Overcoming 10 Challenges When Working from Home

With the Coronavirus Pandemic shutdown, many are suddenly working remotely, creating a virtual office for the first time. That creates problems for both management and staff. In this post, we discuss the ten challenges to overcome working remotely.  

You may also appreciate our previous posts on the COVID-19 Pandemic as we address avoiding panic, engaging your team, providing certainty in uncertain times, and establishing your leadership roots.

My goal is to help you deliver peak performance by working remotely. I have written 16 books designed to help you think bigger and reach higher to create disruptive success. Two books are of particular help during this Coronavirus pandemic.  We wrote The ROI of Compassion (2018) as both a resource manual and a strategic tool for Human Resources professionals, Managers, and Executives facing the pain of traumatic situations. We wrote Leading with the Power of Compassion (2019) to help alleviate the pain of employee disengagement. In this post, I focus on communicating compassion to help alleviate the pain of working from home for the first time.

First, Create Your Space.

When I was a college professor, I enjoyed going to work and mingling with the faculty, students, and staff. I missed that when I left academia for the world of executive coaching and consulting. The first challenge was to create my space to work at home. Fortunately, my wife and I were empty nesters, so we had a spare bedroom that I already used as my home office. (I know, some of you will be jealous.) For those with children who are home, this could be a real problem.


  • First carve out your space. It may be in your bedroom or a kitchen table.
  • Mark your territory. Make an agreement. That space is yours, at least during working hours.
  • Protect that space. Set the boundaries and enforce them. (I’m not joking. Having grown up with seven siblings, finding and protecting space was difficult.)

Second, Limit the Distractions

Set your mind for work. This is your space, and when you are in that space, you are there to work. Be aware of the distractions, like the TV, phone, bills to pay, etc. Physically remove those distractions or silence them. Establish your physical setting for work.

  • Limit your physical distractions. Set those things aside until it is time to quit work for the day.
  • Don’t answer the phone for personal calls.
  • Leave the TV off. Don’t be tempted to stream movies on your computer.

Third, Set Your Focus.

There is a mindset we have when we walk out the door to go to work and one when we walk back in the door that says, “I’m home!” There is a time for work and a time to decompress, relax, and enjoy our personal life. Those two worlds collide without that transition. Establish that focus.

  • Set your mindset the night before. You are going to work tomorrow.
  • Set some physical marker than when you enter the room or turn on the computer, it says, “I’m working.”
  • If needed, get dressed as if you were going to work. At the end of the day, change into more relaxed clothes.

Fourth, Control your breaks.

When at home, there is a temptation to say, “I’ll just take a moment to . . .” With family members also at home, there will be interruptions. Some will be critical and others frivolous. One moment turns into two, and soon your productivity suffers. Breaks are essential, and interruptions will happen, but we need to be productive.

  • Maintain your focus. Address the concern or take the short break and then get back into your work mindset.
  • Schedule your breaks (as much as possible).
  • Prioritize your productivity.

Fifth, Maximizing the Commute.

I love my 10-second commute. It frees me from the time and energy-consuming drive to work. But it took some time to maximize that time. I  remember how tempting it was to sleep in, watch the news, or do something else first. You can imagine that I wasn’t very productive in those early days. Learn from my mistake.

  • Set your internal time clock and punch in on time.
  • Set your priorities. Working from home isn’t retirement. You still have a job to do.
  • Maintain the urgency of the work.

Sixth, Getting Technology and Process to Work.

Working from home is an experiment for most organizations. They are hoping everything works correctly, but there is no guarantee. You may have several questions: Can the servers handle everyone logging in remotely? By now, everyone should have their computers but will they work? What happens when they don’t? Then we have productivity issues? What happens when someone doesn’t work? What happens when they have questions? What is the process? Challenge yourself with making it all work.

  • Clarify the process.
  • Raise the issue when there is a problem.
  • Ask for help. 

Seventh, Project and Resolve Social Isolation.

It can be very lonely working from home. We are social beings that love being around people. (Ok, most of us. But even us introverts need some social interaction.) Loneliness is already at epidemic levels before the Coronavirus Virtual Work Challenge. You can imagine what will happen if we don’t structure communication into our day. Social Isolation might be the most difficult challenge for you.

  • Schedule appropriate interaction time with colleagues over your breaks.
  • Find a reason to interact. There will be authentic reasons to talk to someone else.
  • Watch out for your colleagues. Reach out to them to ensure their mental health.

Eighth, Proving You Can Do It. 

This shutdown might be the tipping point for the virtual workplace. If successful, many will be able to skip the commute and work from home. That may even mean that you could live wherever you want. Imagine the possibilities. However, if you are not productive, that opportunity will disappear.

  • Recognize the opportunity.
  • Appreciate the challenge.
  • Exceed the challenge. If done well, you may find additional opportunities.

Ninth, Unleash Your Leadership

Imagine taking the initiative, forecasting problems, and finding solutions during this shutdown. Also, imagine your manager praising you for taking the lead to overcome the challenges. New situations bring different issues and great opportunities to step into leadership. Accepting the challenge to not only follow but take the lead might be the most critical challenge for you.

  • Change your mindset from following to leading.
  • Step up your game.
  • Track the problems, forecast the opportunities and devise the solution.

Tenth, Focus on Productivity, not Time

Most people are paid for their time rather than their productivity. So they are paid for their butt to be in a seat during certain hours. The manager is then concerned if they cannot see your butt in that seat at that time. But when you shift your perspective and show you can be even more productive and save them the cost of that physical seat, there may be significant opportunities. Imagine increasing your productivity by working from home.

  • Shift your mindset.
  • Find ways to streamline your work.
  • Devise ways to increase your productivity.

Contact us Murfield Coaching today. We want to help you prevent panic, solve your problem, and breakthrough in this Coronavirus Pandemic.

Blog Schedule (currently suspended to address COVID-19 Pandemic)

Mind Shift Monday features a powerful quote that sets the tone for a week of innovative thinking.

Thinking Bigger Tuesday expands on the topic and provides pillar content of innovative thinking.

Why Not Wednesday introduces you to books, articles, and research that I have found useful in solving significant problems with innovative thinking.

Transformational Thursday explores a TED Talk on the topic of the week. These talks are the ones I have featured in my TED Talk Think Tank mastermind for radical change over the last five years.

Far Out Friday features crazy ideas that just might lead to solving your persistent problem.

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Loren Murfield, Ph.D.

Phone: 813-308-9626 email: Loren@MurfieldCoaching.com.

We work with leaders and organizations to solve significant problems with innovative thinking. What problem is frustrating you? Contact us today.

Start learning how you can engage employees during their most traumatic moments in our newly revised and just-released book, “The ROI of COMPASSION” and “Leading with the Power of Compassion.” 

Leading with the Power of Compassion: Creating a Cutting-Edge Culture through Engagement

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