Challenges of Remote Working from Home
COVID-19 las led to an increase in working from home, but even though the pandemic gave this work option a boost, working in separate locations has increased steadily for over 20 years thanks to advanced communication tools. Remote workforces have proven to be so beneficial that businesses now rely on them for positive results, and they will stay a viable option in the future.
At the same time, off-site locations create unique hazards. Here at Haber Group, we often assist with solutions and practices to ensure productivity and profitability. Solutions often require specialized software, protections, and internal communication platforms, which we oversee daily.
This article will look at the benefits, challenges, and disadvantages of having remote workers.
The Benefits of a Remote Workforce
Due to COVID-19 and software advancements, the benefits of working from home are being recognized by employees and employers alike. Some of the most significant advantages are:
- Increases in productivity by working at your own schedule
- Improved work-life balance
- Communication tools like CMS systems, VoIP software, and Zoom and Google Meet make remote work easier.
What are the Biggest Challenges of Working Remotely?
If you are building or plan to build a remote workforce, there are challenges worth knowing. Here are some of the biggest.
Challenges Business Owners Face with Remote Workers
As recently as this year, the biggest challenges from working from home was collaboration and communication. According to the State of Remote Work 2020 (https://lp.buffer.com/state-of-remote-work-2020) 20% of participants noted these two issues as primary factors. Once leaving the office and separated from each other for the first time, communication between employees in separate locations drops.
Thankfully, there are many communication tools to keep everyone connected and in the loop, whether working at home, in a coffee shop, or on the road. There are CMS and CRM systems, video conferencing tools like Zoom or Google Meet, and group chat capabilities. You can link information together through cloud-based and VPN systems while keeping data secure – something we often do for our customers.
The more the systems are used, the better they work. Employees should feel comfortable working on them to help you make any needed improvements.
- Language and Cultural Challenges
Today’s global employment opportunities can lead to future hazards- especially if someone’s primary language isn’t English. Important information can get lost or be misconstrued. Also, understanding and scheduling around unfamiliar traditions and holidays as an employer can be tricky.
Adopting the tried-and-true practice of in-depth interviews during the hiring process helps you spot language challenges early. And when someone joins your team, it’s good to introduce his or her cultural and religious beliefs (with permission), so remote workers schedule communications accordingly.
- Maintaining Important Work Relationships While Working from Home
At an office location, everyone is nearby, including people your employees want to impress. And many friendships are formed while working with someone in an office, leading to work bonds. Going to lunches and having regular face-to-face interaction go a long way to staying top of mind with superiors and help employees let off steam with coworkers.
Working from home, to some extent, makes interactions harder. Today’s communication tools help with one-on-one communications and help keep sensitive conversations more private, but working from home doesn’t mean they must always stay remote. They can still go to lunch and have evening face-to-face meetings, and it’s a good idea.
- Staying Motivated While Working from Home
More often than not, remote workers want to remain employed and advance in their jobs. Still, they must rely on their own energy. Some employees, whether purposeful or not, may choose to sleep in favor of punching in.
You can motivate employees with regularly scheduled team meetings on VoIP technology, Zoom, real time group chats, and personal calls. Options like evening or work-time events and organizing retreats boost face-to-face interaction and improve comradery while improving company culture.
- Poor Time Management When Working from Home
As noted above, there are effective options for motivating employees like conference calls, VoIP, Zoom meetings, and group chats, but one area shines a light on how productive remote employees are. Communication tools like Asana and Monday.com and other internal CMS platforms assign jobs in real time, provide background information, and ensure jobs are done correctly and on time, while providing an accurate snapshot of performance.
We here at the Haber Group often implement custom CMS systems into cloud and VPN platforms while implementing regular backups of data, keeping all employees up-to-date, so work is completed efficiently.
Other tricks also help. Encouraging defined working hours, using time tracking via Pomodoro®-style apps, and encouraging extra-curricular activities after business hours helps improve job performance. And encourage your employees to “eat the frog” – pursue the most important tasks first. Your guidance in that area keeps them track.
- Tracking the Performance of Employees Working from Home
New organizational and communication tools such as Asana and Monday.com provide real-time job tracking, showing where things are along the chain and where jobs stall. In some ways, this framework provides a clearer and faster view of a job’s progress than traditional, inner-office communication, working as a virtual report card.
- Distractions While Working from Home
Ensuring a productive home environment goes a long way to an employee’s success, especially when working in more informal locations alongside children and limited space. Recommend YouTube videos or web articles discussing ways employees can maintain productivity at home, such as defining work hours with their families and establishing workspaces for set hours of the day.
- Burnout Due to Working from Home
Like poor time management, being away from a supervisor throws routine out the window. Working late into the evening leads to reduced performance and physical health. And with correspondence happening 24/7, employees feel more obliged than ever to respond to messages to show their commitment, reducing family focus even further.
Defined hours and time tracking will help. Encourage employees to shut down workspaces and leave automatic message replies, indicating they will be back in touch during the next workday.
- Tech Assistance for Employees Working from Home
Implementing online security is more difficult with remote workforces, and at the same time, remote data is more vulnerable. Remote workers are working in more informal locations like coffee shops, bookstores, and libraries. Without proper protections against malware, viruses, and employee theft, important data can be easily compromised.
Then there are issues with the equipment themselves. Without an IT professional on hand, the all-important computers and communications devices can break down without an easy secondary solution.
Here is where a management provider comes in. We at the Haber Group help employees install needed virus protections and VPNs and do regular cloud and internal network backups. If there are issues with company hardware or software such as VoIP technology, we can handle it remotely as a virtual CIO and also in person.
What are the Challenges and Benefits of Working on a Remote Team?
Having one or two employees working out of the office is one thing, but what about entire teams? When it comes to groups, how do you overcome work-from-home challenges? Let’s take a look.
Benefits a worker gets in terms of flexibility will boost performance, but running virtual teams outside of the office have drawbacks. A lack of interaction with coworkers can also make team-building difficult. Here’s how to handle different team situations:
Team Building Exercises
Much like in the office, you can create challenges and exercises, even small ones, that help virtual team members bond and feel a communal spirit.
People working from different locations, time zones, and even countries can mean your morning could be someone else’s evening, and others may be fully sleep during your work hours. As a result, communication can become detached, scattered, and easily misconstrued.
To combat this, conduct regular mandatory meetings at a time that works for most people. If members are missing, you can provide a recording of the meeting through multiple video chat platforms. And with electronic scheduling, you can see who won’t attend and check-in with that person later.
It also helps to maintain a running chat to all teams so they can ask questions or clarify details as they work, maintaining a record of all records.
With reduced communication, conflicts can arise. To combat this, push for all employees to use their phones, video, and messaging platforms often to maintain contact with team members to avoid misunderstandings and gain clarity on what’s happening behind the scenes. If any conflicts between members are recognized, reach out to investigate them and provide some background to each employee to ease tensions and ensure a team atmosphere remains intact. It may take some finesse for employers to keep the team positive and moving forward.
What are the Disadvantages of Remote Working?
Cohesiveness and Company Culture
We have covered the benefits and the challenges of having a remote workforce and outlined many ways to combat issues, but not all issues can be avoided. Some of the biggest are maintaining a cohesive unit and building a company culture.
That said, what employees get in terms of working from home can benefit your business, like increased productivity. If you work against the process, you could be tossing the baby out with the bathwater. The main goal should be to support the format and continuously develop effective practices as remote working increases.
Missing Necessary Equipment
One thing remote workers need to let go of is working from a house or apartment and relying on the convenience of having everything you need. Offices have printers, copiers, and other office materials such as pens and papers. In some cases, reimbursements can be approved and completed easily, but not all are possible.
What is YOUR Biggest Challenge with Working Remotely?
Every business is different. Though some business niches work in similar ways, company cultures are often different, and each business has its unique growth path. Due to this, it helps to walk, or sit, in your employees’ shoes. By working remotely, you an honest look at any challenges. What works and doesn’t work for you is often the same for your employees. Let your job be your guide.