With the onset of working from anywhere comes a new set of opportunities for the urban worker. However, it also comes with a new set of challenges that prevent many remote employees from taking full advantage of the benefits of this new work setup. Unless your company finds a solution to these challenges, it will continue to be difficult moving forward.
What are the issues plaguing employees who work from anywhere, and how can these be addressed?
From the lack of equipment to mental health concerns, working from anywhere poses challenges preventing employees from reaching their maximum job productivity and overall life satisfaction. There will be many adjustments and possible obstacles to maximizing the benefits of a work-from-anywhere setup, but doing so is not impossible.
Read on to learn about the specific challenges remote employees face and get some insight on what to do about them!
Why Work From Anywhere?
The concept of remote work is not new, but the pandemic elevated it to a completely different level. Now the landscape of work will never be the same again. If the future of work continues to change, employees who refuse to see it may find themselves left behind.
Moreover, with the new opportunities presented by the setup, why not work from anywhere?
Mandy Fransz, Remote Work Consultant and the Founder of Make the Leap Digital, states, “Remote work means you have the freedom and the flexibility to work from a place where you feel the happiest and productive.”
People with a family to care for now get the flexibility to work while also staying at home. Those who love to travel can do so without worrying about regularly reporting to a physical office, and now they get to come up with fresher and more creative ideas inspired by it.
Additionally, working from anywhere is very cost-effective in terms of time and money. There’s no need to pay for commuting fares or gas, and depending on how far your home is from your workplace, you can spend that commuting time on something else instead.
According to FlexJobs’ 10th Annual Survey, 44% of employees are ready to resign if forced to revert from remote work. This number raises a poignant issue: why not work from anywhere?
Lack of Equipment
The traditional workplace provides an environment where employees have access to everything they might need to get their work done. An employee’s home and most other locations won’t necessarily have the equipment they need to work effectively, so it poses a problem that can stress both employee and employer.
While some companies make sure to supply the necessary equipment, such as a work laptop, to their remote workers, unfortunately, the majority do not have the capacity nor take the initiative to do so. Hence, you will find several remote hiring posts requiring applicants to have their own set of laptops, headphones, and web cameras at a minimum.
Aside from physical equipment, your company may need to acquire specific software, depending on the type of product or service you provide. In a traditional setup, employees gather physically for meetings. You will need video conferencing tools in a work-from-anywhere setup. Unfortunately, not everyone is knowledgeable in these software tools, and it takes time to learn how to run them properly on their computer.
How To Solve It?
If you are thinking of transitioning to working from anywhere or are already in the process of doing so, you will need to invest in the necessary equipment. Having the correct equipment for work is critical for your employees’ productivity.
If you’re wondering about the best equipment and software to invest in, we wrote another article to help you. Find out what you need to optimize a work-from-anywhere setup in our article, “Best Equipment and Software for Employees Working from Anywhere.”
Remember to ask yourself the following questions before buying a piece of equipment:
- What purpose does it serve?
- Is it easy to learn and use?
- Is it cost-effective?
- Does it fit with the overall remote work dynamics you have in mind?
Here’s another piece of advice: ask the company itself! You can directly ask your superiors about the necessary tools you might need, and maybe you can even request them to cover some for you!
Risks In Cybersecurity
According to an article published in Business Design Center:
“When you have an office that can be locked each night and day and often guarded, you’ll enjoy peace of mind that your company’s assets are in a safe place. This cannot be guaranteed when laptops are at employees’ houses.”
Security is a significant concern for employers considering a work-from-anywhere setup. Ensuring the security of your employees and assets is a challenge when it’s spread out rather than in a single office. Sometimes, your employees and assets can be spread out across the world.
While cyberspace can help speed up many business processes, it is also a risky space to do business. Your information and operations are vulnerable if you don’t take appropriate cybersecurity measures. And even with security in place, there are still ways for attackers to breach your company.
Employees need a basic understanding of cybersecurity, but it takes time and effort to use it effectively.
How To Solve It?
There is cybersecurity software you can install to help protect your online accounts from the risk of cyber hacking. You will need to learn what to use; your company must proactively educate its remote employees about them.
However, security breaches are often the result of human error. It’s critical to train your employees in standard cybersecurity practices. Every employee needs to be extra careful regarding the information they input online. Human error can include accessing questionable websites, installing suspicious software, and even taking recordings of sensitive data.
It’s also possible for employees to use less secure personal accounts for work matters accidentally. If you can have a separate work laptop from your personal one, it will also be helpful to avoid possible mix-ups.
If you want to learn more about cybersecurity, read our article, “8 Cybersecurity Tips for Remote Work”.
Too Many Distractions
One of the common accusations against employees working from anywhere is that they lose productivity to distractions.
The latter is an outright lie. According to the Gartner 2021 Digital Worker Experience Survey, about 43% of remote employees report increased productivity due to the flexibility of the work-from-anywhere setup. It simply means there is a way to work efficiently from anywhere, but there are many distractions you’ll need to guard against before that.
For instance, while the ability to work from home is an opportunity to spend more time with your family, it is easy to get distracted by house chores when you are there. If you are working somewhere else, the distractions vary depending on location. Using a laptop at all can pose several digital distractions.
How To Solve It?
“When it comes to reducing remote work distractions, our first tip is this: make an effort to physically divide home and work,” says Rachel Parnes, the Senior Marketing Manager at LinkedIn.
It’s an excellent tip. After all, the traditional office is designed to stimulate you to work, so you do have to choose a physical location separate from your home (or within your home, but separate from other areas still) that is stimulating for you.
Here are some questions which will be great to ask if you’re choosing a location to work where you will not be distracted as much:
- Is it noisy?
- Will it encourage too much social interaction?
- Is there a dedicated spot where you can focus on work and not on other activities?
- Are there other people working there?
When it comes to digital distractions, one of the simplest pieces of advice is to avoid opening tabs or windows on your screen that are not related to work. Otherwise, you will constantly be tempted to check them instead of working. If your mobile phone is not vital for work, keep it a good distance from yourself while you work.
Challenges In Communication And Collaboration
Another challenge remote employees find difficult to address is communicating and collaborating effectively. Effective communication and collaboration increase the quality of the work output and help develop the company culture.
Communication becomes all the more critical in a work-from-anywhere setup to get a sense of the company’s direction. However, it is significantly more challenging to do so just from your screen. Zoom fatigue is a significant problem; it can sometimes feel like you are just causing a disturbance when you try to reach out to a coworker.
According to Ryan Hoover, the founder and the CEO of tech company Product Hunt, “Communication remotely remains a challenge. Video chat tools like Google Hangouts and Zoom have improved tremendously, but they continue to suffer from connectivity issues, background noise, and ‘the loudest voice in the room’ dynamics.”
Introverted employees may also suffer more from not being heard during a meeting, while extroverts suffer from not being able to talk to people enough.
How To Solve It?
Be intentional and take initiative. You have to be extra diligent when attending meetings, even if they are online. Prepare some questions to ask if there is a platform to raise them, especially things you are maybe having a difficult time with. Meanwhile, take the time to also prepare some encouraging words for your colleagues. Like you, they are also probably having a hard time communicating.
Since you are communicating through your screen, it is integral that you have installed communication tools such as Google Hangouts and Zoom. There are also many online platforms for online collaboration.
Thanks to technology, it does become significantly easier to communicate remotely, but it still has its limits. There’s nothing like intentionally reaching out to foster a healthy company culture despite the remote setup.
Isolation And Depression
Isolation and depression may result from the lack of healthy communication and collaboration when working from anywhere. For newer employees, the lack of face-to-face guidance can take a toll and make them feel like they are not growing. If their superiors do not initiate with them, they might feel uncomfortable raising their concerns first.
A survey conducted by Nuffield Health reports about 80% of respondents complaining about the negative mental health impact of working from home. Especially for those working from home, it is easy to bring the stress of the job to your home, which can affect your relationship with your household. Combining your workplace with your home can alter how it feels to you as well. Instead of your home being a comfortable haven, it becomes a place of stress.
Remote workers who constantly feel a deep sense of isolation may work poorly and decrease their productivity. Negative job performance can only increase depression, creating a negative spiral.
How To Solve It?
Similar to the previous item, it takes intentionality to look after your mental well-being proactively. It requires the initiative to reach out to your coworkers and communicate to combat the isolation you may be feeling. At the same time, attending to your life outside of work, instead of making your work everything in your life, helps you care for your mental health better.
Here are some proactive steps you can take to combat isolation and depression when working remotely:
- Take regular breaks in between work.
- Do not skip your daily exercise routine.
- Communicate with your colleagues.
- Communicate with people outside your work circle.
- Do active self-care.
- If working from home, take the time to go out and visit other places.
Mental health is a serious concern, and the good news is that many companies are now beginning to see that and are taking active measures to invest in the mental health of their employees. Game nights, hangouts, wellness breaks, and team outings are ways a company can attend to their employees’ emotional and mental well-being.
To learn more about how to take better care of yourself as a remote worker, read our article, “How to Optimize Mental and Physical Health in Work from Anywhere”.
Blurring Of Work And Personal Life
Dan Schawbel, New York Times Bestselling Author and Managing Partner at Workplace Intelligence, gives this advice: “We have to make work-life management a priority during these times because when we’re suffering at home, the quality of our work declines, and when we aren’t performing at work, we bring negative feelings into our home.”
This statement perfectly encapsulates the struggle that many remote employees face. While working from anywhere presents an excellent opportunity to develop a healthy work-life balance, it does take discipline and responsibility to achieve and maintain it.
Several remote employees work more hours than they typically would at a traditional office setup, and in the long run, this can take a toll on their mental health and other areas of their lives. They may end up sacrificing self-care and even relationships.
How To Solve It?
Rachel Parnes’ advice to physically separate your personal life from your work stands true here. If you are working from home, invest in creating a separate space dedicated to work so that the other areas in your house focus solely on taking care of yourself, your family, and your personal life. This separation creates a healthy boundary between your work and personal life, helping you shift your mindset from one to another. A dedicated workspace can help you focus on work better; separating it from your home life can improve your rest.
If you work at coffee shops, you’ll likely associate a specific shop with your work, so it will be nice to meet up with friends or have alone time elsewhere. Similarly, if you travel while working, remain proactive in finding the balance between enjoying your life and performing your job.
Work From Anywhere Happily
Transitioning to working from anywhere can be challenging — all transitions are. Employees who are part of it face various issues that require serious consideration and solutions. Nevertheless, beyond all of these lies an attractive picture for the future of work.
“Once you’ve tested the waters of creativity, freedom, and flexibility, it’s difficult to go back to the way it was,” explains Author and International Keynote Speaker Marti Konstant.
It will take some adjusting and many more improvements to better the situation of employees working from anywhere. There’s a lot to learn, from practical remote working knowledge to managing a healthy work-life balance. It does take effort to work from anywhere happily.
1. Why is communicating online difficult?
When communicating face-to-face, you take into account not just the verbal cues of the other party but also nonverbal ones such as facial expressions and hand signals. These are difficult to observe online, so communication can often lead to misunderstandings.
2. What do you need to prepare when applying for a remote job?
Remote hiring has a special set of circumstances and requirements. You have to make sure to read emails comprehensively, and when doing a remote interview, make sure to review your laptop specifications. You should also prepare at least a headset and a web camera.