As the COVID-19 virus continues to spread throughout the globe and affects people of all ages, professions, and walks of life, many countries are now trying to flatten the curve by enforcing social distancing and isolation.
As part of the social distancing measures, authorities around the world are asking hundreds of millions of employees to work from home. Of course, for some employees working from home is not a possibility, whilst for those that can, it may present its own set of challenges. In this article, we will cover some of the associated difficulties of working remotely as well as tips to overcome them.
In this article you will learn:
- Remote work and its challenges
- 6 tips to help the transition to remote work
Remote Work and its Challenges
Remote work can have many benefits for employees. For instance, the time saved on the commute can be spent with family or on personal activities such as sports or hobbies. However, not working in an office, can also create challenges for workers and employers alike, below are a few common examples:
Dealing with new work patterns
In traditional work environments, there is a clear boundary between when employees are at work and when they are not. When work is done from home, this physical boundary of being “in the office” is no longer there. This may cause scheduling misalignments between workers, with some employees choosing to work at different times than they would in their usual working day. Additionally, with no need to physically leave the office some employees may also find it difficult to “switch off” at the end of the day.
For remote work options to be effective, workers need to be self-motivated and employ time management skills. For many people, it is difficult to remain productive without structure and some degree of oversight. However, building oversight and accountability into remote work isn’t always easy.
Remote work does not usually allow the face-to-face communication that is available in shared workspaces, particularly, during the current crisis where social interactions may not be possible in any physical capacity. Instead, written communications are relied on. However, employees may find these more difficult to clarify than spoken ones, possibly leading to misinterpretation and, misunderstandings. Additionally, the effort required to communicate remotely may discourage employees from collaborating or asking for clarification.
Although distractions such as conversations with co-workers are no longer such an issue with remote work, other interruptions can affect remote work productivity. This is particularly true when employees work from home as family members may not realize or respect when someone is working. The current crisis means that many children are not at school and for many workers, this is likely to be particularly distracting.
Loneliness and isolation
For many employees, workplaces are a source of social interaction. Colleagues become friends and group lunch breaks encourage team bonding. When employees work remotely, they do not benefit from these interactions and can feel isolated from team members. In the current situation, this loneliness is likely to be heightened with many countries barring social interactions with those who do not live together.
5 Tips to Help the Transition to Remote Work
If the coronavirus crisis has meant that you now need to work from home instead of the office, the below tips may help with the adjustment:
1. Create to-do lists
When you start your workday, create a list of the tasks that you need to accomplish. If you have tasks left over from previous days, make sure to add these in. Seeing your tasks in a list form can help you prioritize work and provide a clear sense of accomplishment as tasks are marked off.
2. Organize your space
Remote work enables you to completely customize your workspace and you should take advantage of this. Create a space that promotes productivity and comfort. Ideally, this space should be dedicated to working. This is especially important when you work from home as it can help create clear work-life boundaries.
3. Have the right equipment
Where possible, make sure that your workspace is properly equipped with comparable workstations or internet connections to that of your regular office. It's difficult to maintain remote work productivity if you are trying to make do with inadequate equipment. Likewise, if you’re trying to work from an uncomfortable desk or chair, you are likely to struggle.
4. Use the right tools
Task management and team communication can be a struggle when working remotely. By using online tools, it’s possible to overcome some of these difficulties. Task management tools like Monday or Asana can be helpful to deal with collaborative teamwork and output. Video conference tools such as Google Hangouts or Webex can be handy to imitate human interaction (for briefs, brainstorms, etc.)
5. Take care of social needs
Although you may not be able to physically interact with co-workers, you can still maintain friendly communication through remote channels. Like for team communication, video conference tools can allow for periodic check-ins and help you maintain relationships. You can even schedule a daily meeting with your family and friends.
6. Set boundaries
Define clear expectations for workspaces, and explain the new rules clearly to family members or housemates when working from home. If you have young children, split care responsibilities with a partner or friend, and if you live with housemates, agree on acceptable levels of noise and any other rules to be respected during working hours.
Remote work from home during a global pandemic crisis is far from ideal and presents many challenges. However, remote work does have benefits and may help employees to achieve work-life balance, which often leads to increased productivity. The current situation has caused a sizeable shift to remote working and once the impact of the virus has lessened it will interesting to see how this affects office working of the future.