The ongoing pandemic has revamped the contemporary IT world as we know it. Companies were forced to adapt to remote working culture to avoid the spread of the disease while continuing business continuity. Flexible scheduling and working from home have now become normal in almost every company across the globe. While the growing remote work culture has been a saving grace in the face of the pandemic, there are several problems and challenges associated with it.
Remote working allows employees to cut down the hassle of travel while saving the time spent on it. A report from the United Nations International Labour Organization also highlights the fact that working outside the typical office environment has made employees more productive. However, the same report also highlights the fact that these employees are also vulnerable to working long hours at a more intense work pace.
Here are some of the major problems and challenges associated with Remote Work Culture.
Stress and Mental Health
Remote working or work from home lacks the essence of working in a collaborative office environment. According to several healthcare professionals and surveys, the sudden shift to a remote work setup has been surprisingly very stressful for a lot of employees. The isolation caused by remote work brings down productivity of the employees while harming their mental health. The sudden lack of physical connection with colleagues can make employees susceptible to stress, depression, or anxiety. Moreover, the always-on remote working culture enables easy access to work and as a result, a majority of the employees find themselves working more than usual leading to increased stress and burnout rates
Remote working involves several distractions that can severely affect productivity. Overcoming distractions is one of the major challenges faced by remote workers. Major distractions such as unavoidable family matters, distractions due to pets, household chores that eat up work hours, self-created distractions such as the use of the web, social media, gaming, or more due to lack of monitoring are some of the major productivity hindrances when working from home. While it might not be as easy to overcome all of these distractions, proper time management, scheduling, and planning can help mitigate a majority of these distractions if not all.
Lack of Communication and Collaboration
Another major hindrance in remote working culture is the lack of effective communication and collaboration. While global tech giants are heavily investing in building tools that can bridge this gap, working virtually lacks the human element that adds up for effective communication and trust among the team members. No matter how technically advanced the remote collaboration platforms are, working on a project or even discussing a document poses certain challenges when performed remotely.
Tools such as Slack and Microsoft Teams already offer a bunch of ways and services to enable collaboration for remote teams. Companies such as Facebook are heavily working on taking remote collaboration to the next level through virtual reality in the form of Metaverse.
Technical and Security Challenges
When employees are working from their office setups, they do not have to bother themselves about the several technical requirements and challenges they face in everyday work life. These requirements usually include a computer and the associated peripherals, an active internet connection, and all the software that is needed. Even in remote working culture, organizations do support and coordinate with their employees on helping them set up their remote work stations. However, any problems, failures, or service interruptions usually take longer to resolve in a remote setup that lacks a dedicated team of experts to help mitigate these issues. One solution to mitigate this could be organizations setting up a streamlined, easy communication channel between the IT team and the other employees for them to communicate and collaborate.
Moreover, the rise in cyberattacks and security breaches in recent times makes it furthermore challenging for the organizations as well as employees to continue in remote work setups. Lack of enterprise-grade firewalls, encryption services, private or protected channels, use of corporate networks and devices provide a secure working environment. On the contrary, remote working falls short in one or more of these aspects that contribute to cybersecurity. The use of cloud-based services as a Desktop-as-a-Service, Firewall-as-a-Service, and the use of VMs can also help minimize the technical challenges and issues associated with remote working.
Building and Maintaining Trust
Remote work lacks spontaneous chats and “water cooler” conversations with colleagues that not only help in stress relief but also constitute building trust and connection. Moreover, random team-building activities, office parties, or even corporate events can help establish rapport, trust, and healthy relationships among the teams. As remote workers, employees rarely find a chance to blow the steam off or to have casual conversations with colleagues. There are several research papers and studies that highlight the positive effects of having informal communication at work. A majority of the workforce that started working in the last 12-18 months lacks the experience and exposure of working with teams in person. This hinders an employee’s ability to have ad-hoc conversations, know their peers better, and establish and deepen their relationships.
Manage It Right
On top of these employee-side drawbacks and challenges of remote working, organizations are also facing several challenges and hurdles in managing their remote workforce. Leaders and managers may find it difficult to keep the trust, collaboration, and communication activities among the team members. While there are obvious cost-savings associated with remote work culture, companies are having to spend huge capital on cloud-based subscription models to enable operational continuity of their businesses.
Despite these aforementioned challenges, remote working brings a lot of potential benefits to the table- as long as you know how to handle these issues. To make the most of the benefits associated with remote working, employees and organizations need to establish trust, policies, and proper discipline to build the work-life balance everyone deserves.