is very practical as well, as it allows you to see the hours spent on the different tasks, so you can assess your productivity levels and figure out which activities need more attention.
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#3. Communication with teammates
One of the most serious issues of remote team work is keeping up with communication and collaboration without physically being together – and across time zones. This is something that affects the dynamics of the whole team and needs special attention from managers and team leaders.
When people need to work together, they have to communicate often enough to make sure they’re all on the same page. In some cases, this means that a team member has to get up early or stay up late to attend a team meeting. To overcome this difficulty, it’s best to plan your hiring well, so that people on the same team who are located in different time zones have at least a few hours of overlap in their waking hours. In this way, their regular catch-up calls will not become problematic.
The physical distance and difference in time zones means that communication is often asynchronous, so team members cannot count on quick responses to pending issues. While this can’t be fully eliminated, it’s best to have a clear protocol of how your team communication will be conducted. This entails noting the right channels for the specific needs.
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#4. Socialization needs
For some people, working alone is the only way to be productive and calm during their workweek. For others, it’s complete hell. In whichever group you fall, it’s important not to ignore your socialization needs when working remotely.
Even without recognizing it, working on your own all the time can create a sense of loneliness. Instead of staying alone, you can try out different coffee shops, parks when the weather is good, or coworking spaces. You could also find a partner who is working remotely. The lack of immediate community can also be a problem in your professional development. Working in an office or attending work events on a regular basis give us the opportunity to mingle with like-minded people and make new connections that can be useful on both personal and professional level.
For remote team leaders, tackling the socialization issue is best done by fostering an online meeting place where the whole team can communicate. It’s also important to regularly get together as a team physically, so that people can create real-time connections.
#5. Work-life balance issues
Last but not least, working remotely can present a serious challenge to your work-life balance. It may seem that when working from home, you can spend more time with your loved ones, or that you can take breaks whenever you want to. In fact, it can be more difficult to set a clear boundary between your work activities and your leisure time.
To combat the feeling that you are working all the time because both your work and your time to relax happen at home, it’s wise to have a clear schedule. You can set the hours that you will dedicate to your work tasks and track them, then keep the rest of the time at home for taking a rest and other activities. It’s useful to enforce some rules on computer and phone usage too, so that you don’t end up spending your weekends answering emails and tackling tasks in front of the monitor.
Overcoming remote work traps is possible
Distributed work can be really challenging. We know, because at Hubstaff, we’ve faced all the obstacles remote teams have to overcome. However, it is important to remember that whatever your particular issues are, there’s always a way to overcome them.
What are the biggest challenges that your remote team is facing? How are you overcoming them? We’d love it if you share your insights in the comments below.
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Dave Nevogt is a co-founder at Hubstaff. Dave has founded several multi-million dollar businesses with remote teams. He’s collected his knowledge on the topic in a free email course.