The last few years have seen a period of incredible change and transformation in the working world, and for many of us, workplaces will never be the same again.
One key change is the increase in the chance to work from home, and this is an adjustment that many of us would see as a huge benefit.
After all, working from home allows you to manage your own time, reduces the cost, stress, and effort of a commute, and can often be a more convenient option for arranging childcare and managing other responsibilities around the home.
Despite the perks, however, there is no denying that working from home presents its own unique set of challenges – especially if this is your first experience of it.
- The Biggest Challenges of Working From Home
- Final Thoughts
The Biggest Challenges of Working From Home
By understanding these challenges, bosses, managers and businesses will be in a better position to help counter the problems, and ensure that working from home is a productive and positive experience for their workers in a range of sectors and industries.
Without further ado, let’s take a closer look at the 12 biggest challenges of working from home and the ways that these can be addressed!
1. Managing Your Time
One of the most appealing things about working from home is the ability to have more freedom to manage your own time – there is no need to factor in a lengthy commute, take your lunch at a scheduled time, or be stuck at your desk all time.
Many businesses are giving their workers greater freedom when they work from home, and this can be amazing for helping you to enjoy a better work-life balance,
At the same time, however, this requirement to manage your own time can be a challenge for many workers, who succumb to the temptation to sleep in or take an extended lunch – this can quickly lead to you getting behind on your work.
A lack of structure can result in procrastination and poor time management, and it can be hard to regain your routine from this. You may find that your work starts to suffer, your results start to fall, and your boss is not happy.
The main solution to this issue is to set out your working hours and stick to them.
This may be regular business hours, or if you have a more flexible arrangement, your own timetable.
The exact timings are not too important – what matters is sticking to them to get back into that working routine.
2. Poor Work-Life Balance
Another major issue that many workers experience is the blurring of the personal/professional boundary.
Working from home means that you are working in your personal space, forcing the two worlds to collide, and this can make it harder to switch off and relax at the end of the day.
The best way to combat this work/life imbalance is to make sure that you have a dedicated, separate space in which to work – preferably with a door that you can close at the end of a long day.
It is also a good idea to come up with a system to alert your housemates and family members to the fact that you are working – a sign on the door may be all you need.
3. More Frequent Distractions
While distractions will inevitably occur in the office, they seem exacerbated when you are working from home.
You are in your space, surrounded by your TV, your laundry, and your books, and it can be tempting to go off-task to do something more fun for a few minutes.
This is all well and good until a few minutes becomes an hour, and before you know it it is the end of the day and you are seriously behind on your work. Family members can also be a great distraction if they happen to be home.
As we mentioned, having a dedicated, separate home office is a great way to redraw the line between home and work.
If this is not possible, try and have a space that is free from your personal belongings – this can help to reduce or remove the temptation.
4. Reduced Supervision
Initially, this may seem like a bonus – you can do your work without worrying about your boss breathing down your neck.
The lack of supervision can become a challenge, however, especially if you find that you are receiving less feedback.
In some cases, this can result in projects going awry without being properly supervised and can result in a lot of work when an error is picked up down the line.
It can be harder for home workers to stay on target, and on track to smash goals and achievements, and you may find yourself feeling lost.
Make sure that you are checking in with your manager or supervisor on a regular basis, and have regular meetings to discuss milestones, goals, and project aims.
You should also be having regular chances to hear and address any feedback that they may have for you. Communication is key here!
For all the issues with working in the office, there is one distinct perk over home working: the chance to socialize. As we have mentioned, we humans are social creatures and crave regular interaction with others.
When you are working at home day in and day out, you miss those little moments in the hallway, the funny anecdotes at your desk, and the background hum of everyday life and socializing.
This can have a hugely detrimental effect on our mental health – loneliness is a huge and growing problem in our society.
Schedule yourself regular “social sessions” away from the house – this could be going to the gym, taking a class, or even meeting friends for dinner.
The goal is to see real people in person and spend time talking to them. You can also increase your socialization in your work day by making the most of a co-working space, or working from a cafe or coffee shop.
6. Issues With The Metrics
For most of us, our job performance will be measured and determined by a series of metrics – but these are almost useless if they are not made clear and accessible, and used in the right way.
In a traditional office setting, some managers will simply track the amount of time that each employee spends at their desk – there are a number of issues with this, as simply sitting at a desk offers no indication as to the quality or quantity of work being produced.
Remote working, however, does not allow this metric to be used, and so it can be hard for both workers and bosses to determine exactly how job performance will be tracked and maintained.
If key performance indicators are not in place and understood by the whole team, workers may feel adrift and isolated, and this can have a negative impact on performance and productivity.
To counter feelings of isolation, managers need to ensure that there are clear metrics in place to allow them to measure and assess the performance of their team, and they must also ensure that every member of the team has a clear understanding of this.
Regular meetings are required to see how things are going, assess progress, and set new targets if required.
7. Staying In Your PJ’s
When you first work from home, the thought of staying in your pajamas all day is a great and novel idea – a treat that you would never be able to enjoy in the office.
In the long-term, however, this is not a good idea. Not only will you look less professional showing up to calls in your pajamas, but it can also have a negative impact on your overall self-image and feeling of self-worth.
You are unlikely to feel clean, sharp, and professional and, over time, this can impact your performance.
Get into the habit of getting dressed for work each day, and keep dedicated outfits in your closet specifically for work.
This doesn’t have to be office formal, but it should be something that helps you to look and feel smart and professional.
8. Lack Of Networking Opportunities
One of the main issues with home working, especially for those in the early stages of their career, is a lack of opportunity to network.
Networking is a crucial element of your career development; it helps you to meet and be seen by relevant figures, make contacts and connections, and keep your skills and knowledge up to date.
As the old adage goes, a lot of success goes by who you know, not what you know, so missing out on meeting these people is a real blow.
While there is no substitution for face-to-face networking, you should still do what you can to try and stay relevant and up-to-date.
This may include participating in virtual networking events, and staying active on social media such as LinkedIn – this is also a good way to keep your knowledge and skills up to date.
Maintain your working relationships by reaching out regularly, and always follow up on any potential opportunities to expand your professional network.
You can also stand out from the crowd, and boost your knowledge, by starting your own blog or newsletter, outlining key developments in the industry – this helps to affirm your position as an expert in the field, and can lead to collaboration opportunities down the line.
It also shows that you are thinking outside the box.
9. Keep On Top Of Paperwork
In some cases, you may work from home as a result of running your own business, rather than working for someone else.
If this is the case, you need to ensure that you are setting time aside for essential admin tasks such as filing taxes, sending invoices, and managing expenses.
When you are at home rather than in an office, it can be easy to neglect these tasks and let them slide into another day, but this will only cause them to build up and become less manageable – and could come with serious penalties for missed deadlines.
Automate what you can – there are a huge range of programs and systems which can help you take care of a number of banal, everyday tasks.
You should also schedule in time each week to work on the admin side of your business, and get into the habit. When tackled little and often, this task becomes less intimidating.
10. Coordination Issues
As well as challenges with communication, working from home can also throw up a number of issues with coordination, especially if you are part of a larger team.
Humans are social creatures, and we rely largely on nonverbal cues, tone of voice, and face-to-face interaction in order to collaborate effectively – when we are trying to be creative over Zoom, the same vibe is tricky to achieve.
Getting everyone in the same place at the same time, or even on the same page, can also be a headache, and this may result in people being left out of the loop, or feeling left out of crucial discussions.
Consider investing in a specialist team collaboration tool to allow all communication to be managed in one place, and keep things organized and accessible for you and your team.
These platforms also allow files to be shared and worked on together, and this can help to keep things in one manageable place for easy, instant access.
11. Failing To Invoice
This may seem unlikely, but you would be amazed at the number of workers who fail to invoice or fail to chase payments from clients in a way that simply would not be tolerated in the office.
You may go several weeks, only to realize that you never sent the invoice, or that it has been six months and still no payment – this can put a serious dent in your business’s finances and cash flow.
Get into the habit of invoicing as soon as the task is complete, and make sure that your invoices contain clear payment information, including any fees or penalties that a late payment may incur.
In some cases, such as larger and more complex projects, you can also ask for a deposit, or request to be paid in milestones – for example, a third as a deposit, a third at an agreed checkpoint, and a third on completion.
This means that you will have at least some of the money if the client starts to become difficult.
If your client misses the payment date, get in touch – you can make a note of the intended payment date in your diary and then tick it off if paid, or chase it up if outstanding.
Stop all work immediately, and calmly explain that you cannot continue or hand over the work until payment has been made – you should also include this clause in your contract to be clear.
Failing to chase payments is bad for business; it interrupts your finances, and can also cause you to look sloppy and unprofessional.
12. Lack Of Motivation
Perhaps one of the biggest challenges in working from home is handling the lack of motivation and the idea of a “long-term” vision for your company.
When you are in the office, it is easy to get excited about innovations and projects and to see where your work fits into the bigger picture.
When it is just you and your laptop in your home office, however, this excitement can soon fade.
Managers must work hard to ensure that all employees are actively engaged in the future of the company, and take steps to keep everyone informed and in the loop.
This may be regular newsletters or emails, team meetings, and, where possible, team events.
Those at the top of the hierarchy also need to work hard to ensure that workers feel that their voices are heard, and this includes offering regular chances to collaborate and voice ideas.
Most importantly, employees need to know that their ideas are heard, considered, and taken up – this will help them to feel like part of the team, and as though they are relevant to the bigger picture.
While working from home offers a huge number of benefits for workers and businesses, there can also be challenges and obstacles.
By having a good understanding of these in advance, managers and bosses can ensure that they have practical, workable solutions in place to help allay the fears of their workers, retain motivation, and ensure high levels of productivity, performance, and employee satisfaction all throughout the company.
When used correctly, working from home can be a real asset that benefits everyone – as long as you have taken the steps to counter some of the most common issues and complaints.