How To Overcome Common Challenges Of Working Remotely

By Diane Domeyer, Executive Director, The Creative Group, a specialized staffing service placing creative, digital, marketing, advertising and public relations talent with the best companies on a project, contract-to-hire and full-time basis. 

As we are currently called to practice social distancing, a majority of us are likely working in our homes, rather than our usual offices. While it’s important to change the way we work to protect our communities, this can be a new and difficult transition for professionals who haven’t previously telecommuted.

Besides helping us work safely right now, telecommuting has some other benefits, too. You don’t have to wake up early to commute to the office. You can enjoy your lunch break with your family or roommate. You can also still connect with your coworkers with “virtual” coffee chats or social hours. But remote work isn’t without its challenges or mishaps. Here are four sticky situations you wouldn’t necessarily face in the office — and tips for dealing with them.

• Your boss asks you to hop on an impromptu video call, but your appearance may not be “office-ready.”

One way to keep teams connected during this time is to use video calls, and many managers are now putting this technology to use. One of the advantages of working remotely is not having to dress up, but that doesn’t mean you should be a slob — keep up at least a semi-professional appearance. However, if you are caught with bedhead and are in your pajamas, ask to join on audio only.

• You’re on a tight deadline and your internet goes down.

Internet access is the lifeblood of remote work, and you should have a plan B in your back pocket for emergencies like this. For example, consider using your smartphone as a temporary hotspot. Since this option can quickly eat up data — especially if you’re using a bandwidth-intensive service — have another way to contact your manager or team members that you’re experiencing connectivity problems and will be in communication again soon. They’ve likely have had a similar experience in the past few weeks and should understand.

• You’re on a conference call and your dog starts barking.

One of the best parts of telecommuting is being able to work with your pet at your feet. But what happens when your furry friend sees a delivery person and raises a ruckus? Of course there’s the mute button, but what if you’re in the middle of giving a presentation or responding to a query?

The key to being a successful remote worker is anticipating these types of scenarios. Before a phone call or video conference, put pets in a separate room — preferably far away from your home office or other workspace. You can also invest in a headset with a noise-canceling microphone. This would also help eliminate other sources of background noise, such as a neighbor who fires up their lawnmower or leaf blower as you’re about to join a conference call.

• You find yourself working through dinner most days.

When working from home, it can be easier to blur the lines between work and life, as you don’t have to physically commute to and from the office. Let your manager and your team know you’ll generally sign on and off around a certain time. Take breaks throughout the day, like going for a walk at lunch or grabbing an afternoon snack. By setting boundaries for yourself, you’ll prevent feeling stressed and overworked, and you’ll give yourself the time you need to relax and recharge each day.

As a majority of us switch to telecommuting, we may encounter occasional challenges, but it’s important we adopt best practices like these to keep our workdays running as smooth as possible. It simply takes planning, diplomacy and a cool head to prevail when the unexpected happens.