Some people work from home on a full-time basis and love it. But for the millions of Americans who have been thrown into remote setups because of COVID-19, the sailing hasn't been totally smooth. Here are some of the challenges today's workers have encountered in the course of doing their jobs in a non-office setup, according to a recent YouGov survey.
1. Distractions from household members
For 38% of workers who are doing their jobs from home, the people they live with are making them lose their concentration -- and zapping their productivity in the process. If you're in that boat, you can't just ignore your young children who may stuck at home with you, nor can you kick your spouse out of your shared office when he or she spends half the day yapping on conference calls. But what you can do is find ways to work around those distractions.
Say your kids take up a lot of your time during the day, and understandably so. If you have a spouse or partner at home, divvy up child care responsibilities so no one is facing that burden alone. And also, capitalize on the times your kids are occupied to get your toughest tasks done. For example, if you have a young child who naps, or an older child who's entitled to an hour of TV each day, use that time to power through those assignments of yours that require the most concentration.
Also, set ground rules with your spouse. Explain that while you'd like to chat during the day, you prefer to do so at preset intervals to avoid getting thrown off-course when you're busy concentrating. And if your spouse is constantly distracting you by chatting during remote meetings or taking calls, invest in a pair of noise-canceling headphones -- they're worth the money.
2. Maintaining relationships with colleagues
A good 38% of employees who are now doing their jobs from home say they're having a hard time staying in touch with their co-workers. If that's been a challenge for you, put a recurring check-in call on your calendar with the people you really need to stay in touch with. And also, do your best to jump on that call, even if you don't have anything particularly important to say. The simple act of being in touch could help preserve the relationships you've worked hard to build, and at a time like this, there's nothing wrong with taking a few minutes out of your day to chat with a colleague about non-work matters, too.
3. Finding a proper workspace
For 36% of people doing their jobs remotely, not having a designated workspace is a challenge. But while you may not have a room in your home you can convert to an office, you can take a few steps to set up a place to work.
First, focus on quiet. Where are you most likely to get a break from noise? Maybe the corner of your bedroom is your best bet -- you may not like the idea of working in the same place you sleep, but if that room has a door and is generally off-limits to your kids, it may be your optimal choice. Taking over your kids' playroom is probably not a good idea -- if you take away that space, they'll compensate by invading yours.
Next, assemble some tools you'll need to work from home successfully. Plopping down on your couch with a laptop may work for an hour here and there, but for a longer-term arrangement, a proper desk or table is necessary, along with a supportive chair. You may also need to buy some desktop storage to keep your files organized, as well as some extra lighting to ensure that you're not straining to see your laptop screen. And, once again, consider those noise-canceling headphones, especially if you're setting up shop in a part of your home where there's no door to close.
4. Balancing work with household duties
It's hard to stay focused on assignments and deadlines when there are laundry piles and messy bathrooms staring you in the face, and so it's not surprising that 34% of at-home workers are struggling in this regard. But rather than let yourself get distracted by household tasks, set a schedule so you know exactly when you're supposed to be doing your job and when you're supposed to be cleaning. If your children are older, you can also enlist their help to minimize your own burden.
5. Decreased focus
Given that there's a global health crisis to worry about, it's not shocking to learn that 33% of people working from home are having trouble focusing. If that sounds like you, designate news-checking timeslots during the day, but pledge to stay off the internet otherwise (not including work-related usage, of course). Rest assured that if a breakthrough treatment for COVID-19 comes out, or a vaccine is approved, you'll hear about it. But there's no need to check news outlets every hour for updates, especially at a time when so much of what you read is apt to be bleak.
Working from home can be challenging even in the best of circumstances. During a pandemic, it can be unquestionably difficult. If you're struggling with any of the above hiccups, rest assured that you're not alone. But also, do your best to work through them. There's a good chance it will be a while before you're able to return to your office, so the better you're able to adjust, the less stressed you'll be.