The communal water cooler is full for the first time but untouched. Office coffee machines are collecting dust, and desks have been stripped bare. Office meetings are now Zoom meetings and pants have become optional. Covid-19 has completely changed the landscape of the modern office environment. While there are certainly many obvious advantages of remote working, both for the organisation and employee, remote working is not without its challenges.
These are 5 common remote working challenges and how you could master them.
Challenge #1: Isolation
Remote working can be a godsend for those who shudder when hearing a manager or coworker approach, hanging over their shoulder, interrupting productivity yet again. Working in the uninterrupted peace and quiet of one’s home can do wonders for both productivity and output. This is because the flexibility allows you to work to the beat of your own drum, working when and where you choose, whether that means 2 am starts for the night owls or working from a coffee shop for the caffeine-powered. While it’s totally awesome, accommodating and flexible initially, this lifestyle can quickly become lonely without the human interaction of the office hive. To combat this, it’s important that organisations are both aware and prepared. Here are some ideas to ensure employees are socially fulfilled include scheduled non-work-related virtual social activities. Ideas include:
- Friday afternoon drinks, via Zoom: where colleagues can socialise, catch up and debrief over homemade drinks.
- Twice daily 10-minute virtual ‘water cooler’ meets: where each day, staff members are randomly paired for quick social sessions. Facilitating socialisation can not only combat social isolation but can help foster a warm company culture.
Challenge #2: Procrastination
Research has shown that often, remote workers are more productive than those working in traditional offices. This productivity, however, requires self-discipline, a skill not everyone naturally possesses. Thankfully, there are numerous methods remote workers can employ and practice in order to improve their remote productivity and output. One widely used and popular productivity technique is the Pomodoro method: 25 minutes of uninterrupted focus followed by a brief break before another 25 minutes of focus, and so on. You can then earn a longer break after four 25 minute focus sessions, and so on. From an organisational perspective, there are also many tools and programs available for tracking employee.
One of these tools is Toggl. Toggl allows employees to time and log their tasks, activities and jobs which are then shared with management, creating a sense of employee accountability.
Challenge #3: Team communication challenges
The wheels can well and truly fall off any remote team project or collaborative task without appropriate and reliable online communication infrastructure. Without the convenience of simply being able to approach a colleague’s desk to clarify a task or direction, gather feedback or give it, insufficient online communication can lead to a world of miscommunication and misunderstandings. This is why organisations must establish simple to use, fast and efficient communication platforms for fluid team member exchange while working remotely. The good news is there are a number of excellent communication tools available for the remote organisation, these include:
- Slack: Slack is an online communication tool that is similar to Facebook Messenger. This app allows team members to privately message each other or communicate through designated group chats.
- Appear.in: Lets remote workers create quick, simple and easily shareable online audio and video conferences from any web browser. No software is required and no account is needed by those invited into a conference.
Challenge #4: Security risks
Working remotely allows for flexibility of work location, whether it be at home, on a train or at the local coffee shop. While flexible, connecting from just anywhere can pose significant security risks as not all connections are as secure as others. Office environments usually have some measure of cybersecurity in place to protect against malicious breaches or attacks. This level of digital security is however not typically commonplace in the average remote workers home. This is why it’s imperative that organisations set up the necessary security protocols for their business. These could include:
- Installation of antivirus software in all remote work devices.
- Installation of device tracking software.
- The use of password management software such as LastPass.
- The use of VPN’s for a secure connection.
- Installation of device tracking software.
For tasks that require a significant level of remote security, BPO or business process outsourcing can be a viable, cost-saving solution. BPO is a method of subcontracting various business-related operations, such as accounting, payment processing, IT services, and human resources, to third-party vendors who already have all the relevant and secure infrastructure readily available.