Remote work is on the rise. But, despite the growing popularity, remote work comes with its fair share of challenges.
We’ve asked people to share their biggest challenges of working remotely. Here’s what they told us.
Diane Lee, freelancer writer, editor, and author at Dianelee.com.au
“The main challenge I face as a remote worker is isolation. When I worked in an office back in Australia, my colleagues were also my friends.”
Unless she makes the effort to socialize, she doesn’t – her part-time job, however, helps bring her together with other people:
“The main challenge I face as a remote worker is isolation. Although, the benefits are that I can more or less work my own hours (pressing deadlines aside) and from any location, the fact that I work alone (as a sociable person) is something that I’ve had to overcome. When I worked in an office back in Australia, my colleagues were also my friends. We would socialise often, particularly for that great institution of workplaces around the world: Friday night drinks.
I’ve found that I now have to build socialising into my daily routine because if I don’t actively seek to socialise, it doesn’t happen. Luckily many of my friends are also freelancers, so we often meet for a morning coffee, lunch or dinner — or even a workout at the gym. I’ve also taken a part-time teaching role so I can balance up the people side of things with the freelance part of my life. Teaching also helps with cash flow!”
Diane’s advice on how to handle:
- Lack of socialization, feeling lonely – Purposely build socialization into your daily routine. Befriend other freelancers, and go with them to coffee, lunch, dinner or workouts. Get a part-time job that requires you to talk to people.
Sumit Bansal, founder of Trump Excel
“Initially, I found myself working all the time as there was no clear distinction between work and home.”
His biggest challenges are juggling different time zones, feeling isolated, and establishing a proper work routine:
“Different time zones: Since I work with clients from across the globe, not being in the same time zone as the client is a major challenge. There are many simple queries that can be answered right away, but since we are in different time zones, it often leads to a waste of time. Sometimes, I am compelled to work in the client’s time zone to make sure things are moving along smoothly.
Lack of human interaction: Working from home has its share of advantages and disadvantages. While it’s great to not worry about time wasted while traveling or getting ready for work, the downside is the isolation that you can experience. Working remotely gets lonely as you don’t get to meet and interact with people as a part of the job.
Lack of a proper routine: While you can limit your working hours when working from an office, it takes a lot of self-discipline to make sure you’re not working all the time when working from home. Initially, I found myself working all the time as there was no clear distinction between work and home. This had a negative impact on my lifestyle and well-being. Now, I have set up a dedicated workstation in a room and I try to limit the number of hours I spend in that room.”
Sumit’s advice on how to handle:
- Different Time Zones – Try to work in the client’s time zone.
- Lack of a proper routine – Set up a dedicated workstation, and aim to limit the time you spend in that room.
Chris Schalkx, digital marketer at GuestReady
“While the ‘working while travelling’ thing definitely is a lot of fun, I do feel like I’m missing out on all the sights of a new destination when I’m glued to my laptop screen – which often leaves me questioning myself why I paid to fly all the way to somewhere new.”
The lack of in-person interactions that comes with remote work is one of his biggest plights:
“I’ve never seen any of my colleagues face-to-face, so everyone is simply a Slack avatar or blurry webcam picture for me. As I’m one of the few remote workers, I miss out on office banter and inside jokes – something that’s hard to overcome if all communication is done through email, Slack or Skype. I have a weekly video catch-up with my manager where we discuss results and planning – this helps me to stay on track and keep myself updated about what’s happening in the company.”
Apart from working from home in Bangkok, Chris also works ‘on the go’ – he has worked from Mumbai to Taipei and everywhere in between. But, traveling while working isn’t what it’s cracked out to be – his work often stops him from enjoying all the new places and sights he’d want:
“While the ‘working while travelling’ thing definitely is a lot of fun, I do feel like I’m missing out on all the sights of a new destination when I’m glued to my laptop screen – which often leaves me questioning myself why I paid to fly all the way to somewhere new. Despite a very relaxed employer and flexible schedule, it’s sometimes difficult to fully enjoy a new destination when there’s a deadline looming in the back of your head.”
However, Chris has one proven travel hack that helps him have time for sightseeing:
“Since I don’t work full time, I made clear arrangements with the company. My team knows which days I’m working, and which day’s I’m ‘off’ (e.g. I work on Monday, Wednesday and Friday). The ‘off’ days can be used for sightseeing and other fun stuff when I’m travelling.”
Chris’ advice on how to handle:
- Having no time to enjoy travels – make an agreement about your working days and your days off with your company, and use days off for fun travel activities.
James Rice, Head of Digital Marketing at WikiJob
“If you are the only remote worker in a large in-house team, it can be tricky to integrate yourself in company culture and be visible to management. This can affect long-term prospects if not managed correctly.”
For him, having no set work hours is where the problems begin:
“Although this is one of the best reasons to work remotely, it can be a challenge if you find yourself working too much. When you don’t have the physical cut-off of leaving an office, you can find that you work all the time and don’t take breaks as much as you should. It is always good to add some structure to your day and, if you like working late into the evening, give yourself a few hours in the day to yourself.”
James also finds that remote workers miss out on the chance to form friendships with their colleagues, and adds loneliness to his list of challenges:
“Although some people can relish not having to interact with colleagues on daily basis, it can sometimes be lonely when you are a remote worker. Work colleagues can become lifelong friends and form the basis of a lot of social activities. With modern technology, working remotely doesn’t always have to equal working alone. There are many ways to connect with people both online and face-to-face, and many co-working spaces are now available if you enjoy working alongside others in an office environment.”
Another pressing issue is not being able to participate and shape company culture – he believes that this can even affect your prospects in said company:
“If you are the only remote worker in a large in-house team, it can be tricky to integrate yourself in company culture and be visible to management. This can affect long-term prospects if not managed correctly. It is important to be included in important team meetings and events, and to feel a part of the team. Getting together in person as regularly as possible or making the most of technology such as video conferencing can make a lot of difference.“
However, James concludes that remote work can bring a number of benefits if managed correctly:
“Working remotely is a great way to work. It allows for a better work/life balance, often aids productivity and brings teams of the best people together from different locations. Working remotely can be a huge success if businesses or individuals address potential challenges early and look for solutions.”
James’ advice on how to handle:
- Adding structure to your days – If you plan to work late, save some of the hours during the day for yourself.
- Loneliness – Try a co-working space, to interact with people online, or in-person.
- Not being properly integrated into company culture – Try to get together with your colleagues face-to-face as much as possible, and participate in video conferences.
Leslie Truex, author, and owner of Work At Home Success
“Many managers and workers haven’t had training in how to communicate and coordinate in a virtual world.”
She’s been working remotely as a social worker for nearly 18 years, starting as a telecommuter and later switching to contract work. She also works as a freelance writer, along with her own ventures.
For her, communication issues, and problematic coordination are the biggest challenges of remote work – issues that she believes mostly stem from inadequate remote management:
“For me, the biggest issue that comes up in remote work is communication. A lack of clarity from my home office often means extra work for me because I either didn’t do what my boss had intended and I have to redo it, or we have to go back and forth by email until I’m clear on what is wanted. While this may seem like I’m dense, the reality is many managers don’t know how to communicate in writing or other virtual options exactly what they mean.
The other issue is coordination when many people are involved. I’ve been told to deal with something in two different ways depending on the person I’m talking to. I’ve been instructed to take care of something that managers knew needed to be done for months, but I’m assigned it days before it’s due.
While tools such as online document storage, project management platforms, video conferencing, etc, have made the potential for coordination and communication easier, many managers and workers haven’t had training in how to communicate and coordinate in a virtual world.”
Leslie’s advice on how to handle:
- Communication and coordination – Make use of video conferences, online storage tools, project management platforms, and similar programs. Provide proper training for both the managers and the workers on the best communication and coordination practices in the virtual world.
Melissa Smith, virtual assistant at The PVA
“The worse it ever was for me was in Bali, December 2017. The time difference was 13 hours ahead and there were times I couldn’t say what day it was – I was working a Monday schedule on a Tuesday.”
Melissa Smith is a virtual assistant at the PVA – she has been featured in several remote working blogs and is part of the author/mentor group for the Remote-how Academy with an individual remote work certification. She’s been working remotely since 2013 – she started her own company in December 2014 and became location independent in 2017.
For her, in general, the biggest obstacle of remote work are poor routines:
“It is very easy to create a poor routine as a remote worker. This might include overworking, isolation, allowing too many meetings, and not enough face-to-face interaction. Routines are extremely powerful and can be a great attributing factor to success when working remotely. However, breaking a bad routine is often much harder. It takes far more effort and accountability.
I found that creating extreme routines like always waking up at 5 a.m. or eating at exactly the same time of day works when I’m traveling alone or at my base home.
However, when traveling with friends or other digital nomads, having such extreme routines makes for a disastrous schedule. When I “break” my routine, it’s much harder for me to get back on course.
I overcame this challenges by creating routines of habit for a certain time of day. I run and exercise in the morning, as well as answer all my emails and then I edit my written work. In the afternoon, when I crave interaction, I schedule the majority of my calls and consultations. This is also the time I write since I’m more likely to be more creative.”
Apart from the general problem of poor routines, Melissa adds that isolation and setting boundaries are the most pressing problems she faces when she works from her own home:
“In my very comfortable environment, I don’t have to travel anywhere so it is tempting to work all day and even on weekends. I find myself to be far less active because my surroundings are so familiar.
I’ve found that the best way for me to create boundaries is not to be strict with myself regarding how much to work or not work. Having somewhere to go, someone to meet, or a book you can’t wait to read it makes it much easier to stop working. Often, this will solve my issue of isolation as well. Making sure you’re not isolating yourself doesn’t just mean you have to do things with others. I find that sitting in a park reading a book while others walk by, smiling at strangers, or having a casual conversation does wonders for how I feel.”
Melissa sometimes lives as a working nomad, and attending meetings while in different time zones is one big problem for her – and disregarding your health to have enough time for work AND sightseeing is another:
“There are a lot of benefits to being able to travel. It’s not always problematic to work a later shift or even a graveyard shift. However, the going back and forth is very hard on the mind and body and, again, makes it very hard to create routines. Often, workers will forego sleep in favor of a sightseeing or group activity. Eventually, it will catch up with them. While in the short-term it can be done and done effectively, in the long-term it is not healthy for the worker and ultimately results in a loss for the company.
This was something I struggled with a lot during my travels to Asia in late 2017. I learned that, while I have a desire to travel to many places I haven’t before, some are better for vacation and others for working. The idea of “having it all” is attractive, but not realistic.
The worse it ever was for me was in Bali, December 2017. The time difference was 13 hours ahead and there were times I couldn’t say what day it was – I was working a Monday schedule on a Tuesday.
I made the decision to stop working and taking on clients – but that’s not an option for everyone. It would have been better If I had known beforehand that this would be a problem, so that I could have made plans accordingly. At the very least, let the person you are meeting with in on your problems, and brainstorm the best times and possible alternatives. You may find the other person will accommodate you, or try to find a more convenient time to meet.”
When she compares working from home and working while traveling, Melissa concludes that working from home is more challenging, especially now that she’s experienced travel – but that there are ways around this:
“Traveling creates a different sense of urgency and excitement for me. It also presents more opportunities for me to get out of the house which forces me to define my working boundaries much more and stick to them.
Creating a new mindset is the best solution – I have to remind myself that my home base is routinely a 1-2 week visit, much like when I travel across the States or to another country. I try to act like a tourist at home now as well. There is always something fun and exciting going on if you look for it. Also, when you want to relax and reflect, I find it much easier to do it from home – so I take time to change my mindset, do nothing and enjoy it.“
Melissa’s advice on how to handle:
- Poor routines – Stick to extreme routines while at home or traveling alone, but not while traveling in a group. Pick a time of day when you’ll tackle certain tasks – and stick to it.
- Isolation – Go to the park, sit on a park bench and read a book, or start a casual conversation with someone.
- Work/private life balance and boundaries – Schedule rewards in the future, to prompt you to stop working.
- Different time zones – Make plans beforehand, in agreement with your client and company, to find the times that work both for you, and for them.
- Working from home being less exciting than travel – Find fun new places and activities, and act like a tourist when not working.
Charlie Heck, Head Lady in Charge at Checkmark Creative
“While I love my work-life-balance and with a little planning can indeed set my own schedule, there is a common misconception that if you perform remote work from home, you can do whatever you want.”
Her greatest obstacle are people who don’t understand that working from home doesn’t give you absolute freedom:
“My biggest challenge are friends, family members and new acquaintances that assume I can just pop off from work whenever.
This common misconception leads to family strife – I’m the one who can go take care of mom. Call Charlie, she can leave whenever she wants.
And awkward friend conversations – Hey, I’m in LA for like a day, can we please hang out? You can just come pick me up, right?
While I love my work-life-balance and with a little planning can indeed set my own schedule, there is a common misconception that if you perform remote work from home, you can do whatever you want. Most of us remote workers either have to track our time or complete client projects before we can bill out for our work.
We make our own vacation days, sick days, etc.
But if we don’t work, a high percentage of us do not get paid. So while the idea of work on a Saturday/Sunday for a fun hangout on Monday/Tuesday is one of the reasons I love what I do, it’s not as simple as do whatever we want, whenever. This is a constant topic of conversation with my freelancer groups.”
However, Charlie believes that there are ways to explain to family and friends that she isn’t always available – but also a way to take on some of their proposals:
“It’s important to remember that it’s okay to say no sometimes. It’s not my job to educate all my non-remote friends and family but it helps to explain what my day/week looks like and illustrate that most times my projects require my full attention. When I pull up my Asana task list or Google calendar, the look usually changes across their face. So yes, I have a fabulous life, but this is what I have to finish this week. We usually end up compromising and I’ll take the afternoon off.
Other times, I just say let’s do it! This is why I built my life this way, after all, I can bust it all out tomorrow! Just make sure your phone is charged and you check your email during this last-minute adventure.”
Charlie’s advice on how to handle:
- You have to work, but your friends, family, and acquaintances don’t understand – Show them a list of things you have to finish by week’s end.
- You want to make some time for your friends, family, and acquaintances – Compromise, take an afternoon off and schedule your remaining work for tomorrow. Just remember to keep your phone close to you, and check your email from time to time.
Alexandra Tran, Marketing Specialist at Hollingsworth LLC
“Having to live out of my suitcase is probably the biggest challenge. Luckily I’ve got my packing process down to science – Black dressy flats are always a must if you’re a woman.“
In general, the delay in responses from co-workers is her biggest issue:
“One of the biggest challenges is not being about to directly communicate with my co-workers when I need information. I have to send e-mail/Slack messages and wait for a response. Oftentimes, I have to send multiple reminders and requests to get the information I need.”
And, when she works and travels, packing everything she needs is the biggest brain twister:
“I usually purchase data on a plane so that I can work while I am traveling. Having to live out of my suitcase is probably the biggest challenge. Luckily I’ve got my packing process down to science. What that means is I usually wear black with a pop of pattern or color. Black dressy flats are always a must if you’re a woman.“
While at home, distractions sometimes get the best of her:
“I usually get distracted by my dog and the ability to cook while I am working from home. We use a timing tool to keep track of our hours so that I know when lunch is over.”
Just like Melissa, Alexandra also finds remote work from home to be the more challenging option:
“I get distracted by chores that take me 5 minutes to do at home. I end up doing 5 small chores and there goes 25 minutes of my lunchtime! I prefer to travel so that I can hang out in a new cafe or restaurant. I also get to explore the city once work is over.”
Alexandra Tran’s advice on how to handle:
- Constant packing for travels – Make a system and stick to it: black, with a pop of color or patterns, is the best choice when it comes to clothes.
- Distractions – Use a timing tool, to help keep you on track.
Hannah L. Miller, content director at Elevate United
“I live in a tiny house. Yes, the tiny houses like the ones on HGTV. This is a nightmare working environment, especially when my boyfriend is in town.“
For her, travel itself, with all its nuances, is probably the biggest challenge, but being away from her co-workers comes as a close second:
“Many planes don’t come with free WiFi and I obviously can’t take calls on an airplane. I try to schedule my flights outside of working hours, but often this is undoable, thus everyone has to rely on my schedule when I’m not traveling.
Being face-to-face with my team is also really important. I love working alongside my coworkers (they are like my second family). I actually miss them when I’m traveling outside the office. We have separation anxiety haha.”
She considers both traveling while working and working from home to be challenging in their own unique ways – Wi-Fi issues and living in a tiny house are her standout points:
“Traveling can be tricky and a bit stressful, especially at airports. You never know if you’ll have reliable Wi-Fi or if someone will reach out to you with a crisis you can’t solve ASAP, because you don’t have service or Wi-Fi. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve got onto a plane and received panicky texts and felt constant anxiety as I’m up in the air, awaiting the problem I’ll have to sort out when I’m back on the ground.
At home, I live in a tiny house. Yes, the tiny houses like the ones on HGTV. This is a nightmare working environment, especially when my boyfriend is in town. The house is too small to comfortably fit two people, so you can only imagine what it’s like working beside him as he lounges around or begins working out in his underwear. I wish I was joking, but this is my reality.
When asked about whether she and her boyfriend have an agreement for when he can exercise in his underwear, Hannah replies that they make it work:
Haha! He doesn’t visit often, but I do have an office in Nashville, which is my home base. When my boyfriend is in town, I can escape his antics and run away to the office to be in solitude. He knows me very well and can tell when I’m getting angry or annoyed, so if I want to work from home and he is there, I tell him to get lost and he knows I need quiet time.”
When it comes to her challenges in general, Hannah offers some travel hacks and tricks:
“A lot of it comes with experience and being upfront with my team about travel days. I’m a big advocate for open communication. I tell my team when I won’t be available or I’ll be in the air, so that they know not to schedule client calls, etc. I’ve learned how to use a personal hotspot on my phone (had no idea how to do this before) for when airport Wi-Fi is glitchy. I know what airports to avoid. I’ve become awesome at traveling light and only taking a carry on with me, so that I have more of my work day left and I’m not spending it at the airport! There’s a lot of little travel hacks I have for getting in and out of the airport.”
Hannah L. Miller’s advice on how to best handle:
- Communication problems during flights – Explain when you’ll be up in the air, and make prior arrangements with your team accordingly.
- Unexpected problems when unavailable for calls – Schedule flights outside of working hours, when possible.
- Glitchy Wi-Fi on planes – Use a personal hotspot on your phone.
- Miscellaneous airport/travel problems – Travel light, and create an efficient packing system. Avoid airports you know are problematic, as often as you can.
- Partner problems, and living in a tiny space – make an agreement with your partner about your work schedule, and, if possible, work from the office on occasion.
Connor Mollison, freelance photographer, content writer and designer at Photographer Glasgow
“Although I’m naturally an introvert, lack of social interaction has lead to poorer mental health and not as much mental energy.”
For him, the lack of a traditional work environment, with structured days and lots of opportunities to socialize, is the key problem:
“Two of the biggest challenges for me are lack of structure and lack of social interaction. I’m still relatively new to remote working, having been doing it for the last 2 years, so it has taken some getting used to. Going into the transition, I hadn’t fully prepared myself on what working from home would be like i.e. there’s no social pressure to work and you’re not in a work environment.
Lack of structure killed my productivity. I would wake up later if I hadn’t slept as well, would have a much slower start to the day and take far more daydream breaks than I would in an office environment. On the other side of that, I would sometimes overwork or pick up my laptop to work on a few bits when I really should have been winding down for the night.
Although naturally an introvert, lack of social interaction has lead to poorer mental health and not as much mental energy. I hadn’t quite realised how important it was before I worked from home. I now make sure to keep in the loop with people and often work in coffee shops to get the interaction.”
Connor’s advice on how to handle:
- Isolation – Work in coffee shops in order to socialize with people.
Hannah Kowalczyk-Harper, freelance writer and social media manager at @MsHannahTweets
“Since my family and friends know my schedule and location are flexible, everybody is urging me to visit them. While I sometimes do this, it isn’t feasible to take every trip.”
The temptations of trip invites are her biggest trial, though she also finds the time she spends in front of the computer a big issue as well:
“One of the biggest challenges I face as a remote worker is turning down trip invites. Since my family and friends know my schedule and location are flexible, everybody is urging me to visit them. While I sometimes do this, it isn’t feasible to take every trip because the costs of too many flights add up and I’m less productive when I’m visiting friends. It’s better to stay in locations for several weeks or months at a time.
Another challenge is that most remote work involves a lot of computer time and my work is no exception. It’s really important for me to remember to stay physical and in good health. This means taking advantage of workspaces that allow for standing and taking frequent breaks to get my blood circulation flowing. If I’m on a client call that doesn’t require taking notes, you can bet I’m walking around during it. When I need a break from my tasks, I try to do less internet idleness and more squats.”
Hannah Kowalczyk-Harper’s advice on how to handle:
- Flight costs and trip temptations – Stay in one location for a longer period of time, for example, for several months or weeks, to save money and improve productivity.
- Being stationary – Exercise during activities that don’t require you to sit down. Try standing rather than sitting, whenever you can. Take frequent breaks to help you blood circulation.
Nate Gell, digital nomad and founder of eSkate Hub
“Some days I wake up early, ready to own the day and start work at 8 a.m. I power through the day filled with motivation and before I know it, I’m still working at 8 p.m… ”
For him, and other remote workers he has spoken to, it’s most problematic to find a daily routine for when to start work and when to finish:
“Some days I wake up early, ready to own the day and start work at 8 a.m. I power through the day filled with motivation and before I know it, I’m still working at 8p.m…
Other days I get up late or have some errands to run in the morning. I start work later at 10am. Then by 3pm, I’m mentally checked out and need to take the afternoon off to rest.”
When asked about how he overcomes these challenges, Nate says that discipline and workouts are the answer for him:
“I think the challenge of not working all day mostly comes down to discipline. Although I understand that can be difficult for some, myself included.
What I like to do is set myself non-work tasks or activities for the end of the day. The main way I do this is by setting my workout time for 5:30 p.m. A workout is the perfect segway between work mode and relax mode because, after it, all you want to do is chill out. Doing a workout in the evening is great for clearing your mind of all the days ‘busy-ness’ and freeing yourself up for focusing on much needed ‘you time.’ Evening workouts also aid a good night’s sleep which helps you wake up fresh in the morning with the motivation to work hard all day.
For those that prefer to workout in the mornings or not at all, here are some other non-work activities you can schedule in to cut your work day off at the knees: take your dog for a walk, organise to see friends after work, call your family, have a Netflix date night with your significant other, spend time on a hobby, meditate… There’s an endless list of things you could do to help you wind down – it’s about finding what is right for you.
I think the important thing to remember is that, by taking the time out in the evening to relax and mentally recover, you’ll be far more productive the following day.
Nate is another digital nomad who gives precedence to working remotely while traveling, over working from home:
“I work remotely both at home and while travelling and it might be strange, but I find that I am much more focused on my work when I am travelling compared to when I am at home. I’ve put it down to the inspiration and motivation I get from being in a brand new and exciting environment, oppose to the stale sights of my home office.
It’s definitely the motivation that is the toughest to conquer when I am at home. Home feels mundane, travel feels exciting. That is obviously reflected in my work.”
Nate’s advice on how to handle:
- Having the “freedom” to work the entire day – Find a non-work activity that eases you out of a working mindset. Exercises are a great physical activity to help do that – evening exercises help you sleep better, so you wake up fresh and motivated tomorrow. You can try meditation, calling your family, taking your pet out for a walk, or anything else you find right for you.
Sireesha Narumanchi, career blogger and founder of Crowd Work News
“ When I started working from home 8 years ago, the first thing that really hit me was the guilt of not ‘being present’ for my kids, though I was at home.“
Her biggest problem is establishing an effective work-life balance:
“I would say my biggest challenge of working from home was to give my best to work and yet be present for my family. For me, the essence of working from home is to manage both. When I started working from home 8 years ago, the first thing that really hit me was the guilt of not ‘being present’ for my kids, though I was at home. This is something every remote worker struggles with initially.”
Another problem that stems from an unclear work-life balance is trying to work harder than you really can:
“I have eventually learned to work in my most effective times and spend time with my family. I strongly believe in the motto, ‘Quality is better than quantity’. I only work when I can work. There is no point working when you cannot focus fully on your task – this is another challenge of working from home. My ideal times of working are early mornings or late nights where I get most of my work done.”
She also enjoys traveling, and often works on her travels – she believes good organization is key to an effective work routine during vacations:
“One golden rule that you need to follow if you want to be a digital nomad is to be super organized. You should be prepared for all the unplanned things that can happen. For example, I always have an extra set of laptop chargers, multipurpose plugs, power banks etc. ready in my bag. These are the first things I pack when we leave for a vacation. My phone always saves my day when everything else fails when I am out of country. Having the right kind of utility apps can really make a big difference.”
Sireesha’s advice on how to handle:
- Problematic work/life balance – “Quality is better than quantity”, so only work when you can work. Preferably, during the time of the day when you feel that you’re the most effective.
- Organization – Be a super organized digital nomad and carry an extra set of digital equipment wherever you go.
- When all else fails – Make use of digital apps, and work on your phone.
Earl White, co-founder of House Heroes LLC
“I hadn’t anticipated one of the biggest challenges from working from home was being totally stationary. My back hurt and I gained weight – being productive with aches and pains is difficult.”
For Earl, physical problems and team monitoring (which is a big part of his job), are his biggest challenges:
“Physical Problems: I was employed in an office setting before working full-time from home. Although my job didn’t require physical labor, I moved around regularly with commuting to work, attending meetings, or even just walking to a local store. I hadn’t anticipated one of the biggest challenges from working from home was being totally stationary. My back hurt and I gained weight. Being productive with aches and pains is difficult. I resolved the issue by purchasing a standing desk and yoga mat, as well as chair with lumbar support. I also go for a walk before work and after lunch.
Team Monitoring: As a founder of my company, I supervise staff daily. Not only do I work remotely, the majority of my team works remotely as well. Our staff was becoming disjointed, unguided, and didn’t understand how their tasks helped the business. There was little opportunity to converse. I began a weekly Google Hangout and signed everyone up for the same project management/task manager program. The first thing I do each morning is review and provide guidance on the questions and yesterday’s work.”
Earl’s advice on how to handle:
- Being stationary and the physical problems that come from it – Try out a standing desk and a yoga mat, and a chair with lumbar support, to help with potential backaches caused by sitting all the time.
- Gaining weight from all the sitting – Go for a walk before and after lunch, to get some exercise.
- Team communication issues – Start or join a Google Hangouts group or a similar one. Sign everyone up, or join a project management and/or task management program.
- Supervising a team remotely – Make it a habit to review and provide guidance for all your team’s questions every morning.
Jon Hayes, general marketer for Authority Hacker
“When working from home, you can soon find yourself feeling trapped within your house or apartment and relying heavily on the convenience of having everything you need right next to you.”
While working remotely certainly comes with its pros and cons, he likes to think he’s been able to adapt pretty well to such a lifestyle. Yet, having everything at hand’s reach in the comfort of his home takes its toll on how active he is during the day:
“For me, the main concern has been creating an active routine. When you consider that traditional office jobs force you to leave the house to commute to work on a daily basis and often encourage you to leave your desk to grab a coffee of get some lunch at regular intervals, when working from home you can soon find yourself feeling trapped within your house or apartment and relying heavily on the convenience of having everything you need right next to you.
While it may seem counterproductive at first, little things like deliberately not stocking the fridge and forcing myself outside to get lunch are a great way to improve quality of life and get active throughout the day. It encourages me to get out of the apartment for a while and get some fresh air which is great for productivity!
While you can’t deny the convenience of having everything you need right there in front of you, it’s important to remember that a little variety goes a long way in the long term success of remote work.”
Jon’s advice on how to handle:
- Staying indoors all the time – In order to encourage yourself to go outside, don’t stock your fridge: it’ll force you to go outside for lunch and get active. Add in some variety to your daily routine.
Remote work offers a number of different challenges to different people: being isolated from the team, social isolation in general, lack of routine and structure, issues with family, partners, and friends, as well as health issues caused by sitting all the time, not having the time to enjoy new places on travels, and other miscellaneous travel issues, seem to be prevalent in the lives of remote workers.
But, the creative minds of our interviewees offers great insights into how you can solve them:
Social isolation in general
Missing all office jokes and banter with colleagues, work activities and happenings, as well as Friday night drinks makes one feel isolated – and, eventually, the lack of social interaction may lead to poorer mental health and energy.
Also, considering you’re usually just a Slack avatar to them, making friends with colleagues can be difficult – and since you spend a lot of time working, you’ll have less time (and fewer ways) to meet friends and socialize in another way.
But, if you make the extra effort through an online communication channel, join a co-working space, or find a group of other remote-workers and freelancers you can go to lunch breaks and coffee with, you’ll get the socialization you need.
Another great option, if you feel you don’t have time for proper socialization, is going out to a coffee shop to work, or opting to read a book on a park bench. Sometimes, starting a casual conversation with a stranger, or simply being around other people is sufficient to help you feel better.
Being isolated from your colleagues (and management)
Apart from reducing your chances of befriending colleagues, remote work can cause difficulties in how you all operate as a team.
No face-to-face interaction with colleagues means you have to cooperate via email or any other online means of communication, and probably send multiple reminders and requests – this can lead to a lack of clarity, misunderstandings, delayed responses, and general disorganization.
Coordination also becomes difficult – when told to approach a matter in two different ways, by two different people, what are you to do, if you’re not personally there to voice your concerns?
In general, there seems to be too many meetings and not enough face-to-face interaction that would clarify a lot of issues.
This is where various tools and apps come in handy – storage and project management tools, as well as video conferences, are the way to start. Making an effort to train the workers and management on the best coordination and communication practices in the virtual world is the next step.
Not being able to participate in company culture may lead to you being overlooked by management, which can hurt your job prospects in the long run. To make yourself known and visible to management, participate regularly in the company’s online communication channels.
A whole new level of team issues when working remotely is team monitoring – how do you monitor if you’re not physically present on site? Well, one effective solution is to provide guidance and reviews to your team on a regular basis.
Lack of routine and structure
When you live where you work, and work where you live, setting work/life balance and boundaries is troublesome – some have issues staying accountable and responsible with their work, others find they work all the time.
Time management becomes an issue as well – you have the freedom to decide when you want to work, but this freedom makes it harder to find a routine that works.
One great solution is to choose and practice an activity that will signal your body that work time is over – exercising is one great tactic, though you can choose any activity that helps you unwind, and stirs your mind away from work.
Another great solution is to use a timing tool to keep you on track – and remind you when it’s time to end one activity and move on to the next.
Family, friends, and partner issues
Being at home, but not being present for one’s family is a problem for anyone living with a family. People opt to work remotely so they could tweak their schedules and spend more time with loved ones – but this doesn’t mean they can accomplish this all the time.
Family, friends, and partners sometimes ask for your company even when you’re working – and how do you explain that you’re not free to get off work whenever, just because you’re office is at your home?
Here, objective proof you have to work stand out as your best options – inform your loved ones of your schedule, and when you’ll be free to socialize with them. You can do this by displaying to-do lists or schedules depicting what you have to accomplish by the end of the day, or week, for tangible proof you do have to work. Alternatively, compromise – re-arrange your schedule, take the afternoon off, and take part in whatever activity your loved ones proposed.
In general, the solution is to work only when you can work, and dedicate the rest of your time to your family – opt for quality, rather than quantity, and work only at the times when you feel effective.
No time to enjoy travels
People work and travel to be able to enjoy more new places – but the reality of digital nomadism often requires you to work a lot while staying in this new destination, so much that you miss out on many great sights. Also, it’s harder to enjoy your trip if you have a deadline looming over you.
Scheduling your travels so that you parse the time you spend there on work-days and days off, is likely to help you balance out your workload and appetites for sightseeing. Another great option is to prolong your stay – several weeks or months staying in one place is bound to leave you with enough time to visit everything you want, and finish your assignments.
Time-zone logistics, such as having a double-digit time difference compared with your company and clients, usually calls for many meetings, delayed responses and wasted time. Also, in general, mixing travel and work may put a strain on your mind and body – to such an extent that you’re unsure what day it is.
The best solution is to compromise with the client and company, and reschedule meetings for a time that fits everyone. As an alternative, you can opt to work in the client’s time zone.
Miscellaneous travel issues
Considering that fun is only half of the work-while-traveling equation, and that you must spend a part of your travels working – you’ll have to find the strengths to turn down trip invites from friends. If you’re constantly visiting friends and traveling around with them, you’re less productive – though the temptation is understandable.
Also, bare in mind that not all locations are equally suitable for you to work there – so, once again, it’s best that you parse your travels into:
- places where you’ll work and go sightseeing in your free time
- places you’ll merely go for vacation, and not work at all while there
Knowing what to pack is another pressing travel issue – and packing light is key. A few clothing items you can easily mix and match, and enough plugs, charger, and power banks to know you’ll always be able to rely on your mobile phone and/or laptop.
No free Wi-Fi and a ban on phones calls in planes takes work emergencies to a whole new level – no one can reach you, or you spend the entire flight in stress-filled panic at how you’ll solve the problem once you land. But, scheduling flights outside of work hours can help you avoid this – and using a hotspot on your phone when airplane Wi-Fi is glitchy can help you fix what you can.
As a bonus problem, if you work and travel, and then go back to simply working from home, you may be bored, as it’s the less exciting option of the two. But, you can act as if you’re a tourist, even back home – go visit some nearby sights you never have before, and look up some compelling activities to try out in the neighborhood.
While working at home, you’ll have everything you need nearby, and won’t have to endure a commute – which means you’ll be totally stationary. And this may cause health issues, like backaches and weight gains.
To encourage yourself to get out of the house, don’t leave everything within hand’s reach. Leave the fridge half-empty, to prompt you to go out to buy groceries, or for lunch. Walking is also a great form of exercise to help reduce the risk of weight gain.
If a work activity doesn’t require you to sit still in front of your computer (as is the case with client calls), get up, stretch, and move around. Or, alternatively, try a standing desk – yoga mats and a comfortable, ergonomic chair will further improve your potential back issues.
While traveling, forgoing sleep in favor of sightseeing and participating in group activities is tempting – but you shouldn’t do it. If you believe a place will be interesting enough that you’ll want to fully enjoy it, don’t let sleep suffer – this is another reason to opt to visit some places during vacation time when you won’t have to work at all.