Tribal Habits has been a remote working organisation since inception. So we have a lot of experience in working from home. In this article, we review the top four challenges of working from home and strategies to overcome them: social media, energy levels, family and roommates, young children.
In other articles in this series, we review five key tips to boost productivity while working from home as well as our dedicated ‘How to work from home Checklist‘.
Challenge of working from home: Social media
Social media is designed to make it easy for you to open and browse quickly. Whether you are at work or working from home, this convenience can be the detriment of your productivity. So make it harder for yourself to mess around on social media.
To counteract your social networks’ ease of use during work hours, remove them from your browser shortcuts and log out of every account. Consider keeping social media to your mobile devices and not accessible from your computer or laptop. This ensures you stay signed out of all your social media accounts on your ‘work’ device.
Many mobiles can now limit or restrict access to apps, including social media apps, to help you avoid bad habits (such as Apple’s ScreenTime feature). If you need to, use those restrictions to limit your access to social media during work hours.
Challenge of working from home: Energy levels
It can be so easy to get ‘in the zone’ when working at home, particularly if there are no interruptions at all, that you end up avoiding breaks altogether. Don’t let the guilt of working in the building you also sleep in preventing you from taking time to relax.
Equally, those lack of distractions can also lead to issues of isolation or feelings of loneliness. Lack of human interaction can cause home office workers to feel isolated from others, especially if the entire organisation works from their homes.
- Remember it is ok to interact. Interacting with other people during the day when working at home is allowed, even if they’re not your coworkers! In fact, it’s a good idea to see another face during the day when most of your workday is solitary. It’s totally fine to go outside and encounter other humans! A trip to a coffee shop, running a quick errand, grabbing lunch, chatting with your family.
- Don’t forget to take breaks. Rather than just opening YouTube and watching some comfort clips, use your breaks to get away from your desk. Go for a walk outside or spend time with others who might also be in the house. Breaks, even as simple as making and eating lunch, can recharge you to do better work. Don’t assume you need to be working 100% of the time while you’re home to be more productive.
- Commit to doing more. Projects always take longer than you initially think they will. For that reason, you’ll frequently get done less than you set out to do. So, just as you’re encouraged to overestimate how much time you’ll spend doing one thing, you should also overestimate how many things you’ll do during the day. Even if you come up short of your goal, you’ll still come out of that day with a solid list of tasks filed under ‘complete.’
- Get comfortable with instant messaging. If your organisation has an instant message platform (such as Slack, Teams or Yammer), then use it! Set up a channel for ‘watercooler’ chat, get into little chats with colleagues through the day or use video calls to make a more human connection (and save all that typing).
- Dress as you mean to work. When you go to work, you go dressed in suitable clothes. Do the same at home. While tempting to work in your dressing gown or activewear, consider dressing as you would if you were at work. At the very least, get out of your gym gear and get into comfortable clothing that you would be happy wearing if you ran into a colleague while you were both out getting lunch that day. It’s easy to work when you are dressed for the occasion.
Challenge of working from home: Housemates and family
While working from home can remove distractions from colleagues, it can bring distractions from other members of your household.
You might feel that by working at home, you have isolated yourself from the constant distractions of colleagues coming to your workspace and interrupting you. That may not be true if you have other people at home with you. So be sure to communicate expectations with anyone who will be home with you.
Make sure any roommates, siblings, parents or spouses respect your space during work hours. Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you’re home. If anyone else is going to be at home when you’re working, they have to be clear that when you’re in your ‘office’, you’re working – even if it looks like and feels like you’re hanging out at home.
It’s easy to get distracted by the many things that have to be done around the house during the day. So close the door, put on headphones or give some other signal not to interrupt you.
Challenge of working from home: Young children
A particularly challenging member of your household can be young children (or even older children)! One mistake parents make is not setting the right boundaries for children, even if you have a caregiver with them during work hours. If you have young children at home, then it is even more important that your workspace is clearly defined and, ideally, has a door or separate from the rest of the house.
- To your children, you are always a parent – not a worker. Children will, therefore, need help in understanding when you need to be left alone. It might be a closed-door, a ‘do not disturb’ sign, when you have headphones on or when you are working in a certain location or room. These physical barriers also help remind both parent and child of the difference between work time and playtime.
- Parents also need to take advantage of naturally quieter periods – sleep time, school hours, caregiver time. You need to structure your day for maximum productivity during those periods, perhaps shifting downtime, breaks and easier tasks to other times of the day when you may be more likely to be interrupted by children.
- Have a plan to block out the noise. Children can be noisy! That’s ok, and it can be relaxing to hear them having fun around the house. However, it can also be a distraction. If so, take some steps. Have some music you can play in your office to create a little ‘white noise’ or invest in a good set of noise-cancelling headphones.