As we enter 2022, more and more of us in the ag industry have been granted the opportunity to work from home. Although it can be a wonderful opportunity to work from the place we feel most comfortable, it can also be an opportunity for new struggles to arise. Telecommuting comes with its fair share of dilemmas, but with a bit of preparation and an understanding of the drawbacks of remote work, the transition from working at your desk at the farm to the desk at home can feel a lot more manageable.
There are more distractions
When you’re at home, you’re surrounded by all your favorite distractions. Whether it’s the dishes from last night’s dinner or the magazine sitting on your coffee table, it can be difficult to resist the temptation of taking a few minutes to tidy up or take a break. If struggling with staying focused is one of your concerns, there are a few ways to fight disruptions.
- Take a few minutes before your day starts to tidy up your home.
- If you haven’t already, create a dedicated work area that faces away from any distractions.
- Place your phone in a kitchen drawer or in a different room. The urge to check messages or take calls is no joke, so it’s best to eliminate the distraction altogether.
- Choose your background noise wisely! Don’t allow the temptation of streaming a rerun of your favorite show or listening to a podcast to prevent you from staying focused while on the clock. Instead, opt for instrumental music as your background noise.
Allowing distractions to keep you from concentrating on your tasks can lead to low efficiency and having to work past your scheduled time to stay caught up. Stay focused during the day so you can indulge in distractions later.
You may feel isolated and lonely
Don’t underestimate the power of isolation. Having limited contact with others can truly impact the quality of your work experience and mental health. The great thing about working with others is the ability to form connections, even if they’re just spontaneous chats in the break room. When you work remotely full time, it can strip away most of your daily interactions with others and lead to feelings of loneliness. If you struggle with feelings of isolation, here are a few ways to nurture relationships even as a remote worker:
- Schedule lunches with a co-worker or friend. Your living room can be an enticing place to enjoy lunch, but eating a meal with a friend once a week can provide you with the break you deserve and brighten your day.
- Work in different settings. Switch up your workstation by occasionally working at a café or the local library. Libraries are a great place to accomplish important tasks. Many have designated workrooms that you can reserve for a few hours, not to mention there’s no limit on the amount of time you can stay at the library.
- Prioritize building connections outside of work. While you’re off the clock, find different ways to interact with others. You can do so by joining a gym, taking classes, or by simply chatting with your neighbor. Emphasizing the importance of enjoying your life outside of work will help to break the cycle of monotony.
- Check-in on your co-workers; creating a welcoming workplace is easy to accomplish. Simply asking how everyone’s day is going during a meeting or chatting with your closest work friend is an effortless way to build relationships.
Changing up your scenery and having small interactions with others can combat the dark cloud of loneliness that follows remote work, so make it a habit to interact with others, on and off the clock!
The line between home and work is blurred
We thought maintaining work/life balance in agriculture was hard before, but with telecommuting, it can seem impossible to many. Shutting off work mode can be difficult when home becomes your workplace; creating rules to follow is an effective way to take back your power. Here are a few example rules you can implement:
- No working past a certain time – If you struggle with clocking out on time, limit yourself to only 15-30 minutes of extra work and slowly ease into your new boundary. It can be difficult to stick with this rule, but with a bit of discipline, you won’t think twice about clocking out on time.
- No working at the dining table, bed, your favorite spot on the couch, etc. – Setting boundaries for where you can work will help your mind distinguish between work & home, even if they’re the same place.
- Dress as if you’re headed to the office - Now you don’t have to throw on a three-piece suit or a pair of heels, but changing out of your loungewear into something less casual and vice versa can help to create the separation of focus time and relaxation time.
Creating strict boundaries for oneself can be difficult for remote workers, although it is necessary to create balance in your life. Setting rules you must follow is the easiest way to stay in control of every aspect of your life, especially work.
Team collaboration can be difficult to manage
Traditional workspaces encourage collaboration, while it may feel as though remote work does the opposite. The inability to discuss a project or even ask a question face to face can lead to confusion and miscommunication. If you’re trying to find different ways to maintain strong collaboration with your team here are a few suggestions:
- Stay up to date on new communication software – With the increase of remote work comes innovative apps and software designed to bring teams together, such as Whereby or Slack. If there’s software that you think may enhance collaboration, mention it to your boss.
- Host “catch-all” meetings – A great part of traditional workplaces is being able to pop into your coworker’s office and get their advice on a topic or ask a quick question. Although you may be able to message or email them from home, being able to verbalize your questions can eliminate confusion. Hosting a meeting in which you and your team can ask each other random questions and simply discuss different projects and ideas can bring back the sense of collaboration that being in the office provides.
- Manage tasks in a single space – Whether it is on an excel spreadsheet or a task management application, such as Asana or Monday, designating a place where everyone can post their updates and tasks will ensure the entire team is updated on projects and responsibilities.
Remote work is a new frontier for many of us; allowing yourself grace while you navigate your new work life is the best way to adjust to the changes. It takes time to understand what works best for you, but by getting a head start, you can create the adjustments necessary to remain efficient and happy while working from home.
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