Remote work has become a prevalent part of the employment landscape. There are few industries now that aren’t in some way utilizing virtual operations. This can have enormous benefits for everyone involved. Businesses may experience greater productivity and lower overheads. As an employee, you can achieve a better work-life balance.
Nevertheless, this is still a relatively new way of functioning for most people. You may find your expectations of working from home won’t quite line up with reality. Even if you’ve already started remote working over the last couple of months, there are elements and challenges you may not discover until a year or more down the line. Identifying these aspects before they occur can be key to addressing them effectively.
So, let’s explore 4 of the things about working from home that may surprise you.
It Impacts Your Physical Health
Working from home can be a really positive separation from the physical office environment. However, it’s not unusual to find remote work methods and environments have unexpected negative health consequences. These health risks can be varied, encompassing everything from musculoskeletal misalignment to cardiovascular conditions. Often, these are the result of the more sedentary and computer-focused lifestyle. However, this isn’t to say you’re powerless to mitigate the health risks.
One of your most important steps should be to build more exercise into your daily work schedule. Make sure you take moments to stretch. Take a walk around the neighborhood during your lunch break. Even spending a little time standing at your desk to work can be helpful.
Alongside this, getting headaches and eye strain as a result of long periods of screen time is common. The most basic solution here is to ensure you apply the 20-20-20 rule. This means every 20 minutes you spend 20 seconds looking at something 20 feet away. However, if headaches or eye strain symptoms persist, it’s worth consulting with an ophthalmologist to ascertain whether there are other eye conditions involved.
However, you may find it most surprising that working from home doesn’t necessarily protect you from seasonal illnesses. Particularly if you have a family with school-aged children, working remotely can still put you at risk. Many people hesitate to get the annual flu vaccine, but it is a safe and important tool to keep you and your family well. It not only mitigates the impact of the virus itself, but it can also prevent you from experiencing more serious respiratory medical conditions as a result of the illness.
Your Relationships May Change
Working in traditional environments also sets some clear expectations for our relationships. There are familiar and positive ways we forge bonds with our coworkers when we’re physically working alongside them every day. We have clear professional boundaries with members of management. The predictable flow of working life also shapes our family relationships to an extent. Remote work can disrupt each of these.
When you’re no longer working physically alongside your colleagues, there aren’t always the same easy conversations. While you may still be collaborating online, you don’t get to assess body language, share humor in the same way, or even spot conflict early enough to mitigate it. As such, it’s important to find solutions with your colleagues. Establish casual communication channels so you can send one another supportive messages or funny memes. Make efforts to organize social activities wherever possible, even if this is just an online gaming session occasionally.
Similarly, your relationships with managers may be disrupted by the shift in operations. Many of the common issues at the moment have surrounded a lack of trust, with some company leaders electing to establish monitoring protocols that can feel invasive. Your best approach is to keep openly communicating with your managers. Engage with them through regular video calls and messages. If you are concerned about monitoring or micromanaging practices, talk about how this makes you feel. Demonstrate you’re keen to maintain a transparent and positive relationship with them even from afar.
There’s a Sense of Isolation
One of the reasons remote working can be so attractive is it takes place in the comfort of your home. You don’t have to deal with commuter traffic and you’re not stuck among the flickering strip lights of an office. Let’s face it, you can occasionally work in your pajamas. However, the downside to this is remote work can be quite isolating, too.
You might think this suits you, particularly if you consider yourself introverted by nature. But long periods alone can put a strain on your wellbeing. Not to mention we can all benefit personally and professionally from some human contact occasionally. As such, it’s important to make intentional efforts here.
Reach out to your colleagues and see if you can form mutual support groups. You may be able to arrange with your company to get a little funding to operate from a coworking facility a couple of times a week. Wherever possible, fit regular face-to-face activities with your friends into your schedule. Even if this is just a walk for an hour around a local park it can make a difference.
Isolation can also be a contributing factor to burnout and feelings of anxiety. There are several effective and relatively simple activities that can support your mental health while you’re working from home. These include committing to taking regular days off and sticking to a predictable work schedule. While keeping away from social media may seem contributory to isolation, it can reduce your exposure to negative stimuli. Bolstering your mental wellness in this way can help you cope better with isolation.
It’s a Skill You Must Hone
Remote working isn’t something a lot of people immediately take to. Especially if you’ve been working in a traditional environment for most of your life, you shouldn’t necessarily expect to thrive in a virtual space — at least not at first. It’s a very different way of functioning. Much like many other aspects of your career, it’s a skill you need to hone.
You can start by honestly assessing the elements you struggle with. Look at what actions take you longer than they would in a physical workspace and why this might be. Examine which tasks give you less satisfaction than you expected. It’s also worth talking to your boss or colleagues. They may have insights into your productivity and may be able to share their own experiences of aspects they struggle with. Wherever possible, work together to better understand the areas for attention.
It’s then important to be intentional about your skills growth. Seek out e-learning courses that could help you with aspects like remote communications or maintaining a self-driven work ethic. There may be technological tools you can use to support you, such as project management platforms to help keep you organized. You may not need to use these tools for the rest of your working life, but they can help you navigate your initial hurdles.
Remote working has become a familiar feature for many people. However, there are aspects you find surprising or even uncomfortable. There can be challenges to your health and relationships, not to mention it can require time and dedication to become confident. Nevertheless, with some commitment to change and mindful strategies you can find your way to thrive in this new virtual environment.