Working remotely can be great. You don’t have to spend hours each week commuting or deal with annoying coworkers who won’t stop talking, and you don’t even have to change out of your pajamas (although we’d recommend it). 

You’re in full control of your work environment––meaning you’re able to set up a home office that makes you most productive. 

But working outside the conventional office isn’t entirely beneficial. Remote teams experience unique challenges that can hurt their productivity too. 

Luckily, these hurdles aren’t impossible to overcome––they just require a bit of extra attention. Let’s look at some of the biggest obstacles a remote worker faces and what you can do to overcome them:

  1. Home interruptions
  2. Communication challenges
  3. Overworking
  4. Prioritization struggles
  5. Loneliness 

1. Home interruptions 

Interruptions are going to happen—wherever you’re working. In the office, chatty colleagues and noisy printers can hurt your focus. But at home, interruptions can seem even more powerful. 

If you have kids who are at home during the day, they can be a big distraction from your work. Even if you have a babysitter, spouse, or other help in caring for the kids while you’re working, they can be noisy (or want to bust into your home office at the most inconvenient moment). 

Let’s not forget that viral video of the children interrupting an expert on BBC News…  

Even if you don’t have kids, there can still be potential interruptions. From unexpected guests to your cat crawling across your keyboard, knowing how to work from home productively means finding a way to get away from it all. 

How to overcome home interruptions 

Unless you work and live in a secluded cabin in the middle of the woods by yourself, you probably won’t be able to eliminate interruptions entirely. But here are some things you can do to get the space you need to focus: 

2. Communication challenges 

If you’re working in an office and you need something from someone, you can just walk over to their desk and ask for it. With a remote team, that isn’t really possible—that’s why you need processes and apps to stay in communication with your team. 

And when coworkers are scattered across time zones, connecting after the fact isn’t as easy as just pulling someone aside for more explanation. It’s always better to ask questions as they come up and think ahead about what you might need from a teammate. 

How to overcome communication challenges 

Communication problems typically arise when teams don’t have the right tools or processes for getting in touch. Here’s how you can avoid communication problems when working remotely: 

You can even manage tasks for each team member so that you’re sure everyone will walk away from each meeting knowing what to do next.

A tool like this is essential for companies like PipelineDeals to run smoothly. “We’re a distributed staff, and about half of the company is remote,” says Paige Thomas, PipelineDeals’ Customer Care Manager. 

“For example, I’m based in Philadelphia, and most of my staff is in Seattle. Maintaining a cohesive team like that can be difficult, but communicating together using RingCentral makes it a lot easier, makes it feel like we’re a real team. And it lets everyone stay connected and get their work done even if they’re not at their desks.”

RingCentral puts everything in one app so that you can access conversations and files from any device—you can find what you’re looking for whether you’re working from your home office or a coffee shop. 

3. Overworking 

Many managers and business owners are worried that letting their teams work from home means nothing will ever get done. But working from home can actually make employees more productive:

In fact, knowing when to step away from work can be a problem for many remote workers. 

Unlike in an office setting, you never really leave your desk. When your workstation is still lurking in the corner of your living room, not jumping back on to check emails or just do one last thing can be difficult. 

Overworked employees can be stressed, struggle with work-life balance, and overall feel unhappy with their jobs. 

How to overcome overworking 

Setting boundaries that prevent you from overworking is crucial for long-term happiness in a remote job. Here are some ways you can stop yourself from working too hard or too long: 

Caption: The Pomodoro cycle uses 25 minutes of focused time matched with a 5-minute break to help you stay focused.

The Pomodoro Technique or 90-minute focus sessions are both great ways to make the most of your productivity and ensure you’re taking sufficient breaks.

4. Prioritization struggles

To be good at working remotely, you have to be good at working independently. While you might have video calls or chats with your team throughout the day, you’re usually left more or less on your own to make sure all your tasks get done on time. 

Some team members might struggle with this freedom––especially if there are distractions they haven’t been able to get rid of. When the sun is shining and your dog is begging for a long walk or your kid wants to show you their latest art project, you need to know how to prioritize your work. 

Prioritizing work with team members in different time zones also means anticipating their needs. When someone’s “tomorrow” is still your “today,” you might need to plan ahead to make sure everyone gets what they need on time. 

How to manage prioritizing to-do lists  

Staying on track needs to be a team effort. While employees can have their own systems for getting their to-do lists done, proper task organization is key for keeping all projects moving forward. Here are some tips for managing to-do lists.

Caption: Asana lets you add priority fields to your projects, so everyone knows exactly what to focus on.

5. Loneliness 

While working in your pajamas might seem great for a day or two, it can get old fast. When you’re not leaving your house to go to the office, you might find that you barely leave the building at all. 

Soon, working remotely can feel a bit lonely—the lack of human interaction that often comes with working in a traditional office can lead to isolation and take a toll on your mental health. 

But working alone can also just get boring. Without close coworkers to share jokes with or talk about the latest news, you might miss those little breaks in the day that let you refresh or rest your eyes.

How to overcome loneliness

Depending on your living situation, loneliness can be easier to combat for some people. But if you don’t have kids home during the day or a partner or roommate who also works from home, here are some tips for combating loneliness in a remote job: 

Meet from anywhere using RingCentral Video

Solve remote working challenges with communication and organization

When it comes down to it, the problems that come with remote work tend to fall into two categories: communication or organization. But when you have the right communication and organization systems in place, you can thrive—even if everyone’s in a different country. 

To overcome the common challenges that pop up when you’re working remotely, it’s better to over-communicate. Even if you feel like you’ve already said something once or that you’re over-planning a project or task, it’s better to do too much than not enough. After all, remote teams tend to have fewer opportunities to keep each other in the loop. 

As you begin to adjust to working remotely, you might find that everyone struggles with different things—check in regularly to see how you can help support your teammates. You are each other’s biggest assets when it comes to remote work!