Remote Work: The Challenges for Employees and Businesses and How to Solve Them
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In response to the 2020 coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, many businesses have switched their employees to remote work. As businesses begin to realize the benefits of employees working remotely, many companies are choosing to keep telecommuting as a permanent option for their employees.
While remote work keeps everyone healthy by physically distancing from coworkers, many companies and employees do face challenges. Below are the ten challenges of remote work, five of which are experienced by employees and five by businesses and how to overcome them.
Five Challenges of Remote Work for Employees
The daily commute to and from work provides a natural separation of work activity. When you enter the office, you start working. When you leave the office, you stop working. When the office and personal life are under the same roof, many employees find it difficult to determine when to start and when to stop. The lack of separation leads to working longer hours and may result in burnout for the employee.
Set up a daily routine to end your workday. Physically leaving your workspace to go for an activity such as a walk or a visit to the grocery store provides the mental separation you need to break away from work.
Create daily work goals and switch off when the goals are complete. By setting up achievable milestones every day and hitting those targets, it sets your mind at ease knowing you achieved your productivity goals for the day. If you don’t set up reasonable or achievable goals daily, you may never feel like you have completed enough work and it is more difficult to stop working.
Set daily calendar reminders to take breaks. It’s important for your mental wellbeing to take breaks throughout the day. There may be a reminder app on your cell phone or you may program a daily reminder in your email calendar to take a short break. Watches like Fitbit or Apple also offer break reminders.
Interruptions may approach you in many forms from a delivery person that needs your signature for a package, children or pets needing attention, or people such as family and friends that stop by unannounced when you are working remotely.
There are some unavoidable distractions and emergencies do occur occasionally. If a family member or a friend is injured and they need immediate medical attention, it is acceptable to prioritize their needs.
Be sure to share your work hours with friends and family. Let them know that you are committed to a strict schedule.
Set aside a dedicated workspace. A separate room dedicated for work and nothing else is ideal. If this cannot be accomplished, then a tidy area with minimal distractions will be fine as well. A separate workspace allows you to focus and removes any distractions from the task at hand. When the workday is complete, you may leave this dedicated space.
Children are a little more complex. Do ensure they understand that they can approach you in an emergency. For younger children, childcare may be a necessity. For older children, you will need to teach them to be self-sufficient and to be able to keep themselves occupied.
3. Emotional Challenges
Loneliness is a common emotional challenge to remote work. The office environment provides a natural social community. For many people who do not have family members that live with them, it’s the only social circle they have. When they begin working remotely, they lose the spontaneous break room chats, co-worker lunches and after-work drinks. The lack of human interaction may lead to feelings of isolation.
Schedule social work breaks during the day. Using a third-party conferencing tool such as Skype, Zoom or Facetime, you can setup co-worker team meetup moments to discuss or engage in non-work-related activities. Activities may include:
- A walk around your neighborhood. You and your co-workers may take a short walk during this break and walk around your respective neighborhoods to enjoy the fresh air outside.
- A book discussion with co-workers about the latest books they have read.
- Create a quiz on a topic or a book the group has recently read and play a game to see who can correctly answer the most questions.
For more activities, you can be creative and come up with several other ideas.
4. Health Habits
Office work is already quite sedentary. When you move office work into a home office, it’s easy to slip into poor health habits. Breaking for snacks, food intake increases and exercise may be neglected because it’s easier to stay indoors. Some individuals have the opposite problem where they forget to eat during the workday altogether.
Set up a calendar reminder. You may use a calendar reminder to eat lunch if necessary and to go outside for physical activity. You must be intentional about incorporating physical activity into your routine.
Minimize over-snacking. You must exercise self-discipline and be mindful of your habits. Try to purchase healthier snacks around your home.
5. Maximizing Productivity
Working remotely provides you with a higher level of discretion. The absence of a manager by your side bestows the responsibility of which project to prioritize as well as how to avoid distractions. The challenge is, how do you prioritize your work to maximize your productivity?
Tackle your most important project first at the beginning of the day. If you complete your most important project for the day upfront, the issues you confront for the remainder of the day will not appear as daunting.
Set a finite number of tasks you plan to complete for the day. When you are assigned a project at work that will take more than one day to complete, break it down into smaller tasks. Determine which tasks are the most important and how many you can complete for the day. From here, you can focus on the most important tasks and avoid wasting time on tasks that aren’t important.
Remove distractions from your workspace. This may be easier said than done, however, maintaining focus on the task at hand will maximize your productivity.
Top Five Challenges of Remote Work for Businesses
1. Managing Your Remote Team
For many companies, a large portion of their team could be working remotely. This produces a unique challenge for managers as they try to figure out how to improve the performance of their remote teams and monitor their activities.
Call Recording Software provides employers with the ability to monitor calls. Using a third-party call recording software platform such as Versadial provides businesses with the ability to listen to recorded interactions between their customer service team or sales team and their clients. Managers can then coach employees to improve their performance.
Screen Capture provides managers with the ability to monitor computer usage. Versadial also provides a screen capture software program to allow businesses to monitor the activity on an employee’s computer screen. The program can take single images of the screen or record screen activity like a video. Triggers can be set up to launch the program or the program may be activated manually. The program runs hidden in the background of the computer.
2. Building Trust
In an office environment, employees see each other working at their desks. Being able to see each other working naturally builds trust among co-workers. When the environment shifts to remote work, employees can no longer see each other physically. This may cause a subconscious effect on trust to materialize.
Be reliable and responsive. Trust is earned when co-workers complete their projects on time and they are responsive when you need them.
Be Transparent. When you promote transparency and everyone on your team understands their duties, it builds trust and prevents unexpected delays.
Lead by example. Demonstrate to your co-workers that you are a trustworthy person and you are willing to trust them. Trust requires a leap of faith. This means you need to give your coworkers the opportunity to prove their trust in you. This also means you must prove your trust in them.
One of the most difficult challenges in remote work is collaboration. How does a team work on the same project when they are all in different locations? Fortunately, there exists a variety of collaboration tools to help your team succeed.
Zoom has established itself as the go-to program for video conferencing. The platform allows attendees to share their screen and record the meeting to be viewed at a later time. You may host a meeting with multiple attendees.
Google Drive provides document collaboration for word processing, spreadsheets, slide presentations and more. You may control access to various members of your team.
Slack is an excellent tool for remote teams. It features instant messaging, file sharing, group chat, availability statuses and notifications in a user-friendly interface.
4. Learning and Mentorship
Working in an office naturally facilitates ease in communications with coworkers. When a coworker is having trouble understanding something or if they are blocked, a quick conversation may resolve the issue and help everyone learn something new. Switching to remote work environments adds distance barriers.
Video conferencing technology provides the participants with face-to-face interaction. This is advantageous to teams that work together because it provides the participants with a platform to communicate and watch team members’ visual cues in addition to verbal communication.
An instant messaging program such as Slack provides participants with the opportunity to have a quick and spontaneous conversation. These programs may be installed on your mobile device for easier and informal conversations.
5. Working from Different Locations and Timezones
Coordinating communication between co-workers located in different timezones can lead to team members becoming out of sync with a project.
Require some overlapping hours for all employees working on the same project. It is quite effective to ensure at least a couple hours per day that all team members are available at the same time to allow everyone working on the same project to sync and get their questions answered.
Consistent work hours for all employees working on the same project is key. When all team members on the same project have a regular schedule, it allows other members to know when the other person will be available.
Employees working remotely do have its drawbacks, however; the benefits of remote work far outweigh working in a traditional office setting. Now that we have identified the drawbacks, businesses and employees can be prepared to tackle these issues with the solutions provided above.