Working remotely is becoming more and more common among many organizations. It allows workers to take on flexible hours, fit in an afternoon workout session, or even work from the comfort of their sweatpants. For many, this might sound like a dream coming true. For others, however, working remotely isn’t so simple. The freedom offered by remote work can be tough for some employees to manage. As a matter of fact, it can oftentimes be more challenging to get right than a typical desk job.
Without a bit of planning, remote working can often take on adverse effects from its original intent. Rather than facilitating a comfortable and productive atmosphere, many employees are more likely to feel stressed, sluggish, and out of the loop.
Luckily, technology is on the side of today’s remote employees. There are plenty of tech tools out there to help ease the transition of working remotely. These also help ensure that it’s an effective work culture for any employee. We’ve selected three of the top challenges that employees face when working remotely. We then discussed some of our favorite tech tools to overcome them.
Challenge #1: Communication
One of the most significant challenges that can arise from working remotely is communication, whether it be with a boss, manager, or other team members. In fact, over 20 percent of people who work remotely have identified communication and collaboration as their greatest struggle. With workers stationed in a wide variety of locations, it can become difficult to discuss tasks or ask questions. This issue can be amplified if a portion of a team works in the office, while others are remote. Remote workers might miss out on cubicle wall meetings and chats by the coffee machine. Unless the company has built a culture of inclusion for remote workers, some feel out of sight and out of mind.
To combat this problem, be sure to utilize at least one of the many communication platforms that are available today. SimpleTexting has determined Slack to be the most popular messaging app used by remote workers, but Google Hangouts and Trello are also common among office environments. These conversational tools allow employees to communicate simply and cross-functionally, regardless of location. A brief message can suffice to quickly update teams on projects or other business functions.
Aside from helping to complete work-related tasks, chat tools can be a fun way to boost employee morale. Employees can use it to send GIFs and emojis, celebrate work anniversaries or birthdays, share inside jokes and more. If you’re looking for a method that provides more face-to-face communication, try a web chat tool like Skype or Fuze.
Challenge #2: Burnout
One of the many reasons managers hesitate to enact remote work is because they fear that without traditional structure and supervision, employees are more likely to slack off throughout the day. However, the opposite tends to be the reality— remote employees are much more likely to overwork. When working from home, it can be difficult to determine when the workday actually begins and ends.
Many remote workers have confessed to having a hard time remembering to take breaks. Stopping work at a reasonable time and knowing when is reasonable to stop are also major challenges. As Conrado Lamas, CMO at Carts Guru states, “There is always something to be solved— and when you have an office routine, it’s easier to leave what you do at the workplace. When you work from home, your office is where you live.”
Because remote workers often work independently, they’re less likely to take short breaks throughout the day. Chatting with a colleague, grabbing a coffee, or taking a quick lap around the office is not an option. Therefore, remote workers are most susceptible to the negative effects of employee burnout, like exhaustion, stress, and disengagement.
To prevent burnout and encourage a healthy workflow, try utilizing an electronic Pomodoro Timer. The Pomodoro Technique is a time management technique which utilizes a timer to measure work periods. This works in twenty-five-minute increments, followed by a short three to five-minute break. After repeating this process four times, the method recommends taking a longer, fifteen to thirty-minute break. Monitoring the time spent working ensures that remote workers still receive ample time throughout the day to take short breaks. Time Out is also a great tool exclusive to Mac users that allows employees to customize how often breaks happen, how long they are, and more. Additionally, the app actually blocks out the screen. In this way, employees are unable to use their device until the break is over.
Challenge #3: Productivity
Though remote workers frequently work longer hours, they’re faced with many small distractions that can hinder a day’s productivity. Sure, those who work from home can avoid co-workers dropping by their desk and other office occurrences. They do, however, have to endure interruptions like a UPS delivery person or a pet looking for extra attention. Not to mention, there’s the constant temptation to watch “just one more” episode of a new TV show or tidy up the kitchen when procrastinating an impending project.
Remote workers need to be experts at time management, and many find it difficult to stick to a schedule and sustain their motivation throughout the day. Research has shown that every time an office worker is interrupted or switches tasks, it can take approximately 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to where they left off. Even the smallest of distractions can minimize productivity and impact workflow throughout the day.
Utilizing a project management tool like Podio can help outline tasks that need to be accomplished day by day and ensures that remote workers can stay on track, even after facing a bout of distraction. When faced with a hefty workload, a project management tool can help to organize tasks and streamline productivity. The workspace has a great influence on employees’ motivation. Try integrating a bit of tech into a work surface by using a standing desk. Not only are they beneficial to health, but they have also been shown to boost productivity by 46 percent.
In conclusion, working remotely can be an excellent work method if approached in the right way. Despite the challenges listed above, remote work has been shown to improve business results for many organizations, while allowing employees to personalize their work environment. With the help of technology, employees can work at home both effectively and efficiently.