While many workers are enjoying the lack of commute and the casual workwear, not everyone is loving working from home.
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It can be lonely. The distractions are endless. Motivation can be hard to come by. And the lack of boundaries between work and home life can cause burnout.
“Some people are realizing that their environment is a big piece of why they enjoy their jobs,” said career coach Hallie Crawford. “There are plenty of people finding they don’t really like their job anymore.”
But many of us won’t be heading back to the office any time soon.
If you’re struggling at home, the first step is to try and pinpoint what it is about working remotely that isn’t working for you. Is it missing the socialization? Inadequate workspace? Feelings of isolation or tech issues? All of the above?
Then you can address the problem with a more targeted solution.
You miss your routines
Sure, you’re really missing your favorite coffee shop that used to have your order waiting every morning, or your daily venting sessions with your co-workers, but there are some upsides to working from home. Focus on that instead of what you’re missing.
“You have the ability to set your own schedule, take advantage of that,” recommended Jodi Glickman, author of “Great on the Job: What to Say, How to Say It. The Secrets of Getting Ahead.”
“Take a walk, book a virtual coffee date in the middle of the day that you normally wouldn’t have done…There really is no right answer, but recognize you have flexibility you didn’t have before.”
You don’t have a dedicated office space
It’s hard to get into a work groove when your office space is also your eating space, TV watching space and/or sleeping space.
Look for ways to reproduce your office at home to make it feel more official. Whether it’s adding a whiteboard, picture frames or work awards.
“Anything that makes it look and feel more like an office may make you feel subconsciously that you are in a more professional space,” said Roy Cohen, a career coach and author of “The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide.”
If you need a better desk or office supplies, he suggested reaching out to your boss. “If it makes you more efficient to have these items at your home, your employer should consider that one of the prices they pay in order to have heightened productivity.”
You need more structure
If you are finding yourself with much more free time but still scrambling to meet deadlines, try setting a firm schedule every day.
“Everything has blurred into a big overwhelming block of time,” said Glickman. “When you have eight hours on your plate, you think: ‘Of course, I can get three things done.’ Then all of a sudden you have whittled away your time.”
Designating set times on your schedule for “thought work,” administrative-type tasks like emails, meetings and even breaks, can help you stay productive and motivated.
You’re lonely and crave social interaction
Those random side conversations, hallway run-ins and coffee runs are a big part of office culture and employee engagement. And this will take some effort to recreate.
“Schedule a Zoom or FaceTime or just a phone call with friends twice a week,” suggested Crawford.
Taking the initiative to set up a weekly social virtual gathering that isn’t focused on work with your colleagues can help rekindle relationships and showcase leadership skills.
But don’t allow the chat to become overly negative.
“If you complain frequently then that is what the meetings become: a session to express all of the frustration, that is not being solutions-focused,” said Cohen.
Your career seems stagnant
It’s common to feel stuck in a career rut when you haven’t had real facetime with your boss in a few months. But use remote work to your advantage by asking to be part of projects and meetings you might not normally be included on.
It might be easier for you to join big meetings now that only a few executives would normally travel to, noted Glickman. “Create shadowing opportunities for yourself by asking to join in on meetings and conversations you normally wouldn’t be privy to. You probably have a higher chance of doing those now.”
You feel overworked
Many workers feel pressure to mimic the 9-5 workday at home. But working remotely offers you a little more flexibility with your time. Your employer doesn’t expect you to work eight hours straight every day. Take breaks. You will be a better worker for it.
“Turn your brain off. Sometimes to be creative you need to stop thinking about what you are supposed to be working on,” said Glickman. “Building those breaks into your schedule where you actually do something other than work – you can do that during the day now.”