People tend to have an idealistic view of what it’s like to work remotely – especially when it comes to working from home. But, with the unique freedom and flexibility of working remotely, there are also some unique challenges. The majority of the Treehouse team are remote, and over the past 7 years, we’ve collectively gained a lot of experience for how to successfully work remotely. Whether you’re working from home, a co-working space, coffee shops or the limitless other locations you may choose, there are a few common challenges that you’ll likely encounter at one time or another. Here’s our list of the 5 most common challenges of working remotely, and more importantly how to overcome them.
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1. Keep your motivation
Whether you work remotely as a freelancer or for a company, ultimately you’re the manager of your own time. Not having someone overseeing your daily work can be an empowering perk of working outside of a traditional office, but at the same time, that level of trust comes with the added pressure to keep yourself productive and efficient. Finding ways to self-motivate can be very challenging, especially if you’re new to working remotely. But, I can assure you that with time, you’ll establish routines and ways of keeping yourself on track.
Maintaining motivation can be one of the greatest challenges of working remotely, but the good news is that most of the tips shared in this post will help feed into your motivation. However, there’s one particularly valuable piece of advice that I find helps, and that’s to think carefully about your working environment. By establishing an ideal workspace for yourself, you’ll find yourself working comfortably, but productivity. For me, that’s a spacious and uncluttered desk space and a window view, which is something I’ve created in my home office, but I can also replicate in a coffee shop or at my co-working space.
2. Fend off distractions
One of the benefits of working remotely is you don’t have the challenge of dealing with office distractions. But, working in other places can present an entirely new set of distractions. For example, just because you’re working from home, it doesn’t mean you should catch up on house chores. Treat working hours as exactly that, working hours. Keeping that strict division is something you should establish at the start as it sets the right precedent to keep you focused on your work.
Similarly, working in a coffee shop or co-working space may come with the distractions of a loud, busy environment. If you’re anything like me and can find that very distracting, so invest in a good set of noise-canceling headphones and rely on a few go-to playlists that help you focus. When you aren’t in an office setting, also remember that trust from your employer and team plays a big factor. Be self-disciplined and accountable for your time. Make the most of the awesome flexibility you’ve been given by working as effectively as possible.
3. Avoid working in isolation
Working remotely – especially from home – can sometimes lead to working in your own “silo”. It can be easy to fall into the pattern of starting work in the morning and powering through the day on your computer, which can take a toll mentally. While this might feel like you’re being productive, it’s important that you also take short breaks through the day to give your mind and your eyes a chance to refresh (and no, that doesn’t mean scrolling through your social feeds). When working from home, I find the best way to do that is to get out the house first thing in the morning or at lunchtime for a walk. It helps me reconnect with the world around me and once I’m back at my keyboard I feel refreshed.
Joining a co-working, even if it only means working there a day or two a week, is another great way of ensuring you don’t work in too much isolation. Today you have countless options to choose from, so be patient while you search and find a space that’s right for you: Look for somewhere that feels like the right working environment, speak to other members to get a feel for what the culture is like, and ask about events at the space.
Another related challenge of working remotely is that you’ll likely miss company culture and human interaction. Co-working spaces can help remedy that. But in addition, most remote-friendly companies today are aware of that and put extra measures in place to ensure their culture reaches all of their remote team. For example, at Treehouse we rely heavily on tools like Slack and Zoom to keep our team connected, encourage individuals to join co-working spaces and even bring our team together in-person for company-wide Meetups. But there are also things you can do for yourself to help with the challenge. Make the effort to get to know other people working in your co-working space, or attend local Meetups and networking events. I guarantee you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how many other people work remotely, and it’s great to connect with others to share advice, experiences, and to socialize!
4. Maintain a healthy lifestyle
Aside from the mental challenges of working in isolation, parking yourself at a desk all day is also bad for your health. You may not notice it at first, but trust me, over time it will have an impact. So instead, keep yourself moving through the day. One great and practical recommendation is to invest in an adjustable high desk (we use GeekDesks at Treehouse), so you can stand and work for part of your day. I also rely on my FitBit to remind me to keep moving through the day. It’s also important you try to commit to a healthy daily routine. Given you’ll likely be saving time not having to commute, why not use that time to exercise in the morning before work or after you wrap up in the evenings? Working from home also means you’re not restricted to having to grab lunch on the go. Instead, whip up something healthy for yourself, there’s really no excuse with your own kitchen at your disposal!
5. Know when to disconnect
One of the hardest parts of working remotely (especially from home) is “switching off” from work. Instead of an office structure with 9-5 hours, you can access your virtual office at any time of the day or night. That can make it hard to justify ending your workday when there’s still more to be done. The temptation might even be to head offline in the evening, only to return later to complete a quick task… fast forward to 11.30pm and you may find yourself still working. Of course, there will be times when that is necessary, but really try not to make a habit of working late as ultimately it will burn you out. One of the most effective ways to avoid this is to ensure you keep your work environment at home (and your computer) separate from where you spend your free time. That way, when you come to the end of the working day, you can close the door on that space, disconnect and switch off until tomorrow.
We hope you’ve found these tips helpful. If you work remotely, we’d love to hear about your experience. Are there additional challenges you’ve faced? How have you overcome them?