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Top Work from home challenges and how to increase productivity

by wrich

By: Meryl D’Sa-Wilson- Content Market Manager at Global Call Forwarding

Meryl D’Sa-Wilson- Content Market Manager at Global Call Forwarding

Remote work went from a quick decision companies made to combat the pandemic to a massive shift in adopting a better work-life balance for employees. This means, for the first time ever, we have millions of employees and teams working from home. 

While remote working comes with many benefits and flexibility, many remote workers and teams encounter challenges. These range from creating a distraction-free environment to communicating effectively with the rest of the team. Thankfully, there are ways to address and fix these issues and improve productivity.

Let’s face it: we are probably going to be working from home for a while. So, it is best if we find a cadence that lets us do our job well and maintain a decent work-life balance. This post will go over the key challenges associated with remote working and what you can do to improve productivity.

Top 5 Challenges of Working from Home

The key to creating a healthy and productive work environment is to first identify what work-from-home challenges you face. This may be different for every team member, and some are better equipped to manage these issues than others. 

Remote working challenges vary based on a few different factors:

  • How teams are distributed
  • What technology is used or available
  • Your work-from-home setup
  • Distractions and complacency
  • IT and technology issues
  • Team communication
  • Drawing a work-life balance
  • Lack of motivation and support, to name a few.

To improve your and your team’s productivity, you need to determine where you are lacking and how you can resolve those concerns.

Here are some of the top work-from-home challenges with tips on how to overcome them:

1. Communication and Collaboration

It is undoubtedly easier to communicate when sitting across from each other. You can talk to a person in real time and get an answer or solution immediately. And with everyone in the same place, teams can collaborate more efficiently. Have to discuss an urgent matter? Conference room in 5 minutes!

But when it comes to remote working, this is not as easy to manage. First, most of the conversation happens via email or chat. Second, not everyone responds to emails and chat notifications quickly enough. 

It is also important to note that we rely on nonverbal cues for effective communication. And without face-to-face contact, subtle cues can get lost.

These reasons lay the foundation for delayed responses, confusion, and miscommunication.

How to overcome this challenge

The best way to resolve these issues is to set a communication policy and use advanced communication technology. 

It is essential to have the right communication infrastructure in place so that everyone knows how to connect with each other. You may use advanced voice, video, and chat tools like Google Chat, Zoom, or Slack to have meetings, share documents, and get in touch. 

Make suggestions on how to improve internal communication and set expectations. Maybe everyone looks at their chats first thing in the morning and last at the end of the day. Or, people may mark messages as “URG” or label them as “high priority” if they need immediate attention. Create an environment that prioritizes looking at emails and chats for a few minutes a day to stay in the loop.

You also need to maintain a regular and realistic calendar. Avoid having video chats or phone calls for every small thing. Instead, have a meeting every Monday or Tuesday mid-morning to touch base with every teammate or department. You can also have an open-door policy to encourage employees and teammates to reach out if they have questions. 

2. Lack of Useful Tools and Technology 

One of the most significant work-from-home challenges is the lack of technology or tech-savvy employees. Even in our highly digitized world, not everyone is a tech person and knows how to work different devices and systems. Some common technology-related issues include:

  • Unreliable WiFi
  • Not equipped with the suitable systems 
  • Difficult to use software or tools
  • Unfamiliarity with new technologies
  • Lack of guidance and IT support
  • Cybersecurity illiteracy

How to overcome this challenge

If you are a manager or business owner, it is your responsibility to find the right systems and technologies for your employees to do their work well. This means doing your research and identifying user-friendly software and tools that are easy to use and manage. You might decide to send computers and laptops to employees that don’t have these devices. 

You also want to set up (or direct employees to) tutorials, webinars, and how-to guides that quickly show them how to use this new technology. It helps to have an online support center or ticketing system to submit requests and get help from your IT team. It is also crucial to teach employees about cybersecurity and how they can keep their devices safe, as cyberattacks will directly impact your business.

If you are an employee, it will do you good to take the time to familiarize yourself with the technology, software, and tools you will use. Most of us know our way around a computer, but what about the new project management system or CRM? Providers often run an onboarding process and give you access to guides and tutorials; take advantage of these resources.

Additionally, run through your company’s IT and device policy to ensure you comply and keep your devices safe. If you run into an issue or are concerned about cybersecurity, reach out to your IT team and let your managers know.

3. Teammates in Different Time Zones and Locations

Another common issue with remote teams is that they may be spread across multiple locations and time zones. You may not always know about your colleague or another department’s hours and availability. And it may prove difficult and expensive to use your personal phone to make calls to teammates in faraway locations.

All this can significantly impact team communication and lead to delays in project completion.

How to overcome this challenge

The best way to combat this issue is to be transparent about everyone’s working hours and projects. 

This is where using a project or team management system comes in handy. Project and team management systems usually have features to help you coordinate and prioritize tasks and processes. You can also use a calendar to keep track of every person or team’s hours. Think of it as running digital office hours. 

Additionally, your team can use cloud-based softphones to stay connected with teammates in different locations. You can make and receive calls from any device, chat, run conference calls, show when you are online and offline, and so on.

4. Time Management

Remote work gives you flexibility and the chance to create your own schedule. For many, this is an opportunity to create that work-life balance and a routine that works best for them. For others, this freedom can be daunting.

Creating a schedule and being disciplined is actually a major challenge of working from home. Chances are, your 15-minute break turns into an hour-long dish-washing session. Or you take a slightly longer lunch (or nap) break. If you don’t manage your time well, it can easily bleed into your off-hours time or affect productivity.

How to overcome this challenge

There are many ways to train your mind and body into following a healthy routine. The first rule is to create a reasonable and realistic schedule. 

Then, set your work hours and stick to them. Depending on your company’s flexibility, you may choose to do the regular 9-5, or you may find that unconventional work hours work better for you. 

The key is to find what time frame and environment ensures productivity and efficiency, fewer distractions, and more results.

You can also try the Pomodoro Technique, where you time your work (25-minute chunks) and take necessary breaks (5-min break). This lets you break your workday without sacrificing productivity. But, you have to follow through dedicatedly.

As with everything else in our lives right now, you can use tools and apps to track and manage time. For instance, many apps use the Pomodoro Technique to help you track your time. Even project management systems have a time tracking feature. You can use this to determine how much time a project or task needs, how much time you’ve already spent, and where you can save time.

5. Loneliness and Alienation

While remote working is the ideal workplace for introverts, extroverts and social butterflies will find working from home lonely and alienating. In fact, in Buffer’s 2021 State of Remote Work report, they identified communication difficulties and loneliness as the top work-from-home challenges.

With low levels of human interaction and more digital interactions, it is easy to feel isolated and left out. And we know that loneliness is bad for our mental and physical well-being, and will ultimately affect our work performance. 

How to overcome this challenge

The best way to manage workplace loneliness is to create intentional space for community interactions. We’re talking: 

  • Chat services for book clubs or to share pictures and videos of pets 
  • Annual or bi-annual virtual conferences
  • Friday happy hours where everyone joins in on a Zoom call or meets in local areas to hangout
  • Watch parties via Netflix or Hulu
  • Celebrating birthdays and achievements
  • Sending gift cards or holiday greetings, and so on.

Whether you’re a manager or employee, there are ways to bring these fun activities to promote bonding into the workspace.

Additionally, managers and leaders should provide employees with mental health resources so that employees can take care of themselves. Some ways to support employee wellness include:

  • Check in with them individually every 2-3 weeks
  • Including mental health coverage in insurance and health plans
  • Discounted access to well-being apps such as Headspace, Calm, etc.
  • Offering flex hours or mental health days 
  • Establish an employee assistance program (EAP)
  • Promote an inclusive culture.

There is a lot you can do to improve mental well-being for employees in the office and at home. But first, we must see the need for change and be willing to take the necessary steps.

Making Working from Home Work for You

As we embrace remote work, we need to find ways to deal with its challenges and issues—whether bringing in new technology, using new apps and tools, or creating virtual social groups to hang out. And when necessary, ask for help and guidance. This way, you can reduce the challenges and improve your work-life balance.

Author Bio: Meryl D’Sa-Wilson is the Content Market Manager at Global Call Forwarding, a global provider of local and toll-free numbers. She has been a content writer and editor for over 7 years and has written about business trends, travel, marketing, behavioral health, recruitment, remote working, technology, and communications. When she is not obsessing over new content marketing trends, she spends her time reading contemporary fiction and bothering her cats. You can reach her on LinkedIn.

 

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