Not All Flowers and Rainbows: The Unspoken Side of Remote Work

Working remotely sounds like a dream come true -- it's all pajamas, golden beaches, Netflix, and never, (ever!) having to fight with co-workers on whether you want the A/C turned on or off.

If you're in the position to actually work fully remotely, you know very well there's an unspoken side to remote work: things no one really talks about, but which kind of need a pretty good talking about.

What are these "secret" elements of remote work that trouble people? What should someone know before jumping on the full remote work ship -- and how can these issues be addressed?

Read on and find out more.

It Can Get Lonely...

Working remotely can get really lonely. Whether we like to admit it or not, we're social animals -- and that means that, just like school is for kids a social setting where they learn to interact with their peers, so is the office a social environment where relationships are built.

This isn't to say that you can't build relationships remotely -- there are plenty of tools available which enable teams to work together in collaborative ways, even when they're geographically separated. It just means that it takes effort and time; plus, your social life can easily suffer if you don't take the time to actively seek out interpersonal relationships, such as through video calls or even in-person meetups.

Here's what you can do about it:

Remote work loneliness isn't and shouldn't be a de facto state. There are plenty of things you can do, such as:

  • Make sure to set up regular video calls with your team, so that you can keep in touch.
  • Find ways to connect with people who have similar interests, such as through online forums or even local meetups.
  • Take the time to build relationships on a more personal level -- don't be afraid to ask about each other's lives outside
  • Go into a common work space or visit the office if your company has adopted a hybrid work model

remote work can get lonely

...And Sometimes You'll Be Left Out

It happens to the best of us: you're all heads down, focusing on your tasks from your remote office, just to realize that, three hours before the due date, the people at the HQ have decided to switch directions.

The "best" part of it? You didn't get the memo.

When working remotely, it's easy to feel detached and disconnected from the rest of the team. You can't just drop by someone's desk or overhear conversations in passing; instead, most decisions will be communicated through emails or chat messages -- which is why you don't always get informed about everything that's going on.

Here's what you can do about it:

  • Speak up and ask questions. Don't be afraid to voice your opinions or concerns.
  • Get involved: make sure you're included in the decision-making process by taking part in meetings or providing input when asked for it.
  • Keep close tabs on company updates and announcements, so that you can stay in the loop about any changes happening

The Time-Zone Issue

Remote work, by definition, implies that you'll be working with people from other countries. That can be a great opportunity -- after all, you get to learn about different cultures and work together with very talented people! But it also brings the time-zone issue which can make coordination tricky at times; there's always someone that's either too awake or already asleep when you need them most.

Here's what you can do about it:

The key here is to plan ahead, whenever possible. Make sure that everyone on the team is aware of their own time zone and of the others' -- and if possible, try to convert everything into a common time-zone before organizing any meetings.

You can also use tools like Slack that will allow you to set up channels or even bots that will help coordinate all the different time zones and make sure everyone is on the same page. Also, documenting everything and adopting an async project management style will help you ensure that, no matter where on the Globe they're located, all of your team members have access to the same source of truth, their tasks, and all the follow-ups they need to address.

Your Internet Connection Will Make a Huge Difference

Working from the top of a mountain sounds like a dream come true, but it can very easily turn into a glitchy, pixelated, slow-loading, robotic-voices-over-Zoom meeting nightmare.

When you work remotely, you cannot rely on the fact that your Office Manager has paid the bills and gets a notice from the internet service provider -- you are your own Office Manager. It's up to you to make sure that you have a stable and reliable connection, so that your work doesn't suffer due to lags or slow speeds.

Here's what you can do about it:

  • Research the internet options available in your area before committing to any long-term plans; this way, you can make sure that you get the most bang for your buck.
  • Invest in a solid router and/or extenders to reduce the chances of lags or connection drops.
  • If possible, look into getting a dedicated internet line. Although this might be more expensive than regular services, it will guarantee that you have an uninterrupted connection all day long.
  • If you have regular issues with your internet connection, see if you can get some sort of backup (e.g., a mobile internet connection or a portable hotspot) that you can fall back on in case of emergency.

poor internet connection

It's Hard to Build Connections

Emojis can only go so far -- and if you don't have the opportunity to meet up with your team in person, forming lasting relationships can be a challenge.

That's why it's important to make sure that you're actively trying to reach out and connect with your co-workers. Of course, this doesn't mean that you should start sending them poems about love or friendship; but rather, look for ways in which you can get to know each other better and create a deeper connection.

Here's what you can do about it:

  • Set up weekly video calls so that everyone on the team has an opportunity to catch up with one another.
  • Take the time to ask about each other's lives outside of work -- this will help you build a stronger connection with your team members
  • Encourage and support virtual social activities, such as online gaming sessions or movie nights.
  • Look for ways to create a sense of community between your co-workers, such as starting an internal newsletter where people can share their accomplishments, ideas and requests for help.
  • Take the time to just chat with your workmates. When you treat people like a transaction, where all your interactions are all business, you get the same in return. Taking the time to ask your co-workers how they're doing can go a long way in creating more meaningful connections.

You Need a Lot of Self-Discipline


There's no card to check in and check out, there's no boss looking over your shoulder, and there's no HR Manager to "catch up" with you when you've spent one too many minutes over coffee breaks. And we all know the internet is no short of distractions -- from social media to streaming platforms, there are plenty of things that can easily get in the way of your work.

So stay focused and disciplined by:

  • Setting up a dedicated workspace at home, one that is free from distractions such as TVs or loud music.
  • Set a timer when you need to be extra productive -- it will help keep you on task and focused on the task at hand.
  • Block out time in your calendar that you can dedicate to specific tasks, such as research or problem solving.
  • Silence notifications for apps like email and social media to avoid any distractions; this will help you stay focused while working.
  • Take regular breaks throughout the day -- this will give you energy to go on
  • Use the Pomodoro technique to get in as much focus time as possible. This technique involves working for 25 minutes and then taking a quick 5-minute break before another work session. It allows you to stay focused and productive while also giving yourself time to relax and refresh.

Here's what you can do about it:

  • Set specific goals and objectives for each day, week, or month.
  • Keep a to-do list that you can easily refer to throughout the day.
  • Break down big tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks so that you don't feel overwhelmed by them.
  • Make sure that your work environment is comfortable and well lit; this will help you stay focused and productive

Sometimes, You Just Have to Learn on Your Own

When you're remote, you can't simply stretch out to your workmate's desk and ask things -- and doing it on Microsoft Teams/ Slack may come with (natural!) delays.

That's why it's important to learn as much as you can on your own. Take the time to read blog posts, watch tutorials and ask questions in forums -- this will help you expand your skill set and better understand how certain tasks are done.

Plus, if there are any doubts or problems related to those tasks, you'll have a better chance of solving them quickly. And when you encounter any issues that your colleagues can help with, they'll be more than happy to assist if you already know a bit about the problem yourself.

Here's what you can do about it:

  • Make an effort to stay ahead of the curve by reading up on industry publications and following key influencers in your field.
  • Spend time understanding the tools you use every day. Take the time to explore each tool's features, so that you can get more out of them.
  • Take the time to explore other topics related to your field; this will give you a better understanding of the bigger picture.
  • Look into online courses or webinars that can help you improve your skills in specific areas. The more knowledgeable you are

learning on your own

Your Morning Routine Will Take a Hit

When you work in an office, your morning routine is more or less dictated by where your office is, how long it takes to get there, and when the team starts its day.

But since you're now working remotely, your morning will most likely look much different. You don't have to worry about traffic jams or how long it takes you to get ready; but that doesn't mean your morning should be a free-for-all.

Here's what you can do about it:

  • Create a routine for yourself that helps you start your day off right. This could include tasks such as meditating, taking a morning walk, making breakfast, or setting up your workspace.
  • Try to establish a regular wake-up time that works for you and helps you stay productive throughout the day. Also, make sure you put an end to your work day too -- remote work fatigue is real, painful, and it can lead to burnout.
  • Make sure to factor in some time for yourself so you can relax and recharge. Whether it's reading a book, going for a walk outside or taking an online yoga class, make sure to include something that will help you destress and become more productive.

Not Everyone Loves It

Remote work is not for everyone -- that's a fact. Some people work better in an office, others prefer the comfort of their home (or a cafe in Berlin, for that matter.) That's why it's important to be aware of the fact that not everyone will enjoy remote work as much as you do, and that's okay.

If your workplace allows you to work in a hybrid mode, depending on the task, see if you can accommodate your co-workers and split up the tasks accordingly.

Here's what you can do about it:

  • Have an honest conversation with your team members about how they feel about remote work and make sure to listen to their concerns.
  • Make sure to keep in touch with your team members and stay connected by having regular check-ins, video calls, and even virtual lunches.
  • Offer support for those who may be struggling with remote work and let them know that it's okay to ask for help when they need it.
  • Find ways to create a sense of community, such as setting up group chats, doing virtual office hours, or playing online games together.
  • Find ways to stay engaged with your team and create opportunities for collaboration, such as brainstorming sessions and remote hackathons. This will allow everyone to work together towards a common goal and feel part of the larger team.

Not All Flowers and Rainbows

Remote work is not easy, and there are many challenges that come with it.

For some, the challenges are either easy to overcome -- or worth it.

For others, it can put a hindrance in productivity and create feelings of isolation.

It's important to be aware that remote work comes with a learning curve and it can take time to adjust to this new way of working. Be patient as you get comfortable in your new routine, and don't hesitate to ask for help when needed.

And -- even if it may feel uncomfortable to switch from full-remote to hybrid, if you have the possibility, do it. Hybrid work software enables you to do this hassle-free and make the most of your office space when needed.

At the end of the day, though, it's up to you to make the best of it. So, don't be afraid to experiment and try new things until you find what works for you or your team. Every individual is different, every team is different, and every organization has different rules and approaches to remote and hybrid work -- you can only find balance if you try things out, see how they work, and draw insights on how you can improve the things that aren't working as well as you'd have them. 

Topics: Hybrid & remote work

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