A remote based lifestyle can certainly offer many advantages to both organizations and professionals, but it has its own set of challenges which are unfortunately often used as an excuse to not allow remote work in some organizations, despite being solvable.
It’s then critical to raise awareness about them so remote based professionals and organizations (and those looking to become one) can tackle them by establishing processes and allocating resources to avoid them for a successful remote work experience.
Here are some of the most common challenges of working remotely that dozens of remote based professionals and organizations have shared with us in the Remoters interviews and ways to overcome them:
When you work remotely, it becomes very easy to get into the habit of sitting down at your computer in the morning and work all day by yourself.
You develop your own routine of being able to work when and where you want, whether at home, a coffee shop or whatever other place you choose, which can be great to keep focus and improve productivity but this can also cause you to become isolated from other people and become lonely.
It’s then also important to make sure that you follow a balanced routine depending on your personality.
For example, extroverts will likely enjoy to connect and interact with other people often by working at coworking spaces for a few days per week or going to professionals meetups and conferences.
Remote based organizations can also help their team to combat isolation by organizing retreats with certain frequency, that can become key for a remote company culture too.
Working remotely doesn’t have to mean working alone if this is something you don’t actually enjoy.
2. Lack of productivity due to procrastination
Multiple studies have shown that remote workers are often more productive than those who work in an office. However, not everyone has a natural self-discipline to work well remotely.
This technique involves dedicating 25 minutes of uninterrupted time to a task. When 25 minutes is up, you take a short break to get coffee or check emails, then go back to another 25 minute period of work. When you’ve completed four of these work periods, you can take a longer break of up to 30 minutes.
There are also many tools available to help you track your actual work time and improve productivity, such as Time Doctor, Timely and Hubstaff, with automated time tracking functionalities targeted to teams and projects.
Additionally, as more people turn to remote work, new tools are also being created that focus on the remote specific productivity needs of remote professionals, like FocusMate that helps remote workers improve their self-discipline by connecting users as virtual coworkers.
3. Team communication challenges
When working remotely, a fluid online communication among team members is key to achieve results, since it is not possible to pass by your coworkers’ desks to clarify any potential misunderstanding or confirm ideas.
Organizations must then set clear communication protocols and channels to facilitate a clear and fluid exchange between their team members when working remotely, right from the start.
There are many tools that can be also used by remote teams to make communication easier, such as:
- Slack allows team members to message each other privately or through channels that can be public for the whole organization or private for each area, for ongoing communication and coordination that is also documented.
- PukkaTeam gives remote workers the feel of working in the office while being anywhere in the world; you can see the faces of your coworkers and feel like you are connected as a team, allowing to easily have conversations with them when needed.
- Appear.in allows remote based professionals to set fast and easy online video conference calls from your browser with anybody, which is great when you need to have conversations with people from different organizations.
However, it’s critical that organizations provide clear guidelines on how to use these tools and when to communicate, as well as when to get other team members involved, to make sure that their specific needs are effectively met.
4. Security risks
When you work remotely, you can connect to work from anywhere – home, a coffee shop, or while traveling.
Office environments typically have some sort of security in place to prevent many types of security risks, such as cyberattacks, but remote based professionals often don’t.
When working remotely you are more likely to connect to an insecure network, be the victim of a hack, or have your work equipment get lost or stolen.
It’s then critical that remote based organizations establish the necessary security protocols based on their own characteristics, like:
- Installing antivirus in all devices
- Using a password manager such as 1Password to store and control passwords securely
- Requiring a VPN to connect to the Internet securely
- Installing device trackers such as Prey, to find or block them if they are stolen or lost.
It’s also important to consider using “off-line” protection methods, like using a screen filter for your laptop to maintain some privacy even when you are working in public places.
5. Internet connectivity issues
Every time remote based professionals go to work from a new location there’s a common risk: a lack of a reliable Internet connection to be able to work effectively.
Remote professionals who work remotely from coworking spaces or a nearby coffee shop might face this issue once in a while, but more often it will be encountered by digital nomads when traveling to a new country or city.
The best way to overcome this connectivity challenge is to preemptively invest in a good global mobile internet service, such as the well known Skyroam or GlocalMe, for every team member. This will let you access the internet and get down to work from wherever you are in the world.
6. Unplugging from work
While some people struggle with eliminating distractions and focusing on completing their work tasks, others have a hard time unplugging at the end of the work day.
When you work from an office, the end of your day is when everyone goes home. When you work remotely, it can be difficult to disconnect and step away from work when you know there are pending tasks, and although occasionally it may be important to give the extra mile at work, making a habit of it can be detrimental to your health and cause you to burn out.
A great way to help remote professionals to disconnect is to establish clear specific working hours per day with flexibility depending on the timezone where team members are located, as well as each person productivity and others team members schedules, to facilitate communication between them.
It’s also recommended to have a designated space for working that is away from where you typically spend your free time, even if you are a digital nomad, who may be in very different environments from one work day to the next, it’s possible to set specific areas to work from, and make an extra effort to go offline when your work day is done.
Become a more efficient organization by overcoming the challenges of remote working
Although remote work can generate initial new challenges in organizations, the reality is that these are issues that have usually always existed in them and are only augmented by a remote work setting.
Because of this, remote work can represent a great opportunity to make sure organizations are running smoothly with effective communication, security and coordination protocols and platforms in place.
Remote is the future of work. If you want to learn more about what to expect, check out Remoters’ remote work trends for 2019.
Remoters.net is a hub to incentivize and facilitate remote work, with a free remote job board, interviews with remote working professionals and organizations sharing their journey, remote work tools, colivings, a blog with how to’s and guides and more!