Overcoming Obstacles to Permanent Remote and Hybrid Work
Working from home has become more popular with employees - and most employers - than ever before. Employees everywhere have now experienced the freedom and flexibility of being able to work from the comfort of their own home, avoiding the daily commutes, endless barrage of in-person meetings, awkward drop-bys, and office drama. While the benefits of working from home have been stated time and time again, it’s not all sunshine and daisies. Obstacles to working from home do exist, and they can completely ruin the positive aspects of remote work arrangements if left unchecked.
The drawbacks to remote working often come down to our personal lives - it’s not always as simple as retreating to a quiet home office, booting up your laptop and working in uninterrupted bliss for eight hours. It’s easy to forget that technology doesn’t always cooperate (an understatement), children don’t always let their parents work productively, and not everybody has room for a dedicated home office. While the drawbacks of remote working do exist, with enough dedication and creativity, they can be easy to overcome so every member of your workforce can enjoy working from home.
The importance of identifying and overcoming obstacles to working from home
Working from home can be extremely beneficial for employee productivity, workplace satisfaction, and wellness. Unfortunately, remote work is not one-size fits all, and as a result many employees run into unique challenges that can be very damaging to productivity, quality of work, and overall morale. Working from home seems to be the way of the future for many industries, and so many employees may not have a choice in the matter.
Identifying these challenges and working to help employees overcome them allows each and every one of your team members to operate from the location of their choice, working as productively and efficiently as possible. Overcoming challenges helps employees work without stress or avoidable distractions, allowing them to enjoy the flexibility and improved work-life balance which so many newly remote or hybrid workers are thankful for.
Outdated and hastily implemented technology
It’s no secret that when the pandemic blindsided businesses around the world and forced so many to begin working from home, companies everywhere rushed to implement the easiest or cheapest technology solutions they could find to enable remote communication and collaboration. These solutions have long since started to reveal their weaknesses, serving as a major barrier to any successful remote work arrangement and doing far more to harm productivity than improve it.
When technology is bad, it’s really bad. That’s why it’s so important for businesses to invest in a proper WFH technology suite which features integrated tools that can be used from anywhere, by anybody, while simultaneously promoting real-time communication and collaboration. With the right tools at your disposal, there’s no telling what you’ll be able to do.
Employers should ensure that all employees have access to the same tools, receive proper training for any specialized apps or newly added solutions, and know where to turn when they face challenges or problems with workplace tools. For managers who may be worried about adoption rates for newly deployed technologies, a productivity intelligence tool like Prodoscore can be used to see what applications are being used most, which aren’t being used to their fullest extent, and which employees may require additional training on new solutions.
Lack of childcare
Working from home allows many to be closer to their loved ones, including their children. This is great, in theory, but can quickly become a major distraction for some parents, especially caregivers with young children. Kids are a lot of work, and trying to tend to their needs while also attempting to work productively, produce high quality work, and hit tight deadlines can be a very difficult dance to master.
This is why businesses who are moving permanently to remote work should consider assisting employees in finding and funding child care arrangements. Paying for or subsidizing child care for primary caregivers allows parents to work from the comfort of their home without distractions, and ensures that children are well-cared for, and that the improved work-life balance can continue to be enjoyed by employees with children at home. While childcare is not a common benefit provided by most companies, it will make your company a very attractive prospect for highly skilled people - usually women - who are either looking for another job or to reenter the workforce after staying home with children during the pandemic.
No dedicated office space
When employees suddenly found themselves working from home, many were faced with the challenge of finding a quiet, comfortable place to work that would allow them to be productive all day long. For many, this mythical room or nook is far easier to find in theory than it is in practice. Employees tried to make everything work, from setting up shop at the kitchen table or the bedroom to the basement or the living room, but each area of the house presents a number of unique distractions or barriers to work. Without a dedicated home office, it’s unlikely that many employees would be able to work productively for an extended period of time.
While employers can’t just go about building an addition on each remote employee’s home, they can still offer a viable alternative to employees without a dedicated home office space. The solution won’t be perfect for everybody, but offering your remote employees an office in a co-working space can help them overcome the difficulties of not having their own dedicated office, allowing them to work as they normally would in the office.
Many co-working spaces are a safe, comfortable, distraction-free place to settle in for the work day. This may not be the ideal option for those who wish to work from home, but can be a saving grace for those still operating from their dining room table who do not have the choice of going into an office.
Loneliness and the inability to unplug
For some, the biggest hurdle in transitioning to a remote work arrangement is simply the loneliness which inevitably comes with it. While cloud collaboration suites allow employees to easily communicate with each other, there’s something so much more satisfying about watercooler talk, catching up with coworkers during lunch breaks, and hearing all about what everybody’s been up to in their personal lives. Working from home means losing out on those experiences and being in touch with colleagues in an exclusively virtual manner, which may not be appealing to some.
Employers can help people overcome disconnection from their co-workers by offering different working arrangements to employees, including hybrid work which allows employees to operate from the office some days, if distance permits. It may also be helpful to arrange casual video hangouts involving all members of your workforce, encouraging them to catch up with one another in a more personal way without the added pressures of work or meeting agendas looming. And, employees should be encouraged to engage with each other on apps like Slack, where they can take part in casual talk, share photos and videos with each other, and have a place to blow off steam when necessary.
Another significant obstacle in working from home is the inability to unplug at the end of the day. When working from home, it can sometimes be difficult to walk away or fully disconnect - after all, you’ve been working in your home all day and now you’re expected to just be able to unwind in that very same place. This inability to unplug can lead to employees overworking themselves, feeling the need to answer emails, calls and texts outside of working hours, put in extra time on projects, and generally undermine their work-life balance without actually meaning to.
In order to help employees overcome this inability to unplug, employers are encouraged to work with teams to help them disconnect. Set working hours in Google Calendar, instruct them to turn off email notifications in their time off, and ensure that everybody is maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Propose working from a location where employees don’t normally spend recreational time so they’re not tempted to work during off hours, and monitor when they are putting in more hours than they should be.
Promotion distortion with employees that work from home
A lack of personal contact can make people feel like cogs in a machine. Worse yet, managers can start looking at them this way too. Seasoned managers know that the best way to keep employees engaged is to offer them a path to promotion and a future with the company. Maybe now is the time to map out plans for each team member with clear goals to meet so they don’t feel like working remotely is costing them their upward mobility.
Solutions like Prodoscore allow managers to see when employees are working, offering productivity data which can help identify team members at risk of burnout or becoming disengaged due to an improper work-life balance. With enough encouragement, employees will be able to properly disconnect and make the most of their time away from work.
Working from home isn’t always easy for all employees, but with a manager dedicated to employee success and enough creative problem solving, even the most complicated remote work arrangements can be turned into fruitful and stress-free ones. Employers are encouraged to take initiative to ensure that all remote employees are able to overcome their own unique obstacles, working with team members every step of the way to create a positive work environment that promotes productivity and maintains a healthy work-life balance.
Prodoscore is a unique productivity intelligence tool that offers managers an unprecedented view into how their employees spend their time working. With Prodoscore’s wealth of contextualized productivity data, you’ll be able to understand when they’re at their most productive, which apps and tools they prefer to use, when they’re at risk of burnout or disengagement, and what motivates them to work productively. To learn more about the many benefits offered by Prodoscore, get in touch with us today to arrange a free demonstration.