The COVID-19 pandemic has definitely changed the work landscape in the world today. With the realization that 37 percent of jobs can be done at home, companies are working to make a full shift to Work From Home (WFH) or a hybrid setup (employees work in-office on some days and WFH on the remaining days of the week).
Although numerous benefits have been reaped from WFH, among them the removal of the tiring daily commute and unexpected savings in costly fuel, transportation fares, and day care, there are also challenges that have surfaced that are unique to the “Work From Home Experience.”
Let us go through the Top 10 Work From Challenges and the solutions for each of them.
1) Communication and collaboration
A common problem among remote workers and their employers is the difficulty in maintaining constant communication in a WFH setup. This problem is not just related to tech and Internet connectivity issues. People also rely on nonverbal cues when communicating face-to-face, which is not possible on chat and Instant Messaging (IM).
Solution: Utilize the best communication software and apps available, such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Slack. Conduct video conferences or meetings on a weekly basis to ensure that everyone is on track in accomplishing certain projects or tasks. Both employers and employees should have an open communication policy so that they can easily bring up any questions or concerns during designated work hours.
2) Isolation and Loneliness
Especially for those who have grown accustomed to the hustle and bustle of office life, WFH can arouse feelings of isolation and loneliness. These feelings can also be aggravated by fear if the remote employee does not hear from the head office or co-workers on a regular basis.
Solution: Employees should be advised by employers/managers to look into mindfulness techniques that will boost their mental well-being. Companies themselves can organize virtual exercise or yoga sessions. Video conferences are not sufficient to provide social interaction. Both employers and employees should make the effort to arrange for in-person and informal gatherings, so that they can just hang out, have fun, and/or shoot the breeze.
3) Blurred lines between work and personal life
Many employees have reported difficulties in finding a good work life balance. A major cause of this problem is their inability to set boundaries between their work and personal lives while WFH. Without these boundaries, employees work longer hours and are thus susceptible to burnout.
Solution: Employees should go about creating boundaries between work and their personal lives themselves. Start by allotting a room or a space in your home exclusively for work. Observe a daily routine. You can start by setting out the clothes that you will be wearing the evening before. Your morning routine the next day can include a quick run or brisk walk around the neighborhood and a hearty breakfast. A good psychological tactic that you might want to employ is to wear comfortable shoes while WFH. When you’re done for the day, you can switch to slippers. As you can see, the footwear serves as a visible boundary between your work and personal life.
4) Home distractions
There are numerous distractions at home. It can be your kids, household chores that need to be done, pets, visits from people in your neighborhood, or even your spouse. Many employees have complained that these distractions can break their concentration on the work that they are doing.
Solution: If you have many family members living in your house, talk to them about your work and specify the hours that you need to work without any distractions. Consider placing a “Do Not Disturb” sign outside the door. If there are too many chores, delegate them to other family members. If you are bothered by noise outside your room, use a pair of noise-cancelling headphones.
5) Difficulties in communicating with fellow remote workers and networking
Two major challenges for employers and employees alike while WFH is the difficulty in communicating with remote workers in different time zones and maintaining one’s contacts in a network.
Solution: Employers should assist in coordinating among remote workers in different time zones. This is especially true for Zoom meetings, wherein such conferences are scheduled at a time that is convenient for everyone. Employers should also utilize instant/chat messaging and file sharing software, so that it will be easy for remote workers to coordinate and collaborate with one another.
As far as networking is concerned, same as with co-workers, employees should stay connected with clients and fellow industry professionals through chat or video conferencing. Many industry events are now being conducted online so that employees can continue to be involved in their respective professional communities. Employees can also maintain valuable connections through social media.
6) Finding Motivation
Finding motivation can be hard while working from home. In the office, one can readily receive praise from bosses and co-workers for a job well done. There is also the convenience of getting much needed input and advice when facing a challenge in a particular task.
With WFH, it seems the praises and rewards come too few and too far between. There are times when it takes forever to receive a reply to an important query on email or chat, especially when you need it immediately.
Solution: If you find yourself in a state of demotivation, it is time to reassess your long-term goals but updating them to the WFH status that you are in now. Discuss your goals with your boss/manager to see how you can align them with the goals of the company.
Employers, on the other hand, should provide opportunities for training and growth. This can be done by offering online training courses. Whenever possible, have remote workers attend in-person conferences and industry events. Employers should also look into incorporating and promotions and rewards system so that employees can readily receive recognition for their achievements.
7) Finding A Reliable Internet Connection
For many employees, a reliable Internet connection is the main challenge that they have at home. In most cases, a slow or buggy connection makes it difficult for them to accomplish tasks which they can finish in a shorter period of time with the faster Internet in the office. Other times, a slow connection may be due to the heavier usage of other members of the family (Ex. Using streaming providers like Netflix).
Solution: While the obvious solution to this is to get a better and faster Internet plan, it may not be affordable to the employee. Employers may consider the reimbursement of Internet costs. However, the caveat here is that the connection should only be used for work purposes. If there’s a family using the Internet, it would be more advisable to avail of a personal Internet plan. To offset slow connections caused by streaming, choose to download movies instead and upload them to your family’s devices.
8) Manage your time wisely
The problem with a flexible schedule is that many employees inadvertently couldn’t figure out how to manage their time wisely. In these cases, they might find themselves moving back and forth between two extremes – on one hand, working far too many hours so that they end up suffering from burn out and, on the other hand, squeezing in too many personal activities that they end up missing work deadlines.
Solution: It is important to strike a good work life balance through proper time management. Work should only be done within your designated work hours. Determine the best time when you can concentrate on difficult tasks and leave the remaining hours to shallow work. Beyond your work hours, all work devices should be switched off so that you could devote time to your family. Of course, while you do have work hours, it doesn’t mean that you will be working during this entire period. Plan out when you can have your coffee and lunch breaks. You can also schedule short 10-minute breaks every time you finish a particular task.
9) Developing Bad Habits while WFH
WFH gives you the freedom to work at your preferred times (flexible schedules). However, this may open you up to developing certain bad habits. For example, because you are too busy with work, you may find yourself bingeing on food to make up for the longer hours. You may also be too tired to exercise. Perhaps, because you are enjoying the freedom of not wearing office clothes, you might find yourself doing work in your pajamas, shorts, and other too comfortable attire, so that you even end up appearing like a lazy slob during Zoom meetings.
Solution: The best way to break bad habits is by developing a routine through proper time management as mentioned above. During your “off-hours”, make it a point to cook healthy dishes and snacks whenever hunger strikes you. Devote some time for exercise. You can jog as part of your morning routine or you can schedule it in the evening after you’re done with work. Last but not least, ditch the pajamas. Instead, dig through your closet for comfortable but chic clothes that you can wear while WFH and which will definitely improve your appearance while teleconferencing. Ladies, don’t forget to put on a little light makeup so that you can look good on everyone’s webcam.
10) Getting vacation time
A wrong notion that people have about WFH is that because they are “at home”, they are not entitled to any vacation time. Nothing can be further from the truth. As a remote worker, you are also entitled to vacation time because you need it to rejuvenate your physical and mental well-being.
Solution: Talk to your boss/manager about vacation time while on WFH status. Paid vacations should be part of any WFH policy that you sign. Employers can also think about organizing group vacations for their teams, especially if the company can afford it.
Don’t let these WFH challenges dampen your enthusiasm for work. The solutions we have put forth are simple enough and can readily be implemented at any time.