How to Survive Working Remotely

Traditional employment is no longer the norm, while remote work is getting more and more popular, especially in the area of IT. One estimate says that there will be 1 billion digital nomads by 2035.

Working from home is efficient, convenient, and beneficial for both employers and employees but it has its challenges.

Serokell has been remote from the very beginning, and our employees can tell quite a few stories about their experience. We conducted an informal, anonymous survey and asked our colleagues about the challenges they faced when starting remote work and how they solved them.

Time Management Problems

As remote work usually implies flexibility, some people tend to have longer working days at home than is needed. Many of our colleagues told us that they spend much more time on work during the day than they used to at the office. “You can organize your timetable like you want, for example, to visit a doctor at 11 AM, but you do important things before and after work, so in my case, I don’t have free time for weeks,” one of the Serokell developers explained.

Discipline, supportive environment and modern time management tools can help. Some people turn on the timer and have breaks, say, every two hours, others ask relatives to remind to have some rest: “Sometimes I might work unhealthy amount of time. The best solution for me is to have an environment where people will help me to notice that I am working too much,” a colleague of ours said.

Another consequence of poor time management is procrastination. When you’re on your own and the atmosphere of the apartment is relaxing — or disturbing — you may find yourself doing anything else but work. Some ways to overcome that:

“I’m always trying to have interesting tasks to keep myself motivated, sometimes creating new ones which I and my team lead find reasonable to be implemented. Or turn on music. Usually, one of these helps.”

“Regarding procrastination — it usually helps just to start something, and then I usually get inspired and carried off.”

Communication Difficulties

Plus, don’t underestimate the “social” aspect of work. Even though there are many tools for video chat and conferencing, the feeling of being disconnected from the team can be very stressful. This is how one of our teammates described this problem: “One of the hardest things for me is the lack of face-to-face relationships with colleagues.” “I sometimes feel like I have no one to muck about with during lunchtime,” added another.

What to do? Take responsibility for your communication practices. Use words carefully, try to avoid misunderstanding, be ready to explain everything twice and, in general, communicate a lot. Turn off notifications in Slack if you need a couple of hours for uninterrupted work. When you are resting, it will save you from annoyance.

And remember that your colleagues, wherever they are, are real people, and treat them appropriately: “I solve my communication problems in the same way as if I worked in the office. Except that now technically I can’t yell at people, which I never did anyway.”

Lack of a Proper Routine

“It’s often difficult to spend 8 hours working when at home. Personal activities tend to tie up with working hours, and sometimes, I feel like my life is dedicated to my job. Also, my cat apparently cannot distinguish “I’m home and free” and “I’m home but working” states,” one of the Serokell developers said.

In order to explain to friends and family that even if you’re at home, you’re busy, you can show them your task tracker or Google calendar. It also helps to choose a suitable time of day and work during these particular hours regularly, emulating the office schedule:

“I manage my time quite easily. I have only changed my routine a couple of times, just to fit different circumstances (e.g. having lunch with family or having something to do at a specific time every day). I usually start working as soon as I can and later in the day start checking the clock that is going, when I’m close to 8 hours I start to consider how long a task will take and if I can do it in a reasonable time (or if I already have gone over it too much).”

Working Environment Issues

Sometimes people start working from their rooms but then realize that there has to be a dedicated space for work only. Some people prefer just to transform their space into the working place: “I put a scrum board near the table, and that’s all. My room is an office with a bed.”

Proper furniture is not only about comfort but also about the health: think of long-term effects for your back.

“For those two years when I was combining work and university, I was living in a dormitory, and my working space was essentially a bed and a laptop. After returning home, I bought a special chair and now generally try to improve the environment with regard to my health,” said our teammate.

And of course, nothing makes a remote worker shake in fear as much as an internet outage. It may be surprising, but even in the 21st century, problems with the internet connection appears frequently. Make sure your smartphone is charged and it’s possible to use the mobile connection in case of an emergency.

Lack of Human Interaction

You can also try working at co-working spaces to feel you’re a part of society — and, well, to find out you don’t miss office life at all. Anyway, all of us need to contact people in person at least from time to time. Continuous isolation can even lead to mental health issues, so it’s essential to be around others during non-work hours.

“If your personal life is not well-arranged and the social circle is not built, you can fall into a rut even worse than at the office. Social life is crucial for people,” thinks one of our teammates.

To Sum Up

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