5 common issues for remote workers and how to solve them

Written by Stu

12th March 2020
I’ve been working from home full-time for over 3 years now. Before that, I could work from home a couple of days a week with my previous employer, which worked out well for me. I found when I worked from home, I got more stuff done simply because I didn’t have any distractions like people coming up to you and asking you questions or for help.
 

I wasn’t distracted by the sound of doors opening, heavy keyboard bashing or seeing who’s coming in and out of the office. So when I applied for my job at Sei Mani, I knew it was working from home pretty much every day, and I was fine with that because I’ve worked from home before.

 

Little did I know, that working from home full-time is completely different to just working from home 1 or 2 days a week and spending the rest of the time in an office with people.

 

I’ve learnt a few tips and changed a couple of habits that make working from home, part of one of the best job I’ve ever had… I love it!

 

So here’s my guide on how to deal with some of the issues I faced within the first year or so of working from home full-time, which I hope, help you to adjust or try something different if you’re going to be, or are, a home worker.

 

Working from home desk setup

Before WFH (working from home), when you worked in an office you would have annual emails talking about your Health & Safety. Checking your desk/work station is set up correctly, your monitor is set at the right height, and your chair is set-up correctly. Let’s be honest, most of those communications, we ignore. We might entertain them for a short while. But, after that, they’re just an afterthought and we don’t really bother about it until the same time next year.

 

That’s how I thought about it, until I started to WFH full-time. After a year of working on the landing with a makeshift desk and one of my dining table chairs as an office chair. I found myself at a chiropractor, having acupuncture, neck massages and an exercise routine I had to do every day for 6 weeks. All because I had been stooped over my laptop, sitting in a very bad chair with a stupidly small desk. I was in agony with my back and neck. I couldn’t turn my head, and I couldn’t sleep because of the pain. It was horrible.

 

Having a decent desk, a good office chair, a laptop stand along with a mouse and keyboard will make all the difference. And they don’t have to be expensive either. There’s plenty of great products at low prices out there.

 

Never underestimate office health & safety, because when you WFH, you mostly manage your set up and it’s up-keep yourself. Invest in some decent equipment, otherwise, you’ll be in pain, with a bill for massages and the privilege of having someone sticking needles in your shoulders. It’s really not pleasant.

 

Loneliness when remote working

Starting a new job can be scary to start off with. Meeting new people, learning all about what you need to do to deliver is always a little bit overwhelming. But, being part of a remote team can bring in extra worry to your day-to-day role.

 

I was soon surprised by how lonely I felt because there were no people physically sitting next to me. All I had was my home, a laptop and a window I sat near. However, after I started forming good relationships with the team (and they are all awesome btw), using video during our meetings felt so good. Seeing everyones faces, understand their expressions and posture really helped bridge that gap of being remote.

 

It was one of Now we all have Cisco DX80’s (and we’ve written the book on them too), our interactions with each other feel as if my team members are sitting at the same desk as me. We even have “working sessions” where we’ll call into a meeting and just have them on the background. So if one of us is stuck, or wants a second opinion, we’re there to help. I even stream music so we all have something to listen too. Video is hugely important, we use it literally every day for practically everything. Even if I need to vent my frustrations or moan about something, we can just call each other, let it all out and then crack on!

 

So, if you ever start to feel a little lonely, I would highly recommend using collaboration tools such as Webex Teams, Microsoft Teams or even Skype to help bridge the gap. Here are some tips on using video during meetings that you might find useful too.

 

Location, location, location

Finding the right spot in your house to set up your office is also really important when you WFH full-time. The kitchen table might seem like a good idea at first, but if you are conducting video meetings with clients or even team members, the echo of your voice bouncing around the room or the washing machine spinning can be off-putting. Or if you have dogs (as I do), having them bark during a video meeting can distract people and yourself too.

 

Be mindful of your surroundings, especially when you’re on video. Check what’s in the background or what people can see when your video is live. Things like mirrors in the background or other laptops/computers which are turned on can distract peoples focus. They will try and see what’s in your house or read what you’re working on with the laptop.

 

My office is located in our spare bedroom which doesn’t look very professional when I’m in a video meeting with a customer. To get around this, I bought a Japanese Shoji style screen that sits behind me so you can’t see the bed or the window out the front.

 

Speaking of windows, it’s important to have a window nearby so you can have some natural light flow into the room. If you have a nice view, that really helps keep you calm and relaxed. I find it helps me think when I’m problem-solving or if I need to think creatively. Plus, the sun is the best source of vitamin D and it also helps you know when to call it a day too.

 

Leaving the house when working from home

My partner commutes to work every day so for him, it’s normal to leave the house in the morning and come home in the evening. But, when you work from home, your commute is usually walking for 30 seconds to your desk with a cup of tea in hand, and that’s it.

 

You leave the room every now and then to get a drink, a snack or to make lunch and then it’s back to work. Before you know it, it’s time to cook dinner and you find yourself settling down for the evening. 

In the past there have been occasions when I’ve realised that a whole week has gone by without me ever leaving the house! It’s not healthy for us. Once I realised this was happening, I forced myself to go for a walk. Even if it was just for 10 minutes at lunchtime.

 

Forcing myself to leave the house and go walking, has now turned into a daily thing I do. I’ve even bought a pair of walking boots and a windproof jacket, so I have no excuse not to leave the house. Since doing this over a year ago, I’ve lost 1.5st… so it has more benefits than just getting out of the house.

 

My partner and I now go walking at least 6 miles on Saturdays and Sundays too, we love it… or we’re just getting old.

Now I’m not saying you will get the ‘walking bug”, but just leaving the house for some fresh air goes a long way. It gives you the headspace to think, to reflect and to problem solve.

 

And if you want more help and advice, here are some tips on staying healthy when you work from home.

 

Work-life balance

Ah… Work-life balance… That old chestnut! It’s been a problem for people long before I started working from home. Trying to make sure our lives aren’t overrun by work is still an issue even today, regardless if you work in an office or at home. 

Thankfully, it’s not a problem for me or the Sei Mani gang because we’ve adapted how we work. Yes, there have been times when I’ve had to work late or over a weekend to complete a project. But that very rarely happens. But if it does, our team trusts each other to take the time back.

 

Plus, just because you work from home, doesn’t mean you still can’t pop-out to the shop or go to an appointment. It is important to remember to take breaks, we usually have a 5-minute “screen break” after about an hour just to help rest our eye and stretch our legs.

 

If we’re in a team meeting or a brainstorming session, sometimes we have had meetings that have lasted 3 hours, but we will always agree to go for a 10 or 15-minute break to refresh ourselves.

 

It’s about being mindful of your own wellbeing, and your team. And remember, the world won’t end if you leave it till the morning. As long as it’s not a dead-line day that is.

 

Do or, do not… there is no “try”

If you can give at least one of those tips a go, it should help you improve some of the issues we face when WFH full-time. Or even if you WFH a couple of days a week, it might give you some ideas on how you could change something and make it better for you and your customers.

 

Just remember, it’s all about taking baby steps with this. Change doesn’t happen overnight, but trying things out and adjusting slightly will help you in the longer term.

 

Look after yourselves, and stay cool! 

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