With remote work becoming the new normal, it is important to be able to work through the issues that come with it.
Remote work is the new normal for many businesses in the U.S. But, adjusting to the new normal has been easier for some than it has been for others.
Although approximately 25% of the American workforce was already working from home before the pandemic, many employees are doing their jobs remotely for the first time. They're separated from the office, their colleagues, plus the structures and routines that they crave.
Two of the hardest-hit industries might be medicine and corporate learning, with up to 175 times growth in telemedicine and 9 times increase in corporate distance education in 2020. But, these corners of the business sphere are not alone -- most industries are seeing comparable trends.
In this article, we're going to highlight several of the most common remote work process pain points. Then, you'll learn exactly what you need to do to fix them without implementing temporary, band-aid solutions.
1. Lack of face-to-face supervision
Without face-to-face supervision, it’s really easy to worry that your employees won't complete their tasks to the standards you expect. Maybe they won't work as efficiently, maybe they won't be as productive, or perhaps they'll make more mistakes than they would have done had you been by their side.
One way to fix this is to establish regular check-ins. These could be each day or every other day, but you must make it a regular thing. Don't make it sporadic, but be consistent. For example, maybe you could agree to check-in with each individual every Monday and Wednesday afternoon.
Use the check-ins to create a bit of a structure, as well as to stay in touch with each team member and see what they’re at. Field questions and concerns, too.
2. Time zone differences
Imagine if your editor wakes up just as your copywriter is going to bed … but your editor needs a bit of information to help them complete their project successfully? It can cause problems, including loss of efficiency and missed deadlines.
It's not an easy fix if you've got remote workers who are living in very different time zones. However, if you're to maintain a good company culture and stay on track, it's a smart idea to ask your remote workers to be more flexible and let their team members know when they will be available during the day to respond to any queries.
For example, instead of sticking rigidly to the 9 to 5 format, a European worker could perhaps work 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. to achieve some sort of overlap with an American worker who’s putting in an 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. shift. A bit of overlap like this - and a bit of compromise - will be needed to make a success of this.
You could also request that your team use a tool to solve any time zone differences. Time zone converters allow anyone to check the location, time, and weather of every member of a remote team. This keeps every on the same page and eliminates the need for a time zone convertor.
3. Isolation and loneliness
A lot of office workers enjoy the social aspect of working in an office. They enjoy seeing their colleagues, having a catch-up, and even going out for after-work drinks. It's part of what can make the workplace so special.
Transitioning to remote working, then, can be tough for sociable workers. Research shows that loneliness can cause adverse health effects including poor sleep quality, depression, impaired executive function, accelerated cognitive decline. You must have a chat with them about how they can avoid feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Here are some tips you can relay to your remote employees to combat these feelings when working from home:
Speak to friends during breaks. Social breaks are great ways to let off some steam and have a bit of fun and relaxation. Maybe your employees could arrange to meet up for a virtual lunch break
Be deliberate about sharing information. It's important that employees feel included and know as much about what is happening in the company as other associates. Ensure this by having a process in place for communicating major decisions across the organization.
Recommend communities. Online conferences and classes are increasingly becoming more popular and are a great place for remote workers to meet other people in like-minded communities.
4. Communication challenges
Remote workers can no longer tap a colleague on the shoulder whenever they've got a question, and this in itself can present a few challenges. Moreover, even when technology is in place to allow your team to ping instant messages to each other, they may still have to wait a while before they get a response.
However, your team must adopt communication tools and software that are designed to help them share files, documents, and ideas. They also enable teams to ask questions, solve problems together, and essentially stay on track with projects.
There are lots of communication tools available, including chat apps and task managers that come with extensive features and integrations. You could also use a messaging API or SDK to create your own custom platform that makes it super easy for your remote workers to stay in touch.
5. Technology hiccups
Technology hiccups can cause confusion and loss of focus. When a remote worker is having to deal with them at home alone, they can also cause a lot of stress.
One of the biggest issues is the WiFi. WiFi is typically more reliable when we’re working from home. But if a remote worker wants to work from a different location, make sure they're able to find one where they know for sure the internet is reliable and secure. They will also need a Plan B for if there is an internet outage. Some preparation will be needed.
Here are a couple more tips:
Have a backup computer (or at least a tablet) that allows them to get through the day if their main computer experiences a problem.
Each remote worker should have the contact information for their local IT service to hand.
6. Giving and receiving feedback
Feedback is essential for employee growth. Now that your team is working remotely, you'll need to find a way to give and receive feedback in a way that’s patient and empathetic.
Communication apps help (see above), but they’re not a match for face-to-face interactions. Neither are face-to-face video calls, but they at least allow you both to spot non-verbal cues a bit more. Use video calls regularly to reduce confusion and misunderstanding while boosting confidence and morale.
It's also a good idea to carry out surveys at the end of each month to see how everyone is feeling. Ask questions, get answers, and see how you can keep improving now that your team is working out of the office.
7. Divided company culture
It’s important that you design and build a positive and nurturing culture that withstands distance. Working alone can create a divided workplace, which is not good for morale and productivity. The longer your employees are away from the office, the greater the disconnect can be. Unfortunately, this can naturally remove them from your culture and your mission.
According to new research, businesses are trying their best to bridge the gap by hosting more virtual social events. However, not enough businesses are adopting them, and some are doing it only half-heartedly. It's not too late for your business to start, though. Facilitate virtual games that your whole team can participate in to help to maintain rapport while boosting morale and a sense of belonging.
That said, the most important aspect of reconnecting is that your team feels as though their manager is available when they need them. This can be the biggest factor in maintaining a company culture because it can prevent team members from feeling overwhelmed, lost, and confused.
Remote work can lead to pain point flare-ups. But, like anything in business, they can be remedied. Because the coronavirus pandemic has shifted the way many of us work, it’s crucial to get on top of issues as soon as possible. Use the tips in this article to ensure your business continues to thrive.