Working From Home: 13 Challenges and How To Overcome Them

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Sara Cravatts
Sara Cravatts

Published:

If you’re reading this article while wearing Star Wars pajama pants and fuzzy slippers, you might just be working from home. 

working from home challenges

In a post-pandemic world, 58 percent of US job holders report that they work from home at least part of the time. Of that group, 35 percent report working from home full time. 

Whether it’s a long commute, freezing air conditioners, or loud co-workers, working in an office can be a distracting experience. Nearly 98 percent of workers say they’d prefer to work remotely (at least some of the time) for the rest of their career. 

But from clingy pets to faulty WiFi, working from home has its own challenges — something many professionals are struggling to confront as hybrid work becomes the new normal. 

Working from home challenges and solutions 

working from home challenges and solutions

 

Challenges of working from home for employees 

1. Time management

Employees have long raced against the clock to meet deadlines after weeks of procrastination — but working from home can magnify these challenges and make it harder to meet your goals. 

Without the structure of an office day, some people find that time just slips away. An errand turns into a day of window-shopping; a short walk becomes an hourlong neighborhood tour. While the spontaneity can feel great, coming home to tell your boss you can’t finish your assignment does not. 

How to solve it:

Map out your schedule each morning. List out priorities for the day, starting with the most time-sensitive tasks and working your way down to the “nice to haves.”

Time management tools such as time boxing, where you set aside designated amounts of time for each task you need to accomplish, can be helpful.

2. No work-life balance 

Without the drive or train ride to the office, the lines between the workday and the rest of the day can become blurry. It’s hard to tell your boss you’re away from your computer when you’re never actually away. 

How to solve it:

Even if you’re not going into an office, create one at home. Whether you have a separate room or just a desk in a corner, make a dedicated space where you only do work. Do not use it for any other activities (e.g., eating, sleeping, relaxing). 

Dedicating a space for your day job allows you to physically step away from work when you sign off. Even if it’s just shutting your laptop and getting up from your work chair, this will send the message to your brain that it’s time to shift gears. 

3. Isolation 

Social interaction is limited or nonexistent in many remote work places. This can lead employees to feel disconnected and lonely, even if they’re part of a team and company. 

While the lack of water-cooler interactions is a huge relief for some, others need those social experiences to feel fulfilled and happy. 

How to solve it:

Try injecting some form of social interaction into your day, even if it’s online. Schedule one-on-one Zoom coffee chats with teammates, or start a conversation in a Slack channel dedicated to getting to know one another. 

If online relationships feel too forced, try spending time in a co-working space or coffee shop. While you might not be striking up a conversation with the barista, it can feel comforting to see and hear other people during the day. 

4. Trouble communicating

Tying to avoid misunderstandings remotely can be a tricky craft. It’s difficult to read tone and gauge intentions over email and Slacks, and even Zoom eliminates helpful communication tools like body language and hand gestures. 

It’s also much easier for messages to slip through the cracks in a slew of digital messaging across different platforms. 

How to solve it:

Be as clear as possible whenever you’re communicating with co-workers, whether you’re discussing what went wrong on a project or handing off work before vacation. Be direct when addressing conflict or feedback: Using veiled language to deliver hard messages can be even more confusing when you’re doing so over the computer or phone. 

When in doubt, err on the side of over-communicating with your manager and colleagues. Once miscommunication has crept into the team, it can be hard to come back from it. 

5. Increased distractions 

For many of us, home is a busy place: barking dogs, crying babies, relatives popping in and out, and neighbors who can’t get enough of their new speaker systems and leaf blowers. For some, the office was a place to get some peace and quiet.

Not to mention all the good things about home that quickly turn into distractions when you’re on a deadline: your television, that new book you want to start, and don’t get us started on how comfortable the couch is. 

How to solve it:

Noise-canceling headphones can be incredibly helpful for concentrating in loud homes. Getting the help you need, if possible, for pets and child care can also free up your focus for work. 

To avoid getting sucked into household chores, or even more dangerous, your couch and the TV series you’re halfway through bingeing, try staying away from those spaces. The “out of sight, out of mind” saying holds here: Physically hiding your distractions will make it easier to concentrate. 

6. Technological/logistical issues 

We’ve all been there: Just as you’re about to ask everyone if they can see your screen, your WiFi goes out, freezing your face on the screen in an unflattering shot. 

Other common obstacles run the gamut of malfunctioning hardware and software without the support of on-site IT team members.

How to solve it:

Always have a plan B ready. Call into your Zoom meeting from your cell if your WiFi gives out, or even consider using an ethernet cable to connect your computer to your router for an extra reliable connection. 

Try to stay patient and calm: After nearly three years of remote work, most people will respond with empathy and patience if you’re struggling, 

7. Increased or decreased supervision 

Working from home can exacerbate your manager’s leadership style: A strict boss may become an overbearing micromanager, while a lax one may leave you alone for weeks on end. You can’t just walk into an office to check on an unresponsive boss, or grab lunch with an anxious one. 

How to solve it:

Making sure you have a clear line of communication with your manager: Set a weekly meeting time and keep a running shared document of everything you’re working on and any updates you have from day to day. 

Micromanagers can rest easy knowing that you have everything under control and can reference that document rather than sending yet another Slack. Managers who are too hands-off will be able to stay in the loop and make time to check in each week. 

8. Lack of motivation 

The buzz of the office and the energy of your co-workers can keep you going during long days. On the other hand, hearing your alarm going off but knowing that you don’t technically have to get up to make your Zoom meeting can make it hard to stick to your schedule. 

A snoozed alarm quickly becomes working from bed, staying in your PJs all day, and taking a quick nap between meetings instead of crossing an item off of your to-do list. 

How to solve it:

Self-motivation is the most powerful form of motivation, and learning how to harness it can be the key to fighting your work-from-home apathy. 

Try to get involved in activities that light you up, whether that’s joining creative brainstorming sessions, learning a new skill, or pitching a side passion project to your boss. 

Look for learning opportunities whenever possible: Even in a position that feels dull, there’s often a chance to hone a new skill or take ownership of a project. 

Set long-term and short-term goals for your work and any side projects or personal endeavors. This will help you stay on track and have milestones to look forward to. 

9. Lack of networking 

While in-person networking is scary enough, building connections remotely can be particularly daunting. Work happy hours where you could naturally fall into a conversation with a manager have been replaced with uncomfortable Zoom meetings or nothing at all. 

How to solve it:

Try to intentionally carve out networking opportunities. This could mean finding a mentor within your company, joining a professional organization within your industry, or organizing remote or in-person meetings with people in your field. 

10. Overworking 

With the absence of a coffee break chat or a long lunch with co-workers comes overworking, which can lead to burnout

If you’re finding yourself glued to your laptop when you previously would have met friends for drinks or hit the gym, you might be feeling exhausted and stretched thin. But just because you can work more than in your office days, doesn’t mean you should. 

How to solve it:

Make sure you’re using your allotted paid time off — working without breaks is a surefire road to burnout. Also be sure to set boundaries with work, whether that’s a hard stop at the end of the day, a lunch break that you take no matter what’s going on, or a window of time every morning you block off for meditation. 

Lastly, list out only the tasks you must complete each day to stay on track, and don’t go beyond them. If you finish what you need to do early in the day, great! Take a break, breathe fresh air, or catch up with a friend rather than beginning on tomorrow’s work. 

11. Mental health challenges

For some, feeling isolated can cause bigger issues than just loneliness. Those who are extroverted and energized by others can find working remotely to be difficult. 

The lack of human connection can introduce mental health challenges like depression or anxiety. When people lose the human relationships they found fulfilling or comforting, they can be left with a void or yearning. 

How to solve it:

If your mental health has been declining since you began working from home, getting in touch with a mental health professional, like a therapist, can be beneficial. 

In addition to seeking professional help, find ways to include the types of social interactions that brought you joy. Whether it’s scheduling a weeknight dinner with a friend, a Zoom lunch with your favorite co-worker, or joining your local book club, there are other ways to get that social interaction back and feel connected to a community. 

12. No spontaneity

Bumping into someone you haven’t seen since college on the subway or reaching for the same coffee at Starbucks as your CEO are serendipitous moments that no longer happen with remote work. 

Not only did little unexpected moments add variety to your days, but also they could lead to networking opportunities, new friendships, and other unexpected but positive outcomes. 

How to solve it:

Inject new adventures wherever possible into your schedule, whether that’s exploring a new museum nearby, walking through a neighborhood you’ve never visited, or even trying a new restaurant for lunch.

13. Harder to build trust 

When you’re not directly in front of your manager or teammates, it can be harder to build relationships and trust. 

When your manager can’t see you coming in early, staying late, and physically sitting at your desk, it’s harder for them to know immediately if you’re reliable and hardworking. 

How to solve it:

Communication is key: Keep your co-workers and boss in the loop with all of your projects. Also be sure to voice when something isn’t going well so that no one feels like the wool has been pulled over their eyes. 

Challenges of working from home for employers 

The above challenges are also difficult for employers who are striving to maintain their workforce and employee satisfaction while driving results. 

Managers may experience similar challenges — after all, they’re employees themselves. Issues such as trouble communicating, maintaining a work-life balance, and overworking can surface for many remote team leaders. 

Decreased communication and supervision, when paired with underperforming employees, can result in less productivity and more mistakes. On the other hand, having employees who overwork and feel burned out can result in a higher attrition rate, which further stresses remaining employees. 

To combat the challenges employees might be facing while working from home, employers need to help foster motivation and good work-life balance. Encourage time for fulfilling projects and career growth, and remind workers to take time off and unplug on weekends and holidays.  

Focus on communicating thoroughly: When employees are not in the office, communication needs to be clear, concise, and timely in order to ensure everyone is on the same page and nothing is slipping through the cracks. 

Working from home benefits

Though working from home can come with challenges, the pros far outweigh the cons for many. In Buffer’s 2022 State of Remote Work report, 67 percent of workers say flexibility in how they spend their time is the biggest benefit of remote work. 

This was followed by the flexibility to choose their work location (62 percent), saving time due to no commute (59 percent) and the ability to live where they want (55 percent). Nearly half of the workers surveyed also said that remote work was better for them financially. 

For many, working from home can eliminate discomforts and inconveniences that come with working from an office, leaving more time to be creative and productive. 

In particular, for those who have disabilities or mobility issues, nursing mothers, parents with young children, and many others, working from home can help reduce major day-to-day stressors. The decrease in commute, stress, and anxiety allows more time for enjoyable activities. Employees may even experience colds and the flu less frequently throughout the year. 

 

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