At the outset, remote work seems like fun. No commuter or parking hassles; no wardrobe issues; flexible work hours; breaks to take care of household chores, childcare, and errands. However, after six months, the picture is much more realistic. When the novelty of remote work wears off, there are several ongoing challenges to address.
CHALLENGES OF REMOTE WORK
- Isolation, separation, lack of social support. In remote work, there is a task focus rather than a team focus. There is an understandable drop in comradery and team spirit. For some, this independence is invigorating, for others it causes symptoms of cabin fever and loneliness.
- Limited feedback and communication with colleagues and managers. Email certainly has it limits, as do conference calls, and Zoom meetings. There is a loss of the casual hallway conversation and the stop-by-the-desk meeting. This can lead to a sense of “cultural decay” among workers.
- Blurred boundaries between work and non-work. The work-life balance issue is even more dramatic in remote work than in office work. With remote work, there is more work activity in the evening and on weekends to “make up for” taking time for personal needs/distractions in the home, such as chores, childcare issues, workers in the vicinity, or house pets.
- Connectivity/security issues. Although internet security has improved substantially in recent years, sporadic connectivity problems remain. One never knows when their Wi-Fi will “go out” or when other service interruptions will occur. Responsive IT help may or may not be available remotely to deal with these issues.
- Accountability management/productivity decline. Quality control on deliverables continues to be an issue in remote work, as it is in office work. However, it is sometimes difficult to remotely manage work products. Checking on work without micromanaging is more demanding in remote work than in the office.
- Integrating new employees. Introducing new employees remotely to their teams, helping them understand the company’s culture and establishing key relationships is challenging. Remote integration of new employees requires more calls and check-ins rather than a leisurely lunch or coffee break to relax the discussion and allow “get to know you” time.
So how does one overcome the challenges of indefinite periods of remote work? A good start is to make sure that you have hired individuals who can handle remote work and managers who know how to supervise remote workers.
Employee work habits such as initiative, time management, and independence help to predict success in remote work. Managers need to have skills such as direction setting, communication, encouragement, and follow-up to successfully navigate the challenges of culture decay, of accountability issues, and other distractions. PSP Metrics’ tools can help identify these skills in new hires and create development plans for on-board employees and managers to build these skills.
Remote work is here to stay. Make sure that you are hiring and developing people who have what it takes to stay with remote work when the novelty wears off.
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