Last Updated on January 20, 2024
The floodgates are open, and remote work in one form or another erodes conventions that have existed since the dawn of the post-industrial workplace. Many of the changes are positive, like improvements to work-life balance, no more commutes, or the mental health benefits of not having to endure toxic coworkers.
Not everything is rosy, though. Remote workers face new challenges that require us to rethink our relationships, habits, and behaviors. This article delves into a handful of the most poignant challenges and offers practical solutions for tackling them.
Productivity & Burnout
Let’s start with middle management’s primary concern – a possible lack of productivity. The fear is that a lack of the office environment and distractions specific to the home will negatively impact employee output. There is some truth to this, especially when talking about newly remote workers who haven’t mastered time management and setting boundaries yet.
However, studies repeatedly show that remote employees are more satisfied with their working arrangements and more productive as a result. The lack of a conventional work environment drives some people to push themselves harder. No watercooler chitchat or mandated lunch breaks means one can get lost in their work for hours. Setting boundaries and stepping away is also harder if you get that dreaded 8 p.m. email.
Maintaining a work-life balance is crucial to maintain such an arrangement. Workers need to take their responsibilities seriously yet devote some time each day and week to relaxation, self-care, and obligations unrelated to their jobs.
The 9-5 grind might have drawbacks, but it fosters punctuation. Inexperienced remote workers might be overwhelmed with the change of pace at first. They may underestimate the time it takes to complete a task or not account for other team members’ needs. Plus, there’s always the chance that a child, pet, or neighbor will put a wrench in their plans and cause them to fall behind.
Planning and time management skills are the cure. Using calendar apps to broadly lay your workdays out and create a schedule to stick to is a solid start. Time trackers are also a good idea. They’ll let you see a rundown of all the tasks you accomplished and even point out inefficiencies to help you focus on the most impactful parts of your job.
Heightened cybersecurity risk is among the most legitimate criticisms of the WFH shift. Expecting everyone to be up to speed on the latest cyber threats is unrealistic. Moreover, there’s a greater chance to neglect cybersecurity best practices and fall victim to phishing, scams, and other attacks.
Data privacy and integrity are top priorities inadequate remote conditions can jeopardize. It takes a single careless employee to access company resources from a library’s public Wi-Fi for cybercriminals to eavesdrop on their connection and steal invaluable information about a business or its clientele.
Companies have to be proactive and secure access on their end. A centralized network security approach can’t cover all the bases anymore since employees connect from different locations and even time zones. Turning to specialized solutions like virtual private networks has proven most effective.
VPNs protect employees’ connections with your central network regardless of the devices they use and their locations. Each connection receives an additional encrypted layer, rendering any attempts at eavesdropping or deciphering confidential data useless. VPN providers have global server coverage, ensuring anonymity as well as secure file access or transfers. They also work on different operating systems, so, for example, you can get a VPN for Windows, iOS, and Android.
Social Isolation & Lack of Coordination
Not all remote employees have friends & family to rely on for their daily dose of socializing. Taking the face-to-face interactions that arise naturally from sharing a workspace may lead to feelings of isolation, not to mention bringing about or exacerbating the symptoms of mental illness.
Even well-adjusted remote workers may suffer professionally due to communication issues their situation brings. Messages exchanged through Slack aren’t a substitute for a team huddle, especially if they leave things open to interpretation.
It’s up to management and employees alike to keep communication lines open and available. A five-minute Zoom call will get everyone up to speed faster and more effectively than a series of emails or messages.
Moreover, coworkers should try to keep in touch less formally by extending their communication beyond project-related matters or by organizing the occasional get-together. Most jobs won’t mind if you spend more time at the office than a remote position mandates, so take advantage of the opportunity and spend time with coworkers whenever the urge hits you.
Despite being a net positive for companies and employees alike, remote work comes with unique challenges individuals need to master. We hope you’ll take some of our practical tips to heart and excel at your remote position!