21 Jul Top Challenges with Remote Work
When the world went into lockdown in 2020, a lot of people rejoiced at the notion of working from home. The thought of not having to drive to work, spending the day in one’s pajamas, and not having to deal with toxic workmates sounded like a grand time! A Forbes article even coined remote working as “the new normal.” But two years down the line, the new normal is starting to lose its luster.
A study conducted by Great Place to Work compared worker productivity during the first six months of the pandemic (March to August 2020), and they found that productivity has increased and stabilized during this period. It has, however, dipped a little the more the pandemic dragged on. Why is this so?
Challenges workers are facing
With the supposed honeymoon stage of remote work almost over, people are starting to come out with their complaints. Others, according to Buffer’s State of Remote Work 2021, are even thinking of going back to the office. Thirty-two percent of the 2300 remote workers they interviewed are saying that they would like to work some days in the office, and the rest at home. Let’s look at some challenges that remote workers are facing and how we can address these issues.
- An abundance of distractions. Remote workers initially started working from home, given the social distancing measures that were in place at the start of the pandemic. That meant that they were always at home, where their bed is. Where their kids are. Netflix. It became harder for workers to concentrate on their work when everything else was pulling their attention elsewhere.
Solution: Creating a separate working space, setting a strict work schedule, and minimizing distractions (putting your phone on silent and do not disturb). These simple things can yield so much positive benefits. They say that humans are visual animals, so putting up physical barriers can go a long way in helping you maintain your productivity.
- Not knowing when to stop working. Workers are often at the whim of their computers. And with the current #hustle culture that’s permeating society, overworking is glorified. There’s also the constant fear that your boss might be thinking that you’re not being productive enough just because he can’t see you, so you tend to put in more work to compensate.
Solution: Create a better work-life balance. I know that it’s easier said than done, but let me share a tip that works for me. Create a list of goals that you commit to hitting before the end of the week. Work hard to hit them, and when you do, stop. This is a simple goal that pays dividends at the end!
- Feeling disconnected. Remote working can be a lonely endeavor, and its easy to lose sight of your goal and become less productive because of it.
Solution: Conference calls! Just because you are not in the same physical space as your team does not mean that you cannot stay connected. Take Nautilus’ Cloud phone feature, for example. We make it easy to setup conference calls with other team members, especially with our extension-to-extension calling feature. Knowing that my team is always one call away, and that we can stay connected during the entire duration of our shifts is a lovely feature to have.
- Technical issues. Remember working in an office setup, and how we had the IT department always a call away? And that whenever we did encounter a technical hiccup, they’d come right in and save the day? In a remote work setup, it’s a totally different affair. When something breaks down in your work computer, your IT team can remote-in or walk you through the arduous process of finding what’s wrong and coming up with a fix.
Solution: Anticipate possible issues and train your team how to troubleshoot basic computer problems. Doing so can save your business precious hours and resources, not to mention the time spent off-project! You’d be amazed by how powerful a simple computer restart can be.
- Maintaining productivity. This can also hand-in-hand with the previous challenge about not knowing when to stop working. Working from home can result in one of two things: an overcompensation in the amount of work one puts in, or the complete opposite where one tends to slack off given the lack of supervision.
Solution: Create a routine that works. Also create a measurable list of goals that you can achieve on a daily basis. Programs like Asana, for example, lets you create projects that you can track so as to keep you accountable for your day.
- Communication issues. A cloud-based office workspace is a ripe opportunity for miscommunication, misunderstandings, and other communication issues. As tone and mood can easily be misconstrued over text-based messaging, the opportunities to build and strengthen relationships with team members can be harder than it actually is compared to in-person interactions.
Solution: Using group messaging platforms like WhatsApp and Slack can help keep everyone engaged, but having frequent voice calls or conference calls within your team can hasten the rapport and bonding process.
- Hardware issues. Not all companies provide workers with a dedicated work computer, leading them to use their personal laptops for work. Some might not even have a spare laptop to work with, and this can cause a strain on the workers’ ability to perform their job well.
Solution: Some companies who have adopted remote work offer some form of hardware compensation plan, or a laptop loan where the company covers the initial cost of purchase and the employee pays for it over time. A certain few send verified employees physical hardware solely dedicated for work. These measures ensure that workers have the right equipment at all times.
- Internet connection issues. Remote workers are at the mercy of the internet; they’re basically rendered handicapped if their connection fails. There’s a disparity in internet plans too, as not all countries are well-equipped to handle the growing demands of a tech-centric world.
Solution: If at all possible, choose the best internet connection plan and treat it as an investment. Also have back-up plans in case your home internet connection fails. Map out the closest coffee shops, hotels, or co-working space that you can go to in the event of a blackout. Investing in a pocket Wifi gadget also helps!
- Email phishing / CFO fraud. The simplest definition of CFO fraud is that it is a type of email phishing where the scammer uses the exact same domain of your business in the hopes of extracting information or monetary value from members. It has been noted to be on the rise since 2017, and continues to be prevalent especially among new startups.
Solution: Training your team to identify, investigate, and report sketchy emails is your best remedy. Also teaching them to be proactive and careful in their email behaviors is also a must!
- Security breaches. A remote work setup opens the company up to possible security breaches, as well as the worker’s personal information and browsing history. One wrong website and you could end up with spyware, malware, and other similarly hazardous viruses! Working at coffee shops and other public spaces is especially dangerous, as verifying shared networks can get especially dicey and hackers are getting smarter. Solution: It always leads back to proper training. Spread awareness about all possible security threats your team might come across, how to identify them, and what to do in the event of a security breach.
The Realities of Remote Working
The farther we delve into a remote working world, the more we realize that its not all roses and butterflies. With the conveniences of not having to commute and being within close proximity of loved ones at all times can cause mental and physiological challenges as well.
From the company’s end, they also are bound to face certain challenges that could affect their overall performance as a business. The amount of security challenges could just as easily offset the monetary savings that they can eventually accrue with reduced maintenance costs.
As outlined above, the future isn’t all grim. According to a study conducted by Mercer, an HR and workplace benefits firm, they found that productivity in a remote workspace is “the same as or higher than it was before the pandemic, even with their employees working remotely.”
“Historically, there has been a perception in many organizations that if employees were not seen, they weren’t working — or at least not as effectively as they would in the office,” says Lauren Mason, a principal and senior consultant at Mercer.
With the clear benefits of a remote workspace including the increase in employee happiness and the 50% decrease in employee attrition, it is likely that this work model is here to stay.
As long as everybody in your company adheres to and embraces the harsh realities of remote working, everyone can continue to enjoy the benefits that come with it. Just remember to prioritize the two important tenets of remote work: security and accountability. Promoting these as foundations of your whole operation should help you and your team succeed whatever the workspace!
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