In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, work from home has become a harsh reality for a major part of the working population. It has changed the way people have been working all along, and as it seems, there will be no going back. While working remotely has allowed us the freedom to work flexible hours, it has also presented us with some major challenges. In this article, we will discuss the greatest challenges of working from home that employees face and the ways in which they can overcome them.
Why has it become essential to work from home in recent years?
Even before 2020, the trend of working remotely was already growing. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated it for safety reasons. Researches conducted by Buffer show that, in 2021, 45% of the remote workers are working from home as a result of the corona virus outbreak; whereas 46% are saying that their organizations are planning to make remote working permanent.
Though the pandemic outbreak has forced remote working on many people, it seems like the majority of them are quite happy with this change and would definitely like to continue with it. In fact, it is seen that no less than 97% of the remote workforce would prefer to continue remote work at least some of the time for the remainder of their careers. However, there are various drawbacks of working from home, and it is essential to identify them at an early stage to avoid complications.
Why is it necessary to identify the challenges involved in working from home?
Remote work has brought in a new set of challenges that can impact productivity negatively if not addressed at an initial stage. As both the employers and the employees try to adapt to the new normal ways of working, they are faced with some challenging situations that they had not handled before. If these situations are not tackled from the start, they can turn into potentially big problems in the long run. Hence, successful identification of these challenges is essential for developing strategies that can keep both the employers and their remote working teams more resilient, motivated, as well as productive.
What are the greatest challenges of working from home?
Let us take a look at the challenges most people face while working from home and discuss the ways to overcome them:
1. Collaboration, Interaction, and Communication
As compared to an office setup, communication becomes much more difficult when people work from home. They generally tend to rely on nonverbal means of communication, like texts and emails that might fail to convey the urgency of the message. Also, because of flexible working hours, the messages might not be read by the sendee. That is the reason why communicating effectively can be one of the greatest challenges faced by the employees while working from home.
To overcome this challenge, it is advisable to use the best communication technology available in the market for facilitating communication within the team. Apps like Slack, Zoom and Microsoft Teams are very useful for this purpose. As a team leader, you can organize regular meetings that go towards making sure that everyone is on the same page. Having an open-door policy is also a good idea, as that allows the team to approach you and ask questions that are related to their work or role.
Working from home can bring about a lack of social interaction, which can cause people to feel more lonely and isolated. Loneliness is not only bad for mental and physical well-being, but it can affect performance as well.
To overcome this challenge, leaders must ensure that the remote workers have the necessary tools for navigating the challenges of loneliness. Planning social activities outside of work routine while working remotely can give the employees the social interaction they need desperately. Organizing regular video calls with family and friends, or working in a library or a co-working space, albeit following the local COVID-19 rules and regulations, can be pretty helpful.
3. Unable to Unplug
Working from the same space where you live can blur the fine lines between your work and personal life. As a result, it becomes difficult to relax and switch off when the work hours are over. This disturbs the healthy work-life balance.
To overcome this challenge, you can transform a part of your home into a dedicated office space. Otherwise, if possible, going out somewhere else to work, a coffee shop may be, can help as it will allow you to create boundaries between your work and private life.
4. Distractions at Home
Even if you are the most disciplined and organized person at work, working from home can get you distracted at any point. Whether it is a dusty bookshelf or a pile of dirty dishes or your children/pets demanding attention, the distractions will always be there. If you try to attend to one issue, even before you realize it, a 20-minute break can turn into a two hours lapse.
To overcome this challenge, you can dedicate a fixed time of your day to your office work and find a quiet space in your house for work. You can try to remove all the distractions, and if possible, simply close your door and inform others around you that during that time you should not be interrupted, except in case of emergencies.
5. Differing Time Zones
As remote working is gaining momentum, many companies have started working across multiple time zones. While this can facilitate seamless working, coordinating with intercontinental colleagues can be a real challenge.
To overcome this challenge, you can encourage your project managers to leverage various instant messaging apps and file-sharing services to collaborate with international teams. As a leader, you can also request your teammates to set a fixed schedule for communicating with the rest of the team.
While working from home, it is easy to lose motivation because of a lack of external inputs. Not being able to interact with coworkers can make people lose sight of their long-term career goals, which can ultimately lead to losing motivation. On top of it, the added stress of the COVID-19 pandemic has made it even more difficult to stay motivated.
To overcome this challenge, you can pen down your long-term goals, including your career, financial, and personal goals. Make sure to revisit them every now and then to keep yourself motivated. You can also attend industry events and conferences, which can be a great motivational boost.
7. Time Management
For remote workers, it might sound like a dream come true if they are given the responsibility to manage their own schedules. However, in reality, it is one of the most challenging things to do while working from home. This is because for that you need to have the discipline necessary to manage your time correctly. Without strict discipline, you can easily end up procrastinating too often.
To overcome this challenge, you need to make a routine. You have to decide on the business hours that you can work for and stick to them. You can either stick to the conventional working hours or plan your life according to your responsibilities.
While remote work has its own challenges, there are also plenty of benefits of working from home. The biggest benefits of working remotely include:
- Being able to work from anywhere
- Not having to commute every day
- Reduced carbon footprint
- Having flexible schedule
- Increased productivity
- Less stress
- Greater work-life balance
- Spending more time with family
- Improved physical and mental health
Therefore, it is not all bad to work from home. Considering the pros and cons of remote work, it can be said that working remotely can prove to be a boon if you can take care of the challenges at a nascent stage. Then only you can avoid bigger problems and continue working seamlessly without any major trouble.