Overcoming Technology Pitfalls in Remote Work Environments
Ready Player One fans and Gen-Xers will remember the old-school game, Pitfall. You’re wandering along, doing quests, having fun and then all of a sudden - you’re falling into a pit. Working remotely can sometimes feel this way when we run into obstacles from technology.
While technology makes it possible to work remotely, it comes with its own set of headaches. There are multiple layers of security for staff to navigate every day. Managers may rely on technology too much for managerial duties, forgetting the human element. And it may isolate employees who are not comfortable with all of the apps, widgets, and context switching that the new world of remote work has made a reality.
Let’s make one thing clear: absolutely none of these issues are an argument for a return to the standard five-day-a-week in-person workplace. In terms of affordability for employers, and productivity for workers, working at home has proven to be far superior to in-office work across multiple industries and sectors. But overcoming the challenges which remote work technology presents is necessary to keep this trend moving in an upwards direction.
Balancing security with productivity
Cybersecurity is not just a concern for certain industries anymore. Every single American business has to protect company data to prevent being hacked, ransomed, or many other potential outcomes that have sadly been a reality for too many companies in the past few years. However, there can be costs to productivity in the form of siloed data, reduced access to essential files, and the constant login battle with various tools.
The little-whispered truth is that many brute-force security tactics were introduced during the pandemic to protect the company, without a thought being given to how they would affect worker productivity - especially where other solutions would offer the same protection with a little more work.
Here are just a few of the pain points your employees are handling too often:
2. Dealing with external vendors through substandard tools
While it may seem like a good security decision to share files with third parties through services like Dropbox, your employees are missing out on the real-time collaboration aspects of using an internal Teams installation or Google Drive. There are ways to make sharing with collaborators secure without having to turn to another tool entirely.
3. Multifactor (MFA) Authentication for everything
Single Sign-On (SSO) can work for nearly every tool across your organization in a secure manner. That way, your employees won’t need to go through the MFA login shuffle every time they want to use a tool - they’ll just have to do it once with either their Microsoft or Google IDs, and then use those IDs to login to other tools.
Chances are good your staff have gripes with some of the security measures they are following. In cases where it is impossible to streamline things (such as MFA for logging on to Google or Microsoft products), it’s an opportunity to educate them on why it is important so they feel like they’re taking part in a team effort to protect the company rather than being inconvenienced. However, they may have valid points about using third-party tools instead of internal ones or random logouts that could easily be rectified by your security team to make everyone’s jobs a bit easier.
Rise of the machine shadow - keeping the human element in play
There is a glut of information telling us how we can retain the human element and proper relationships in a remote work environment. But what we’re examining now is how technology, specifically, is getting in the way of this. Realistically, it isn’t the technology itself, but the human behavior around the tech that is causing the problem.
People who wouldn’t speak up in meetings in a conference room are much less likely to speak up in a Zoom or Teams meeting. Managers may rely too much on ticking boxes on spreadsheets to make personnel decisions rather than talking to people, especially when there are issues with performance. Technology casts a long shadow that people can hide behind, and management’s job is to shine a light and keep people engaged in a real and relatable way.
The first step to this is for managers to examine their own “hiding in shadows” habits. Are they placing far too much emphasis on tools that tell them progress of projects, checklists of deliverables, and calendars - and not enough emphasis on conversations they’re having with their team? Sure, these tools can keep managers from interrupting important work, but a check-in session with staff at least once a week can help you be a better manager by making yourself more accessible if your employees have issues or even just want to talk.
Once managers have checked themselves for the symptoms of hiding behind tech, they need to roll that process out to everyone else. Regular team check-in meetings to relate to each other and to hold each other accountable for deliverables should definitely be on the menu, as should regular water-cooler chats that allow employees to socialize.
Keeping it inclusive: App overload and the not-so-subtle rise of ageism
It’s worth taking stock of just how many solutions you’ve loaded your workers up on during the pandemic. If you have proper guardrails in place, you have protection from overzealous early adopters who want to fire every app that they find helpful into the workforce. If you do not, you probably have a gauntlet of apps that very few people can make sense of clogging up your tech stack.
Clearing these cobwebs can go a long way towards improving employee morale and keeping everyone in their lanes. App overload can also add to the productivity obstacle of context switching, which isn’t just a problem for those with ADD or similar conditions - it’s an issue for everyone.
Reliance on technology for remote work has also given rise to a not-so-subtle amount of ageism in the workplace. This particular pitfall of technology could have real consequences for businesses that want to retain top talent. Workers of all ages are reporting incidents of ageism; Gen-Z and younger millennials feel pressure to return to work in-office to have their efforts recognized, where an older and more experienced worker may not feel this pressure. Older workers are regarded as technologically incompetent - even if they are not - and are being passed over for hiring and promotion.
The solution to ageism, on both sides, is proper training and a program of professional development. If younger workers are given a clear path to promotion which involves upgrading their skills, they won’t feel as much pressure to sit at a desk in clear view of a manager to prove their worth. If older workers are given one-on-one training in technology solutions, they will have an opportunity to shine and will be able to effectively use new tools and train others on them.
Technology has transformed the way we work, and overall is a positive force for change in the workplace. As with everything, it just needs a bit of tweaking to remove the pitfalls for everyone.
Prodoscore is productivity intelligence software that gives your employees a score to show managers - and them - just how productive they are. Contact us today to arrange a demo.