7 Reasons You’re Struggling While Working Remotely (and How You Can Fix It)
More people than ever before are working from home due to the coronavirus pandemic, and many people are struggling to concentrate and get things done at home. If you’re working remotely and having a tough time, here are seven common problems and what to do about them:
You don’t have a home office.
Few people are lucky enough to have a dedicated home office, especially if you weren’t already set up to work from home. This can make it tough to focus simply because you’re trying to do work in a space your brain associates with other activities, such as sleeping (bedroom), eating (dining room) and watching TV (living room). This problem is further compounded if you have to share your space with your spouse or roommates–who have their own video conference calls–or with your kids or pets, who can interrupt you at any point. Try to carve out a corner of space where you can put a desk and a chair, ideally in a room with a door you can shut during calls.
You do have a home office, but it’s not optimal.
Any home office is better than no home office, but a suboptimal space can keep you from doing your best work. Evaluate your space to determine exactly what is negatively impacting your work and what you can do to fix it. Not enough light? Bring in a task lamp. Too much glare on your monitor screen? Put up some blackout blinds or mini blinds. Lots of ambient sounds? Get noise-canceling headphones or a white noise app. Uncomfortable chair? Invest in a seat cushion. You might not be able to fix every issue, but updating your office is one of the few home improvements you can do in one weekend.
You don’t have a routine.
Going into the office forces you to have a routine. You have to get up at the same time each day, eat breakfast, brush your teeth, get dressed, and commute to the office. But when you’re working from home, there’s nothing to stop you from rolling straight out of bed and hopping on a conference call two minutes later. While that might sound appealing, this sudden disruption in your schedule can make it really hard because every day feels like a weekend to your brain. Try to create some structure for yourself by making a limited routine you can do in the morning and evening to signal the beginning and end of your workday. This will help you regain a sense of routine and help your brain distinguish between workdays and weekends once again.
You’re not so great at time management.
Going into the office forces you to be good at time management, whether you’re naturally inclined or not. You’re expected to arrive and leave at a certain time and have a schedule for your breaks, and your boss will notice if you suddenly disappear in the middle of the day. All that becomes much murkier when you’re at home, especially if you work for a results only work environment (ROWE) where you don’t have to track your time. If you find yourself getting distracted at home, try to work in sprints, timing both your work and your break to help you stay on task. Many people swear by the Pomodoro technique, but there are others out there, such as the important-urgent matrix. Experiment with a few and figure out what works best for you.
Your family and roommates distract you.
Many parents are finding it hard to get work done at home since their kids are always there and they don’t have any other caregivers to turn to for help. Even people who are just living with spouses or adult roommates often find themselves swept up in long conversations or are interrupted by their loud phone calls. Sit down with them and have a talk about work expectations and accommodations you can make for each other. For example, maybe one of you can schedule your meetings in the morning and the other takes the afternoon to avoid overlapping.
You feel isolated from your coworkers.
Even as your family and roommates bother you every five minutes, you might feel increasingly distanced from your coworkers. For people who consider their coworker’s friends or extroverts who need a lot of people-time, Zoom meetings just don’t fulfill their social needs. If you find yourself missing your coworkers, make an effort to reach out via messaging or to schedule social calls. You might be surprised how many people feel the same way! You can also coordinate regular virtual social activities, such as trivia lunches and Zoom background competitions.
There’s a pandemic going on.
Working from home is a big transition and, for many people, it was incredibly abrupt and happened outside their control due to the coronavirus pandemic. They suddenly found themselves at home all the time, surrounded constantly by roommates or family members while cut off from their usual connections, with few opportunities to leave except when grocery shopping. Add to this the ongoing stress of the virus and its accompanying financial insecurity, and it’s no wonder that many people find themselves anxious and distracted while working from home. Obviously, you can’t wave a wand and make all this disappear, but you can be open about your feelings with your loved ones (and also a therapist, if you think that would be helpful). Don’t stuff everything down inside. Many people are feeling this way, and getting it off your chest might make it easier to focus on both work and the rest of your life.
If you’re struggling to work from home during COVID-19, you’re not alone. These seven reasons may be impeding your ability to focus, so try to solve them with a few of these solutions.