Overcoming the 5 Biggest Pitfalls of Remote Work
Remote work is all fun and games until deadlines approach and resolving problems in your pajamas no longer seems like a blessing, but more like a strangely comfortable and familiar curse. Of course, remote work doesn’t need to involve working from home. Working remotely is the increasingly popular practice of having a flexible attendance schedule, where presence in an actual office is reduced to a few times a week or is rendered obsolete entirely. The pitfalls of remote work, or working from home, have been extensively written about, so here is a creative take on the five major pitfalls of remote work, with some proposed solutions to liven up your out-of-office routine.
Without face-to-face interaction, it is sometimes difficult to read into the intended meaning of a written message. A major source of miscommunication can come from a dispersed workforce communicating across different time zones while bridging linguistic gaps. Certain elements can certainly get lost in translation. While some may perceive using emoticons in work-related messages as unprofessional, they do often add context to the message. Practicing online active listening, or rather active reading interpretation is another way to avoid miscommunication. Active listening techniques involve: repeating, reformulating or asking questions relevant to the conversation. It is, in fact, a good practice to assume miscommunication and to ask a question to clarify the statement. It would, however, be a mistake to assume maliciousness over miscommunication.
Another popular remedy to miscommunication between remote team members is videoconferencing, or an old-fashioned call.
Lack of Community
Another pitfall of the lack of face-to-face interaction is that a team never forges the same camaraderie as a co-located team. For remote teams, there is a lack of community. Part of this lack of community is that as a remote worker, you chat and talk to thumbnail photos of your team members, sometimes without knowing their attendance schedule.
A potential solution for teams who collaborate on Slack is to sign up for Vacation Tracker. Through Vacation Tracker’s team dashboard you can immediately tell who is away on vacation or is taking a sick day or a half-day, and so on. The software allows for seamless tracking of team attendance through the Vacation Tracker Dashboard. An administrator can also program to push daily or weekly notifications to a Slack channel of his or her choice, to inform teams when their colleagues are away and for how long. Another solution to combat the lack of camaraderie is to occasionally book team meet-ups, time and geography permitting.
Distractions and Loss of Productivity
Whether working from home, a co-working space or a coffee shop, distractions can easily creep in. Loss of productivity affects people in offices too, but on-site managers are there to keep things moving along. Distraction can get the best of you and can make a workday unnecessarily long because even a simple task can take a lot of time when your attention span is broken. Remote team managers will often recommend a time tracking tool to make sure remote workers aren’t putting in too much overtime, because overworking can lead to burnouts.
Another potential solution, to avoid the pitfalls of distractions and losses in productivity, which may lead to overworking and burnouts, is to actually book some time off! Some remote employees may feel reluctant about asking for their allocated time off because they are already out-of-office. With Vacation Tracker, managers can make vacation and leave request processes ultra-transparent so that no one is hesitant to ask for the days off that they are allowed to take. Vacation Tracker allows the creation of various leave types. Leave types can also have a half-day option, so if a remote worker has to run out to an appointment, the request for a half-day off can be requested, approved and documented instantly.
Low Retention and Reliability
A problem that is often stated by companies that hire remote workers is that these hires have no loyalty, or that they don’t see their employment as permanent or long term because of the remote nature of it. The best solution for these types of managers is to look for people who are self-starters or have past remote-work experience right at the start of the hiring process. To take it one step further, an HR manager should ensure that there is a solid onboarding process and that new employee training is in place. Moreover, a solid system that creates a sense of fairness and team unity can help with retention and reliability. Certain software can help create this structure, such as a time tracking tool to monitor billable hours or Vacation Tracker to track and display employee leave.
Information Security Concerns
The last and most technical of all pitfalls of remote work is the concern for the safety of information on a remote worker’s laptop or network. A best practice is surely to keep documents in a secure common drive, that all remote employees can access, and to back up this drive, and all documents on it, to a more secure network. An additional security measure may be to create a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to keep certain files completely inaccessible to external IP addresses. For the remote workers out there, it should already be common knowledge to lock one’s phone and laptop automatically when it’s idle or to password protect all devices and client files.
Once again, there is a lot of advice out there for remote workers and for HR managers who have to deal with remote teams. To avoid some of the major pitfalls of dealing with remote teams, an organization’s management team should make sure it has all the right tools at its disposal to communicate transparently with its remote workforce.