Challenges of remote working and solutions to overcome

Challenges of Remote Working [With Tips To Overcome]

The challenges of remote working are more visible to us than before when it was just an option. Now, we are out of options. Increasing digital dependency and rising havoc of the pandemic coronavirus has compelled the organizations and businesses to foster agile remote work.

In my previous company, there was a provision of taking three “work from home” days in a month. I used to plan and apply for remote working, especially Mondays. You know, right? We all unanimously wanted to work from home, why? There were more than a handful of reasons, like avoiding the direct confrontation with managers and bosses, avoiding the traffic and pollution, avoiding waking up early and getting ready, avoiding the terrible heat of the tropical summer months. For so many unwanted reasons, we were reluctant to go out for office.


Maybe, God listened to our prayers (no, we did not pray for the pandemic, of course) and gave us a reason to stay home completely. Be it work, or watching movies, or relishing exotic cuisine, we just have to stay home. Given the present situation, when the whole world is bending its knees for the pandemic Coronavirus, the organizations are forced to execute remote working strategies. While, we are enjoying (if at all, I am allowed to use this verb, after almost 3 months of lockdown) the “work from home” on a daily basis, we have faced some challenges that never existed before.

Previously, when we opted for “work from home”, we used to enjoy and relax to some extent. Now that, it has become the ‘new normal’, we have stopped enjoying it. Why so? The challenges, which were hidden from us in the broad daylight, have now surfaced in full vigour. We find ourselves glued to laptops, 24×7. No weekdays, no weekends. Just work, work and work. It is difficult for us to segregate personal and professional life under the same roof, work and relaxation under the same roof.

So, we have learnt in the past few months, that ‘work from home’ or ‘remote working’ is not about rainbows and unicorns. Rather, there is a considerable amount of dark clouds and thorns involved in this process. While remote working has been ingrained in our lives, with no due dates whatsoever, the challenges need to be identified in order to overcome them.  

Dive in, to find the solutions.

Working All Day, But Taking No Break

United Nations International Labour Organization reported that the employees tend to overwork and are stressed when they work outside the employers’ premises. Work-home interference can be too tough to be handled, leading to mental disturbances. One of the dominant reasons managers are generally reluctant to approve the remote working, is that they cannot directly monitor the employees when they are out of sight. The managers doubt about employee productivity. But the irony here is, the employee productivity is seen to be doubled or tripled in these past few months of remote working. Often, employees opine that they forget to stop working at a reasonable time, or they forget to take breaks, or unable to start at a proper time. The fluid schedules, one of the challenges of remote working, eradicate the routine that existed during the regular office hours.

Following are some tips to overcome this challenge:

  • Try to maintain the office working shifts, for example, 9.00 AM to 6.00 PM, etc, thus you can abide by a schedule
  • Take lunch and coffee breaks, relax a bit and then resume to work. Continuous work leads to stress
  • Create a separate space for work. A dedicate work desk or work corner will help you differentiate your spaces at home.
  • Maintain an after-work ritual daily. After you shut down your system, go for a shower, play with your kids, cook etc.
  • Refrain from using phone or laptop. Stay away from your work desk. Don’t check office mails at the middle of the night.

Giving Primary Importance to Work

Situations often arise, when we are overburdened with duties, deadlines and meetings. When employees, especially the remote workers who don’t have managers overlooking their shoulders, are overburdened with work, they react in either of the two distinct ways. Either they procrastinate, or overwork. Managers will be happy obviously seeing the remote workers prioritizing the work more than anything. But, at the same time, the work-life balance ceases to exist. Restoring the work-life balance is one of the challenges of the “work from home” scenario. When we are working from home, we have certain duties towards our home too.

There are some household duties and responsibilities that cannot be shirked. It is often observed, that when a man is working from home, he is following a simple routine pretty similar to his earlier one. Waking up, having breakfast, logging in the system, having lunch, dinner, then back to sleep. Whereas, in the case of a woman who is working remotely, she is seen bogged down by both personal and professional duties. Cooking meals, washing, cleaning, and managing the kids, office work, and whatnot. That must not be the scenario, equality must be retained. We must divide our responsibilities equally. Giving 100% attention to professional duties and neglecting the household ones is not the solution. Work is crucial, and for that maintaining a schedule and planning workflow is a must.

Following are some tips to overcome this challenge:

  • Prior planning is crucial, complete the hardest and urgent task at first, and then continue with the rest of the work.
  • Continue working at the same work desk, for higher concentration and productivity. Don’t roam about with laptop.
  • Avoid distractions while working. Noise cancelling ear plugs and headphones help in agility and mindfulness.
  • Divide your day, keep both personal and professional duties in the list, maintain the strict work schedule, as mentioned above.
  • Plan your day, most importantly stick to the plan. If you have planned to complete a list of 6 tasks, follow it. Don’t overwork.

Technical and Familial Interruptions

For stress-free remote working, proper internet connections, smooth functioning devices, like a laptop, desktops, phones, a calm and quiet environment are important. But interruptions cannot be avoided at all times. Occasional power cuts, weak internet or no connection at all, poor mobile network, noise at home, like that of a whistle of the pressure cooker during a teleconference or screams of kids etc can be very challenging at times. And also, when you are at home, you cannot lock the doors to prevent your kids from entering your rooms, as that sounds harsh.

Let me draw a reference to a live telecast of BBC interview. In this video, we can see how the interview was interrupted by two kids, who entered the room while their father was giving an interview. This video, viral within hours, depicts the real-life situations faced by remote workers. Being a father, he cannot just shut the doors against his kids. But, that does not mean, he lacks seriousness in his work. When we are at home, we cannot just shun the distractions and interruptions completely. However, we can choose to react accordingly, as per the urgency. The interruptions will occur, and this is one of the major challenges of work from home.

Following are some tips to overcome this challenge:

  • Covey by a kind signal to show that you are focusing on some urgent work, you can put your earphones, or communicate via gestures
  • Communicate, about how interruptions can make your work ten times harder, to avoid misunderstanding.
  • Maintain consistent work hours, you can start early and thus finish off your work early
  • In case of technical interruptions, communicate to your bosses and colleagues regarding the same, thus you can set alternate schedule
  • Choose to confine yourself in a suitable space, your work desk during teleconference or video conferences and meetings

Miscommunication and Time Differences

This is one of the most common challenges of remote working. Many of us are working with clients and also colleagues who are stationed at different geographical locations than us. Diverse time zones can lead to some hiccups on the professional front. It may happen that you are starting your work when your colleagues/clients are going to bed. This means, when you need to call or contact them, you cannot do so. In this case, often you will find yourself stretching beyond the strict office hours. When it is 10.00 PM for you, it can be 10.00 AM for your colleagues.

There are many remote workers, who tend to keep their problems to themselves. Barriers to communication like fear of superiors can lead to problems. Being connected to colleagues, managers etc via mails, messaging, calls, foster better communication.

Following are some tips to overcome this challenge:

  • Participate in virtual meetings, group chats, teleconferences etc for being updated about important matters.
  • For time differences, send you mail or messages respecting the time of your clients and colleagues.
  • In case your wifi is not working, or you are unable to do a particular task, share the same with your team members.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask for help, and also help others when they need. Mutual understanding is vital.
  • Communicate to colleagues about work/non-work topics, share ideas and suggestions for higher productivity.

Feeling Lonely, Lacking Motivation

In remote working, we can avoid the commute and pollution. But we also miss the jokes and fun with colleagues, lunch together, the coffee breaks, etc. When we are at home, we often feel lonely. There is no one around who can feel what we are going through. The things that our colleagues and peers will understand and empathise, our family cannot understand that always, even though they try to. The tension that you are having about meeting the deadlines of the particular project, or that specific office joke, all these feelings and emotions cannot be totally understood by your parents, spouses and kids. Lacking motivation and feeling loneliness is certainly one of the many challenges faced by remote workers.

Following are some tips to overcome this challenge:

  • Continue with the jokes and fun virtually, Whatsaap texts or calling. Discussing non-work topics reduce stress
  • Spend time with family after you wrap your work for the day, play with your kids, take your dog for a walk
  • Take part in virtual training sessions for remaining motivated. Learning is a very positive approach
  • Coordinate with team members while doing the particular work, don’t try to work alone.
  • Include taking breaks during work hours. While having a cup of coffee, spend few minutes times talking to your kids/family

Bad Health Habits, Bad Posture

Sitting on the same chair for 9 hours straight, or sitting on the bed for long hours, in half-bent posture can lead to backaches. Many remote workers skip taking breakfast and lunch at a proper time, as they are immersed in work. Dedication towards work is a commendable attribute, but not taking proper meals or continuing in improper sitting posture can be harmful. Many prefer to work on the bed, with pillows and cushions. This disturbs our sitting postures and also vision, which is again one of the challenges. If the screen of laptop/desktop is not at a proper distance and level, then it can cause headaches and problems to eyes.

Following are some tips to overcome this challenge:

  • Don’t skip meals, take coffee breaks, take a walk in the room itself while working
  • Place your device at a proper distance from your eyes. The remote working involves looking at a screen for long hours
  • Skip working on the beds or sofa or couch. A proper table-chair setup is crucial for correct posture
  • After work, avoid looking at phone or laptop screens. Give your eyes some rest
  • In case of headaches or any such health constraints, take a break. Communicate to managers and colleagues in case you need to take leave for the day.

The sudden shift to remote working has given a tough time to the organizations around the world. The pandemic outbreak has taken heavy toll all over. No one can say how long the remote working will continue. Agile remote working is crucial for business growth and also saving oneself from the wave of unemployment and layoffs. The Future of Work is changing, and the pandemic COVID-19 has worked as a catalyst, speeding up the transformation.

The challenges of remote working prevail, so are the solutions. Follow the tips mentioned above, and share your opinions in the comment section below.

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