What once seemed like an avant-garde practice may become the norm for work arrangements in the future. As beneficial as it is, it still has its drawbacks.
You can’t deny that digital-first means are changing the way we work. The new workplace structure is becoming increasingly popular, with workers around the globe now enjoying a mix of digital and traditional working arrangements.
Many industry experts see remote working as a scaling solution for the growing workforce. Furthermore, we can’t argue that improved flexibility allows us to live healthier lives and spend less time commuting to work.
Remote or hybrid work has been a growing trend for over a decade. Young entrepreneurs, start-ups, and even employees of large corporations can find having a remote or hybrid work setup is the way to go. Working from home saves money, improves productivity, and helps people become happier.
People now work remotely for companies in the US, Canada, Europe, and Australia. The world is more connected than before, and working from home has never been more popular and accessible than it is now.
Potential Issues with Remote Work Arrangements
As accessible as it is to work from home, it doesn’t mean it’s immune to problems. Many of us may not have a dedicated space to work from home or a slow internet connection. Employers need to understand these problems to help make the best remote working arrangement possible for employees.
Poor communication is a potential issue in flexible work arrangements. The lack of face-to-face interaction or the inability to communicate when working remotely can cause these issues to develop.
While there are various ways to talk with each other during a work-from-home setup, many employees still need human connection. When you compare it to an in-person meeting, it’s hard getting a feel of someone’s energy, emotions, and general mood when you only have video calls.
New employees joining the team can also struggle to integrate themselves into the team. The virtual setting can complicate breaking the ice since you can’t get an accurate idea of their personalities.
Some legal issues may arise when working remotely. For example, since people won’t need to commute to work anymore, they can ideally work more. But, there are laws about the number of hours an employee can work in a day or week, regardless of where they are. In these cases, check with your HR department for guidance on what you can do to comply with the law.
Lack of employee control and monitoring
One of the biggest issues companies face when implementing a remote work arrangement is their lack of control over their employees. This is especially true for companies with many employees working remotely, as it can be hard to track what everyone is doing at all times.
If you address these incorrectly—where you turn towards micromanaging their days—employees may feel disempowered. Once this happens, other pressing concerns may follow, like lower productivity and team engagement, distrust, burnout, and more, which can also damage the company itself.
Without seeing their employees daily, employers find it hard to trust their team. Managers and employers won’t be aware if their staff is working, if they’re participating in meetings or sleeping, or if they’re even at work or running errands during work hours.
This fear can be a root cause of micromanagement to occur. However, there are far more healthy ways to keep track of your team without imposing this toxic method. Acting on this emotion can also tell your employees you don’t trust them, leading to further issues.
Distractions at home
Doorbells, pets wanting treats, background noises, washing the dishes, and other household chores, are some distractions at home remote workers experience. And despite being organised and disciplined, interruptions can still affect your team.
When you compare it to an in-person work setting, your remote staff doesn’t have a work-conducive place at home to help them focus. It’s even more challenging for those who live with their families or have roommates, as these people may randomly pop in and disturb them during work hours.
For this reason, coworking spaces can be used. These beautifully designed offices for the purpose of work can help boost the productivity of remote employees. As a rule, desks and rooms at these spaces can be booked online, through coworking space software, which makes them even easier to access and use.
Increased chances of work-life imbalance
In a traditional office setting, coworkers who share similar schedules can help keep each other accountable for working long hours or taking too many breaks during the day. Remote workers often don’t have this support system in place, so they easily slip into unhealthy habits, leading to burnout and depression.
Remote work arrangements can also make some employees feel pressured to immediately respond to every work message they receive, regardless if they’re off-the-clock, to avoid looking like they’re slacking off. They have difficulty logging off from their work modes, compromising relaxation even if they’re already home.
Employee absenteeism is a common problem for any company, whether you have on-site or remote working arrangements in place. This is because some employees tend to be less productive when they work from home, which impacts their performance reviews and raises.
Remote employees also miss work regularly, primarily if they feel their employers aren’t supporting their mental well-being. Absenteeism affects businesses and employees, as it can lead to loss of income for the former and a constant fear of losing their jobs for the latter.
Lower productivity and output
Despite various research indicating a high productivity rate among remote workers, this isn’t the case for every employee. Working from home can cause them to feel burnt out, especially with work-life imbalance.
It’s a key challenge for employers to keep their team engaged and maintain the same productivity and output they usually achieve in the workplace, regardless of working from home.
When an employee doesn’t feel engaged at work, it can impact their productivity and even the quality of their work. These can develop into larger issues later on if you don’t address the issues soon.
Solutions to Help You Solve Remote Working Issues
All this isn’t to say that we should discount remote working arrangements. What matters is that we take a more proactive approach to help employees feel at ease when working from home.
The first and most apparent issue to resolve is poor communication. You can’t expect remote workers to communicate as effectively as they would in an office environment where they’re all in one place.
A solution could be to set up a way for your team members to communicate with each other, such as Slack or email, when you assign tasks. Each member will receive a notification when they need to complete something.
When communicating with the team, make it to a point to be extra specific and detailed regarding guidelines and instructions. Using too many words to explain something is better than using a few since it might confuse them even more. If you need to spell the obvious, do so rather than compromise sending your point across.
If you want your employees to work from home full-time, you should ensure they’re logging their hours accurately—otherwise, it’ll be easy for them to report fewer hours than they worked. This could be problematic if an employee works more than 40 hours per week but only reports 20 hours in their time sheet because they don’t feel like putting in extra effort on certain days.
The same goes for any non-exempt employees whose employers may have scheduled them to work overtime without compensating appropriately.
Adequately compensating your employees for their work can also motivate them, increasing their morale and job satisfaction. What’s more, you can attract bright, talented, and hardworking people within the industry to work for you.
Regarding your current team experiencing these excellent compensation packages are also less likely to look for other opportunities, making them stay at their job for far longer.
One of the things remote employees care about is staying connected with you.
Regular check-ins can enable you to develop a closer team while also helping you monitor employee performance. You can see how they’re doing, and it’s a chance for them to talk about their concerns or ask questions. If you’ve seen a dip in their performance, you can also address them in these check-ins instead of waiting for them to come into the office again.
Connecting with your staff through these sessions can make them feel heard and valued, improving their opinion and experience at your company. It can also establish a culture of solid communication, allowing your team to feel more comfortable speaking to one another. Once these things happen, they’ll likely stay longer and continue working for you.
Establish defined workflows
Ensure you define your workflows to your employees to help them understand what they must be working on, regardless of whether you’re checking in on them. You can try setting up project management tools so everyone can access the status of any task or project.
Creation of predefined workflows via contract management software is another way to tackle this while providing maximum transparency.
Being transparent about your business, what you do, and how you like to get things done can also help build trust with your team. It will help them feel included in working through your shared objectives instead of being subordinates and inferior. With clearly-defined goals, your employees can establish trust whenever they deliver what you expect.
Invest in home-office supplies
Invest in your remote workers’ home-office supplies to help them focus while working at home. Although you can’t eliminate all the interruptions they experience, you can still provide solutions that may lessen these concerns.
For example, you can equip your staff with noise-canceling headphones to reduce background noises. As a result, you can hear them more clearly during your team meetings and regular check-ins.
Practice separation of work and personal life
Work-life balance is how workers manage their time between work and personal life, so neither one takes over and dictates their time. Consider setting boundaries between work hours and personal time to help your employees separate the two, allowing them to achieve work-life balance.
Schedule time for breaks and encourage them to take at least 30 minutes of their afternoon away from their desks for a quick stretch, stroll, or walk. Before every meeting, ask your employees about non-work related matters they’re currently doing or interested in. This practice creates a safe space, allowing them to feel that the things they do outside work are also important.
It would also be best if, as employers, you’ll practice what you preach. It’s one thing to tell your team to have a work-life balance, but it’s another to show them it’s not only okay, but you support it.
Talk to your employees
You don’t always have to guess or hypothesise about why your employees feel a certain way. You can send them an email or message online and ask.
Find out why they’re not coming into the office. Are they taking sick days because they’re genuinely ill, or is there another reason? The root cause of the problem will help you determine how to deal with it.
Being extra empathetic towards your staff and fostering a healthy work culture enables you to step inside their shoes and better understand where they’re coming from, what they’re going through, and other concerns they’re keeping from you.
Consider rewards and bonuses
Remote workers need clearly defined goals and incentives to help motivate them. While you can’t hand out bonuses each time an employee makes a good decision or completes a task, you can give bonuses based on overall performance over time—say once per quarter or year. This schedule can help keep employees motivated throughout the year.
With rewards and bonuses in mind, you also introduce a heightened sense of accountability. And having this quality in the workplace usually results in fewer errors, which is an essential benefit for the company.
The best way to combat as many work issues as possible is to improve remote work culture and make your employees feel special. If you’re both on the same page concerning expectations, you will get the results you want while they can get the compensation they want. It also affirms they matter and higher-ups can’t replace them so easily.
If you treat them as valued and appreciated members of your team, they’ll ultimately be productive in what they do. With this, remote work arrangements can open up a wealth of opportunities.
There is no way to quickly mitigate all potential issues when using a remote work arrangement; it takes time to grow accustomed to setup. But in time, you’ll understand the methods and systems ideal for your company. Once things start falling into place, you can expect your work environment to be as productive as it would’ve been if you were on-site at the office.
About the Author
Valerie Chua is a Content Specialist at Manila Recruitment, a company providing headhunting solutions for the recruitment of executive, expert, technical and specialist positions in the Philippines. Follow Manila Recruitment on Twitter @MNLrecruitment or connect with them on LinkedIn.