Remote work is not new. It has been around for years, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s on the rise. This past year, all around the globe, thousands of companies and their workers shifted to remote work. However, despite the growing popularity, remote work comes with its fair share of challenges. To survive and thrive in the remote work challenges, here’s what everyone needs to know.
6 common remote work challenges
2020 has been a tough year. Besides all the changes to social life, most professionals had to adjust to a different work reality. It’s not all bad. Remote work has several benefits, but for those who started working remotely more recently, this has been a challenge, to say the least.
Its impact goes way beyond the working environment, and it extrapolates to professionals’ personal lives. In other words, remote work has forced companies, their professionals, and their families to take a different approach to the way they work, as well as to find a new and healthy work-life balance.
But the big question to be answered is: what are the main remote work challenges to face and to overcome?
Working remotely is quite different from working on-site. Here are five challenges of widespread remote working that companies and professionals must pay attention to:
1. Social isolation and lack of motivation
Working alone it’s not easy for everyone. This is, actually, one of the main downsides of remote work, especially for those with extroverted personalities. An office environment provides some social interaction opportunities. When working remotely some might feel a lack of motivation.
2. Limited access to information
For newly remote workers this can be an unpleasant surprise, given that they need to put extra time and effort to gather information. In some cases, this might be a large obstacle to a worker based at home.
3. Hard time finding a right work-life balance
When commuting to a workplace, it’s easier to separate the work and professional life. This might be hard for people working remotely because it means that professionals never leave their workspace. So, it’s very easy for professionals to just keep working long after work hours.
Having a flexible hour schedule when working from home is positive, but it can interfere with one’s personal life. So, it’s important to keep a schedule and stick to it. How to avoid that: just set a time to close your computer and don’t open it until the next workday.
Burnout affects way too many professionals. And studies reveal that a substantial percentage of remote workers suffer from burnout. The World Health Organization (WHO) describes burnout as ‘a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed‘.
It is characterized in three dimensions ‘feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion’, ‘increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job’ and, lastly, ‘reduced professional efficacy’.
Also, according to WHO, burnout ‘refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life’.
Although it must be applied in the work context, the fact is that it has severe implications on a professional’s personal life, and it must be prevented. Therefore (and relating to the previous point), it’s important to ensure a healthy work-life balance.
5. Lower productivity working from home
Many remote workers struggle to maintain the same motivation and productivity level when working from home. This happens because they have a hard time separating their workspace and the space to relax.
6. Fixing technological problems
One of the positives of working in an office is the possibility of accessing a tech team that might help to solve some technological issues (whether if the computer crashes or the network connection fails).
When working remotely this might pose a problem for those who are not used to do it by themselves or if the companies’ policy and procedures are yet to be set in place. If this is the case, it’s important to make sure you’re familiar with these kinds of questions.
The challenges of working remotely for employers and leaders
Let’s face it. Working remotely has been a challenge also for companies and team leaders. When handling remote teams, team leaders often experience some hard time on:
- Managing projects
- Ensuring remote collaboration among their team members
- Tracking their team members tasks and productivity
- Building and maintaining trust
How to overcome the challenges of managing remote employees
To overcome these challenges, team leaders (and companies) need to take the matter into hands. The solution might be quite easy and simple. According to Harvard Business Review, this can be achieved with some actions to ease the transition to remote work, such as:
1. Establish structured daily check-ins
Meaning: get to do daily (or at last frequent) calls with their employees (whether it is a one-to-one call or a group call). This improves the communication among team members but also ensures that your team members know that they can reach their team leader easily.
2. Offer different communication tools
In the videoconferencing era (with all the Zoom, Skype, Slack and MS Teams, etc.) team leaders are allowed (and must) to benefit from these technologies to maintain visual contact with their team members. Videoconferencing has many advantages, but, keep in mind: don’t overuse it.
3. Establish rules of engagement
That is to say: team leaders need to make sure they have defined criteria for employees on how and when can they reach them. If video calls are for daily check-in meetings, use Instant Messaging for more urgent issues, for instance. The important is to ensure information sharing as needed.
4. Promote social interaction among team members
In other words: team leaders don’t have to stick to work-related topics. One of the harsh challenges of remote working is loneliness and social distancing, so team leaders can create a few moments (here and there) to just have a basic social interaction and get to chat a bit with each other.
Remote work biggest challenge: it’s here, and it’s staying
It’s plain as it seems: more than a trend, remote work is here to stay. Many do believe so. Also, for many full-time remote working will be a reality into and beyond 2021, even in a post-pandemic scenario.
Truth is that remote working has also several benefits both for companies (which can reduce some costs) and for professionals (who, for instance, won’t spend hours commuting between their homes and their offices).
So the best thing to do is to learn and adjust working methods while we can to reach that golden state of mind that allows all the involved parts to get the best of it.