Top Remote Work Challenges And How to Overcome Them
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in many ways, including the way we work. As remote work becomes the biggest trend of 2020, many companies are planning to go fully remote. The benefits of remote work are as clear as day. Organizations get to save up on infrastructure costs and employee productivity increases by over 77 percent.
But it is only possible to reap all the benefits of remote work when you can understand the challenges of remote work and create guidelines to help overcome them.
Here are the top challenges faced by remote teams:
1. A lack of community
When you only see your team members on a weekly video call, it’s hard to create bonding and close camaraderie. While video conferencing is a good way to make up for face to face interactions, it is still not perfect.
This in turn leads to a lack of collaboration and lowered productivity. If a part of your team works from the office and the rest work remotely, then it is also common for the office employees to feel like remote workers aren’t a part of the team and the remote workers to feel like they are not treated the same way as their office counterparts.
Without the right practices and guidelines in place, it can also be difficult to ensure newly hired remote employees understand the company culture. If your employees don’t understand the company culture clearly or they perceive it differently, then you will end up with teams where each employee works in their own different way, and no matter how effective they are individually, they are not able to work together as a team.
How to overcome it
- Everyone should be familiar with the company’s culture and values so that they can make decisions that always align with the company’s long-term goals. For instance, if your company focuses more on transparency and collaboration, employees should always be encouraged to share their thoughts and reach out to others.
- Always have virtual meetings even if there is just one remote employee on the team. This will not only make the remote employees feel more involved, but it will also make sure that all the team members are always on the same page.
2. Communication barriers
When it comes to communication, there always needs to be a perfect balance. You don’t want overcommunication to the point that remote workers start feeling overwhelmed. At the same time, you don’t want there to be a lack of communication which makes the remote employees feel like they are on their own with no guidance or help from anyone else.
There are many options available for remote workers to communicate including texts, instant messaging, and video call applications. But most teams struggle with communication even after implementing the latest (and sometimes very expensive) communication tools, especially when team members are located in different time zones.
When working remotely, it is not possible to rope in team members for a ‘quick meeting’ anytime you want just because you don’t want there to be any communication barriers. You have to be considerate and conscious about the employees’ time and make sure you are only organizing remote meetings for important agendas.
How to overcome it
- Set clear asynchronous communication guidelines for the whole team. It shouldn’t be necessary for all members to be online at the same time just to discuss a topic. Team members should be allowed to chime in and share their thoughts whenever they are online, according to their local time zones.
- Eliminate email communication completely and instead create an online platform where your team can come together and talk to each other. There should also be an informal communication channel where employees can interact with each other about their day to day experiences or just share interesting articles they found on the internet.
3. Working too much
While many business leaders think remote employees may not work as efficiently as they do in the office, the ground reality is completely different. With no excessive coffee breaks or tiring morning commutes to the office, remote workers end up being 20-25 percent more productive than their colleagues in the office.
Instead, prolonged remote work can make employees more susceptible to burn out. As more and more employees were forced to go remote in 2020, employee burnout doubled from March to April, increasing from 2.7 percent to 5.4 percent. Moreover, employees that have to balance house chores and their work were 4.4 times more likely to show signs of burnout.
When your work life and personal life are both under the same roof, it can become harder to draw a line which can eventually lead to overwork and exhaustion.
How to overcome it
- Set reminders on your calendar to take regular breaks just like you put reminders for important meetings and deadlines. It can be a reminder to get groceries or just to take a small walk outside the house. You should also take small 5-10 minutes break every hour to stretch and refresh yourself before resuming work.
- Make sure you are clear with your team about your work timings. When you are shutting down work for the day, send a message to your team to let everyone know, and then actually close your laptop. You should also snooze all the work notifications and only check them the next morning when you resume your work.
- If you have the space in your house, create a separate dedicated office space and only use it for work. By creating physical boundaries between your office workspace and home, you will be able to concentrate better and also draw a clear line between home and work life.
4. Social isolation
Loneliness is one of the biggest challenges faced by remote workers, especially the ones who live alone. When there is no informal social interaction among employees, not only does it lead to communication issues, but it also leads to employees feeling isolated.
As many companies have been forced to go remote for a long period of time and people can’t step out of their houses as much as they would like due to the ongoing pandemic, the social isolation problem has further aggravated. If it isn’t addressed carefully, it can lead to burnouts and increased intention to leave among employees.
How to overcome it
- Organize virtual team building activities and encourage your team members to socialize virtually. The idea is to help your employees improve communication and coordination through non-work related conversations.
- Encourage employees to have random conversations, especially the ones who don’t communicate directly as much during office hours. You can assign a 30-minute time slot every Friday and match random team members to have a virtual drink with each other.
Remote work is the future
As the world reels to deal with the consequences of the worldwide pandemic, implementing remote work successfully has become more important than ever for organizations to stay afloat. There can be some challenges and roadblocks initially as your team goes remote for the first time. You have to choose the right remote work software to overcome those challenges and offer your team with a great employee experience where everyone feels valued and involved.