Switching over to remote work isn’t always as easy as sending an employee home with a laptop. There are challenges that come with that shift. Working remotely requires discipline. An employee that’s newly working from home should be prepared.
In a study by Buffer, 99% of respondents said they would appreciate working remotely. The study notes that not all respondents would want to work remotely all of the time, however. Limiting the time spent on commute is obviously welcomed. Nevertheless, remote workers still appreciate spending face-to-face time with their colleagues.
Another study by the Harvard Business Review came to a similar conclusion. Not everything that shines is gold. Working independently comes with its own set of concerns. As with anything, it’s important to analyze and assess “the bad” with “the good.”
More independence comes with added responsibilities. It’s easy to create a routine around the typical 9-5 workday. Clock-in in the morning, then leave in the early evening. Grab some dinner, throw on some Netflix, and unwind. What happens when that clear schedule isn’t as clear anymore, though?
Unplugging after work is one of the greatest challenges remote workers face. The freedom to choose a preferred working schedule can be overwhelming for some. If not handled well, it can end up meaning working around the clock. How do you establish the end of a work day?
In many cases, remote employees tend to work throughout the day. Then, household chores and errands have a way of blending into their workday. This can eventually lead to a feeling of being overworked.
The solution depends entirely on the employee. Clear lines must be drawn. The individual must establish clear working hours for themselves and stick to them. This leads to numerous positive outcomes, including greater productivity.
For example, an employee can choose to work from 9-12 and then from 2-5, much like they would in an office setting. Thus, preparing a mental state for work and avoiding any distractions.
Similarly, they can choose to create time blocks whereby they work for 2-3 hours at a time. Thus, allowing breaks in-between to attend to personal matters. Consistency is key. A set working schedule or rhythm will render greater results and ameliorate the risk of ‘burnout.’
As mentioned earlier, employees appreciate having face-to-face time with colleagues and supervisors. Human beings are social in nature. When that social aspect is removed, we tend to feel a sense of loneliness. Worse still, these feelings can evolve to a sense of being shunned or left out by other workmates.
Remote employees claim they feel their colleagues speak poorly of them in the office. They also feel changes to projects are made without their input. All of this adds to their sense of being excluded. Though these may not always be true, thoughts tend to arise and instill a sense of distrust or unease.
Video and voice conferences can’t provide the same reassurance that personal meetings do. Technology may be a powerful tool but it also detaches certain aspects of basic human interactions. Facial and physical expressions are more difficult to discern through a camera.
For this very reason, many remote employees would appreciate at least a few days in the office. Not only for maintaining trust and unity with the team, but also to build a sense of camaraderie. It is arguably harder to build connections with teammates you’ve never met in real life.
A potential solution for this could be a partial move to remote work. This way employees spend some of their time in the office while also receiving the added benefits of remote work.
Another challenge remote workers face is a lack of communication. Collaborating with colleagues that are spread around the world isn’t easy. Without a clear set of guidelines and ample communication, important details can be lost.
Modern technology has undoubtedly brought us closer together. A few decades ago, communicating with colleagues around the world was a tedious task. Even with phones, individual calls could take hours, days, or even weeks to consolidate opinions.
Now, we have platforms that allow hundreds and even thousands of people to sit in on an online seminar. People from all corners of the world can log-in to a meeting and share their opinions with their team. Yet, no system is perfect.
In an office setting, impromptu meetings and desk-to-desk conversations are a staple. Online, these can be a little more difficult. Communication through calls and emails tend to slow down processes. This is why it’s crucial for team leaders and project managers to keep their teams informed.
Objectives, resources, and updates must become a daily part of the team’s procedures. Remote workers often feel they are excluded from key conversations and don’t receive updates until after everyone else. Unfortunately, there is no easy solution to this issue. Solving this requires time and effort.
On a more personal level, remote workers have to find a way to manage daily distractions. Admittedly, offices have distractions of their own like phones ringing and frequent conversations. None of these distractions really compare to those we find in the home, however.
Friends and family calls and check-ins; household chores; daily errands; taking care of children and school events; and a myriad of other distractions can quickly take their toll. Without a clear set of rules for maintaining a proper work-life balance, work might not get done at all!
Here is another area where it’s imperative that the employee find a way to set boundaries. Like creating a schedule for work, communicating this schedule to family and avoiding distractions is essential.
Balancing responsibilities depends on discipline. What plenty of remote workers find is that once they’ve created “rules” for themselves and abide by them, they are wildly more efficient.
Time blocks for work and attending to personal matters can make a day seem like a week. Most people underestimate how much they can actually accomplish in a day. This is as simple as shifting a mindset from “how can I be expected to do all of this?” to “how will I create a system to handle all of these things?”
A major benefit of onboarding remote employees is that you can tap into a global workforce. You’re no longer limited by your locality. Whether a person is in the US, South Africa, Russia, or France, they can work for a company remotely.
Nonetheless, updating employees in different time zones can be a bit challenging. How do you manage a team conference call? You can’t realistically expect someone to log-in to the call at their 3 AM. A sensible time has to be put in place for everyone.
This may fall under the “easier said than done” category. Yet, a known benefit of remote work is that each person can choose their preference of working hours. Morning birds and night owls no longer have to fight for “who’s right.”
When each person can choose their working schedule, a company can operate on a basis of task completion and goal achievement. Rather than focus on working hours, focus on communication because it’s the communication that is critical. Once a task is done, everyone should be updated. This way the team can more accurately measure their progress.
Time zones can be tricky for meetings, but not impossible. Especially when meetings can be limited to a few per month, since every member is “micro-communicating” daily. This system works so long as micro-communications are maintained on all channels. A proper procedure set in place also makes this much easier for supervisors to coordinate.
Another more intrinsic challenge for remote employees is staying motivated. Albeit, this can be an issue for anyone. Remote or not, employees have a number of reasons for why they might feel unmotivated.
Feeling overworked; feeling underpaid; lacking a long-term vision; feeling left out; or even an issue with lifestyle can be the culprits. Though motivation has to come from within, companies can employ a number of tactics to build team morale.
Support from supervisors can play a big role in increasing motivation. They can encourage employees to find their own self-direction, listening to their interests and preferences. These can then help align organizational needs with work employees find personally meaningful.
At times employers should loosen their grip on employees, minimizing corporate politics. A heavy-handed approach might make employees do what you want but leave them feeling powerless. It’s vital to promote independence and free thinking. This also promotes a sense of community and allows employees to speak their mind without fear of being reprimanded.
A final suggestion that has proven effective is rewarding employees for their outstanding achievements. Pay raises, bonuses, stock options, or even public recognition can make a world of difference.
“Remote” implies the freedom of being able to work from anywhere. For that reason, most remote work employees can potentially vacation year-round. They must, of course, provide the company with results by completing their tasks. But once their objectives are met, the rest of their time is their own!
This may result in some employees feeling a sense of guilt for taking time off. It’s hard for some to justify not working at all when they already have a very flexible working schedule. In fact, most remote workers, when asked, say they only take 2-3 weeks of vacation each year.
Though only 7% of workers surveyed mentioned vacation time as a concern, it’s something employers can address. Companies can promote vacation time as a way to decompress and take some much needed “me time.” Promoting these breaks could be as simple as providing a clear description of the company’s vacation policy and encouraging taking wellness days.
As mentioned previously, great communication is paramount for a remote workforce. Having poor access to wifi can create a dent in that communication strategy. This isn’t a huge issue for most workers, as the majority of remote employees tend to work from home. However, it’s still an issue that arises.
This is mostly an issue with remote workers that choose to travel while working. As they might be traveling through remote areas like beaches or countrysides, connectivity may not always be available.
Solutions to this are mostly case-by-case. Each person has to find a way to maintain a clear and stable connection with their team. Especially if an emergency arises that requires their immediate attention.
A hot-spot from a phone with good 4G reception or a reliable coffeeshop can usually do the trick. For anything else, it’s important for the individual to plan in advance and prepare some creative solutions.
When all is said and done, working remotely is a wonderful opportunity. Each person can prepare their schedule and objectives. Then, they can use the rest of their time to take care of personal matters, spend quality time with their family, or work on their own projects.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution but fortunately there are countless resources online to help. With more and more people moving towards some form of remote work, these problems will continue to arise. It’s important to step back and analyze the situation in order to find a reasonable resolution.
Most importantly for newly remote workers is to remember that this isn’t an easy transition. The issues faced are the same that others all over the world face. Keeping good communication with supervisors and colleagues about any issues can also create a positive environment for feedback and recommendations.
Any issues or concerns that aren’t addressed can’t be solved. You’ll be pleased to find, however, that with the right mindset and a little help from your peers, most of them can be. Just remember you are not alone. So, take a deep breath and find what works best for you.
If you liked this topic and would like to learn more about the Pros and Cons of Working Remotely, you can check out our article.