In the last decade, remote work has drastically increased in popularity as it presents a better work-life balance for many employees worldwide. There are undeniable benefits to working from home such as comfort, flexibility, and mobility; however, the reliance on remote work in the past year has also highlighted some significant challenges for employees and companies alike.
While in the past, working from home was reserved for those best fit to that lifestyle, today it has become the last resort to keep a company running. As a result, all workers regardless of their preferences, were forced to adapt to remote work, facing numerous obstacles along the way.
The transition to work from home was more than a change in scenery, it completely transformed how people engage with each other, their work and surroundings. It is essential that companies identify the challenges their employees face with remote work and develop strategies to overcome them.
Current Remote Work Atmosphere
In a perfect world, individuals work their 9-5 jobs throughout the week, return home to their families, unplug and do it all over again the next day. As many of us have come to understand, this routine is far from reality as even when the office closes; the emails, phone calls and text messages continue into the night.
Anna Cox, professor of human-computer interaction at UCL describes work-life balance as ”feeling in control of how you balance the various demands of all aspects of life”, she believes that “just because we can be connected to work all the time, doesn’t mean we should be”.
Remote work has diminished the barrier between personal and professional in every aspect: wearing a button-down with sweatpants, Zoom calls in the dining room, and the long commute from the kitchen to bedroom after work is over. As long as work from home continues, it is vital to establish clear policies that encourage employees to take breaks. This not only protects the wellbeing of workers, but will also lead to long-term stimulation of productivity levels.
In addition to a disruption in work-life balance, company culture worldwide has seen significant shifts. Organizations that once relied on a tight-knit community and frequent company gatherings had to refocus their priorities and salvage a unified culture. In order to keep employees engaged with their work and colleagues, companies must reconfigure an organizational culture that can thrive in any setting. This doesn’t need to happen on a large scale - even implementing social events such as happy hours that can occur in-person or remotely can go a long way.
Challenges of Remote Work
Managing Your Time
When an individual is working from the comfort of their own home with little to no external pressure around them, it is extremely difficult to stay driven to complete tasks in a timely manner. The open-concept layout of many modern offices keeps employees on task as there is the constant lingering fear of a boss seeing them slack off. Typical workplace distractions were replaced with more pressing distractions around the home, making time management increasingly difficult. In order to ensure that employees are spending their time wisely, employers should set clear deadlines and expectations. A project should be assigned in bite-size achievables so employees are more incentivized to complete them in a sequence. This will allow for frequent feedback while simultaneously staying productive for greater bursts of time. Additionally, staying connected with remote devices such as laptops, smartphones, and secure internet connections is crucial for maintaining efficient communication and workflow in remote work settings. Employers should also provide support for troubleshooting and technical issues to minimize disruptions in remote work environments.
Maintaining a Work-Life Balance
As discussed above, work-life balance no longer takes on the same form we are used to. The clear divide that once existed between one’s personal and professional spheres is slowly disintegrating and employees are feeling the stress that comes with this reality. It is idealistic to think that companies can return to the balance that once existed, but it is definitely possible to recreate this in a new way. Companies should respect their employees personal time and refrain from reaching out with non-essential questions or tasks after working hours. If employees feel that their time is respected, they will reciprocate this with staying productive while working.
As companies moved entirely to remote work, employees worldwide had difficulty staying engaged with their tasks. A Harvard Business Review survey concluded that working from home was less motivating for employees, especially when there was no choice in where they could work. In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, the emotional and economic pressure workers were facing significantly reduced their performance and motivation, and this trickled to lowering the standard of motivation even after the pandemic. If businesses want to improve their employee motivation, they must make their work engaging. For example, employers could give their workers the opportunity to collaborate creatively and have ownership over their projects. Organizations should not be afraid to experiment with new business models that could motivate workers in a new way, flexibility is key.
There are countless distractions that could break an individual’s focus; a text message notification, a siren outside, or a conversation in the distance all have the potential to disrupt an entire day. While it is challenging to completely eliminate these distractions, it is certainly possible to develop ways to overcome them and regain focus. Employees should take frequent breaks if they feel themselves losing focus, taking time to recharge allows for prolonged bursts of productivity. Combining movement and changing scenery will give the mind more attention and readiness to get back to work.
Communication With Colleagues
A key challenge seen in remote work was the change in how colleagues are able to communicate with each other. The ability to walk down the hall and ask a question was no longer a possibility - adding pressure and stress to the simple task of talking with coworkers. Sentiments of isolation and loneliness grew exponentially throughout organizations, disrupting company culture and communication flows.
How to Overcome the Communication Challenges of Remote Work
There are many ways technology can be used to overcome these challenges. Companies need to prioritize improving upon communication channels within the company in order to yield positive results across all boards, which can be done using platforms such as myQuest Connect.
myQuest Connect is a technology created by myQuest that connects employees with experienced colleagues to solve work and training- related challenges. myQuest Connect eliminates the pressure of asking for help as it is an accessible platform that stimulates a supportive community. This technology takes into account the challenges discussed above, and provides a method for employers to circumvent these obstacles in an efficient manner. At its core, myQuest Connect focuses on frequent communication and feedback that yields greater focus, motivation and balance for employees and employers alike. And all it takes is just 3 simple steps…
- Submit a Question
When any challenge or issue arises, all an employee needs to do is anonymously submit their needs to the myQuest Connect app and begin the conversation. This effective way of seeking help is also extremely time efficient as once the question is submitted, the employee can continue working as they wait to get connected.
- Get Connected
Then, myQuest Connect’s AI algorithm will identify the best person within the company to help the employee with their issue. The algorithm will automatically connect the two employees via Microsoft Teams to communicate about the issue. If the colleague feels they are not best to help in a particular situation, myQuest Connect is also able to reconnect the employee with a different colleague. The way myQuest Connect brings together peers allows for personal growth for each individual by the exchange of knowledge and practice.
- Give Feedback
Feedback is an integral part of this platform as managers receive reports and analytics about the types of issues employees are facing and the key employees that have guided them through those challenges.
The Positive Impact
There is no denying the transition to remote work resulted in significant hardships for many employees. However, as it becomes evident that working from home is the new norm, it is essential that businesses find long-term solutions for common challenges employees are facing. While there is no singular approach that will work for every business, there are ample opportunities for employers to experiment with different platforms and perhaps find a model that surpasses traditional workflow.