4 Work From Home Struggles Nobody Talks AboutBy Tang Kai Long • 7 min read
Working from home was a concept foreign to many of us, and because the transition was so rushed, many are facing struggles working from home they have yet to find the solution to.
We talked to Stephanie Lee who works at Buffer, a fully remote team since 2015. She is the Team Experience Manager and Operations Manager, and has over 4 years of experience working remotely. We asked about the struggles people face when working from home and had her share her experience with us.
Here are 4 of the most common struggles of working from home that nobody talks about.
1) I am not cut out for this.
There are two groups of people working from home. One that is thriving in this climate and the other struggling to get by. Can you actually “get better” at working from home?
If you build the right habits and set the right routines and boundaries, can anybody thrive in this setting? Or is it an innate preference or ability?
There are a lot of perks to working from home, and the flexibility is amazing – but the thing is not everyone thrives in it.
The first baby steps are setting boundaries, figuring out what your day looks like, and figuring out how to get your social interaction needs met.
Like for me, I also have my own routine. I would make sure I change my clothes, because that’s another boundary to have when working remotely. Don’t work in your pjs. And don’t work from the bed. It’s like a mindset shift.
Also, I only check my email at the start and end of the day. Otherwise it can feel like someone’s stopping by your desk all the time. So that’s another boundary or strategy that my teammates also have. We only check our emails or incoming communications at specific points in time.
However, some personality types may find it a bit more challenging. Especially if you’re working from home – not just remote working. So if you’re an extrovert and what gives you energy is interaction with people, then this is going to be really stressful.
And it’s not just working from home. It’s the Circuit Breaker that’s really stressful. I feel like for some of the challenges that people may be facing now, we do need to figure out if it’s because of temperament or because this is new – and anything new requires passing a learning curve.
It can be extra stressful when going through that learning curve while all these are happening in the world.
Some people may also want the boundaries to be set clearly by the company they work for. Once they close their laptop at work, they will never bring their laptop home.
And of course, if you’re someone that really loves an office and you want to see your teammates every single day, it will be very challenging for you to work remotely.
2) I am not productive.
How does Buffer ensure that people are productive and generating output?
It boils down to figuring what your metrics of success are, and how you measure productivity. We don’t think it’s tracking hours, because if someone can get the same job done within four hours versus eight hours, then why not use the other four hours to do something else that contributes to their life that makes them better able to be present at that job?
So you need to have a clear career framework. You have to understand what your level of ownership is and what your scope of influence is. We don’t track hours – what we do is we have very clear expectations of the roles.
3) The line between work and play is blurred, and I feel like I am always working.
You said you burned out during the first two years of your remote work career. How did you come back from that? What advice do you have for those who are also experiencing a burn out?
The first thing that happened was that I had an amazing team – they called me out on it. They actually staged intervention. They told me my way of working is not sustainable, that I’m always on at midnight. All that is bound to run myself ragged.
That’s when I noticed that my performance and productivity started to dip, because I was so tired all the time. It’s not that I didn’t want to work, in fact I wanted to be there all the time, but I couldn’t because I was so tired. That was also when I started to realise that it wasn’t healthy.
I didn’t have a fitness regime, I didn’t meet my friends that often, and that sense of isolation that came with remote work started to mount. So it was a slow recovery because I needed to build new routines and new habits.
So for those who are also experiencing a burn out, you will need to relearn and build new neuro pathways in your brain about what your day should look like. About what success looks like. How to balance productivity and play.
So it’s all about building new routines, new habits, new mindsets.
4) Despite the struggles, I dare not raise my issues to my superiors.
For the individuals struggling with working from home, how can they open and start that conversation without sabotaging their own careers?
Saying that “I need help” was one of the biggest lessons I had to learn, especially in Singapore.
I mean some work cultures make it easier to do that than others, I don’t want to lie. But I personally think that you are going to have to be vulnerable and take that first step. It’s coming to the meeting with a certain mindset and attitude that I am going to be honest about what my struggles are. I’m not making excuses – these are the data points. These are the places I can’t focus.
Personally, I think what always helps such tough conversations is going into the conversation with a solution instead of expecting the manager to solve it for them.
Sometimes the challenge is that you have a task that you need to do, and you either can’t deliver it on time or you can’t be online when expected – because of whatever reason.
So proposing another solution, say a new deadline, or proposing that instead of expecting me to be online from nine to five, which is really challenging because my kid is also home schooling and I need to be there, how about we set a deadline? And then I will work when I can to get the things done.
So it goes back to what we were saying earlier that it’s not about time spent in front of the computer when your manager’s online. It’s proposing another thing such that the outcome is still delivered – which is the manager or the boss or the company’s ultimate goal. Then you proceed with finding a solution.
I think we have to try and be problem solvers instead of expecting the problem to be solved for us.
This may be the first step for many companies as they stride towards a working from home culture. More importantly, the struggles of working from home are real and should not be dismissed or disregarded.
And if we cannot change the imminent future, we should always work towards embracing it, bettering ourselves to accept any challenges that may come.
Read more related article: 5 Free must-haves productivity apps
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