Remote work is here to stay but what’re some stumbling blocks?
With the rise of the deadly COVID 19, the entire world came to a standstill. Corporates were forced to change the working modes to ‘Work From Home’ Working from home is the best way to keep employees safe. But it doesn’t come without its challenges. With this abrupt change came the challenge of blurred lines between career and personal life.
Lacking designated home office spaces, countless individuals had to create improvised work setups in living rooms, kitchens, bedrooms—wherever there is space. Moreover, the closure of schools forced many working parents to focus on their work while concurrently supervising their children.
“As a result of these changes, numerous employees have experienced lower work productivity, lessened motivation, increased stress, and poorer mental health. While some of us have worked from home before the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s a whole new ballgame for those who haven’t.”
Trying to focus in an otherwise quiet home that’s now bustling with activity. Dialling into a video meeting while your toddler demands attention. Sharing an office with your spouse who is also working from home. Taking care of our aging parents while trying to balance work responsibilities. A typical workday no longer exists because nothing about our lives during COVID-19 is typical anymore.
Here are the top challenges employees struggle with when working from home –
Working From Home Doesn’t Suit Everyone
Working from home might not be suited to everyone’s personality or ability. Some employees might prefer the routine and structure that working in an office environment provides them. Some employees may prefer personal interaction with colleagues and also find face-to-face guidance with their manager extremely beneficial in helping them complete tasks and achieve their goals. We also need to be mindful of employees with a disability. Working from home may have a negative impact on the support they need to do their job. Working from home may also not fit in with everyone’s home-life eg some people may have young children that may be unaware of boundaries and cause interruptions during the working day. Others may not have the physical space required to create a suitable dedicated working area.
Feeling of Isolation
Individuals working from home may feel a disconnect from their colleagues and organisation as a whole that an office environment naturally allows. To address this issue employers could ensure that communication is more regular. So by scheduling quick catch-ups by phone or regular team meetings through an online platform, employees are given more opportunities to feel involved and part of the team. More informal and digital social catch-ups would also help counteract any feelings of isolation.
Distractions at Home
Although home working removes the distractions that may occur in the office if a worker doesn’t have a suitably quiet dedicated working space at home they may get easily distracted by household noises or other members of their household. It is more challenging for parents who have to manage the online education of their wards simultaneously. In India availability of an exclusive and separate workspace at home is indeed very rare and hence managing the inevitable disturbances of a home workspace is extremely challenging.
Where an office provides a clear physical distinction between work and home life, working at home can lead to staff forgetting to differentiate between work-life and home-life. This may lead to employees finding it difficult to know when to switch off from work leading to longer hours, increased stress, and inevitable burnout. Employers should encourage their staff to take regular breaks and remind them of the importance to take their leave.
Development of Employees
We may find that not having employees in close physical proximity leads to difficulty in maintaining their development and upgrading skills. Subsequently, organizations have also shifted from classroom training to Virtual Instructor-led training mode, to continue with the spirit of capability development of their employees. Organizations have gone for huge spending to create online platforms for trainings. However, this VILT also has its own challenges like keeping the audiences engaged, issues of attention span of the participants, technological challenges for participants who are in remote areas, etc.
Negative Impact on Mental Health
Working from home may have a negative impact on employee’s mental health if they are unable to find a routine that works for them, or are struggling to separate work and home life or are feeling isolated. The average screen time of employees in front of the computers have gone up exponentially, thereby leading to a lot of physical and mental stress. To help we can encourage employees to develop a working routine, set up a dedicated workspace and set boundaries for other household members. Create more opportunities to stay connected by communicating through regular chats and team catch-ups. Eating healthily and taking regular exercise can also help improve mental health.
Not All Jobs Suit Work From Home
Working from home suits some jobs better than others. Equally, working from home suits some personality types but not others. Some employees may prefer colleague contact by face-to-face communication.
We should be mindful that depending on where the employee lives they may be not being able to access good internet speeds that enable them to do their job effectively eg rural broadband is often very slow. The availability of laptops/computers is also not as widespread as it should be in work from home model of operations. The employees are then compelled to use their smartphones (accessibility and availability is also not very rampant) which makes it extremely difficult to carry out the task as desired in a WFH environment.