Remote Work Challenges and How to Overcome Them

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Remote work is no longer a rare luxury reserved for a few employees. COVID-19 forced companies to accept work-from-home models rapidly, and such sudden changes will kick up problems in even the most well-oiled teams. Remote work challenges are a reality, but there are solutions.

It's become clear that work-from-home and hybrid work models are here to stay. Workers value these options so highly that most would reportedly accept a pay cut rather than face a return to the office. Companies can no longer get away with temporary measures and will have to shift their management systems to match the evolving landscapes.

How businesses can overcome remote work challenges

a work-from-home employee in front of his laptop reacts to remote work challenges
Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko:

Managing cybersecurity

Data breaches are a huge problem, and the number of successful attacks keeps rising yearly. Additionally, company accounts and information are at higher risk in remote environments since employees' personal devices may not have the same security measures as on-site equipment. This is one of those work-from-home risks that simply can’t be ignored.

A common first line of defense is introducing a virtual private network (VPN) to all employees. These programs automatically encrypt any data passing through the network. They promise to protect companies from leaking confidential information to an enterprising cybercriminal.

While a VPN is a somewhat protective measure, it isn't perfect. Manipulative psychological attacks like phishing scams can still infect a computer if its user interacts with an unverified link or email. So, a robust anti-malware solution is a must-have for any remote device.

The right anti-malware product will prevent a system from automatically downloading infectious programs. It can also refuse any "incoming connections," which will give the boot to potential hackers.

Monitoring worker performance

On-site managers can check the status and efficiency of their employees at any time. They pop open their doors or peek their nose over a cubicle wall. This becomes much more difficult when each employee lives in a different zip code.

The shift to remote work comes with an underlying fear that total productivity will plummet. A combination of home distractions and unmonitored internet usage are the primary concerns. However, there are proven solutions to this remote work issue: Companies can achieve similar - and even enhanced - levels of employee productivity and accountability with the right project management platforms and "check-in software." 

Project management platforms

Technology makes it remarkably easy to coordinate projects remotely. A project management platform allows an entire team space to communicate, make requests, and view deadlines. Every feature helps keep each member aware of the project's progress. This heavily reduces any time sinks and miscommunications caused by working remotely.

Time and activity tracking applications

Time trackers tell supervisors exactly how long a task took. They use this data to see if employees have slowed down their work pace and make corrections as needed.

While time trackers have their uses, they lack specificity. Supervisors can't discern why some tasks take longer than others. This severely limits their ability to give helpful direction. Activity trackers get rid of this drawback.

There are various activity trackers, but they all show records of exactly what someone is (or isn't) working on. The tracker can take period screenshots from the employee's screen or track what programs are active during operating hours. This finely honed information is much more helpful in steering productivity back on course, a common remote work challenge.

Skip tracers

An unplanned absence from a coworker will quickly derail a project, especially if that coworker is non-responsive via chat and phone. The production line screeches to a halt as people await progress that will never come. It'd be undeniably frustrating.

Eventually, that frustration turns to worry. Maybe something happened to them? Remote workers often work in separate cities or states. This divide makes checking on a coworker very difficult. This is where a skip tracing service comes in handy.

Skip tracers use any shred of information to find an individual. Possible leads include email activity, date of birth, or phone numbers they've recently used. 

Working within different locations and time zones

More remote work challenges - with relatively simple solutions. 

Meeting deadlines gets tricky when team members work from all across the country. It takes longer to get new material or permissions to move forward. So, here are a few tips to make a cross-country collaboration a little easier.

●   Set 'Away' Hours in Your Chat Platform: This ensures that everyone knows when your operating hours are. If your coworkers know you're unavailable, they can quickly consider other options.

●   Consolidate Communication: Little is worse than opening an email and not knowing what your coworker is asking. Keep your messages specific and as straightforward as possible. Having to send multiple emails because you forgot to ask for something means more waiting times to get a complete answer.

●   Create Pods Based on Time Zone: Try to eliminate the problem of time zones as much as possible. Compartmentalize the project and assign more cooperative tasks to people within the same time zones.

a remote worker sits on his bed focused on his cell phone
Photo by Vlada Karpovich:

Challenges of remote work for workers and their solutions

Employees face a separate set of remote work challenges compared to the heads of the company. There is a great deal of freedom in working remotely, but the isolation and distractions can take a toll on the psyche. Below are our top tips for staying productive and healthy during extended remote work.

Interruptions and distractions

Silence is believed to improve focus and stimulate creativity. It's only natural that remote employees should incorporate this fact into their workstations. The best spots will be difficult to accidentally intrude in and be far removed from shared living spaces.

You may also want to keep noisemakers (such as children) away from the area. Silence the alarms on your phone and schedule times to check for important messages.

Now, there's no point in having a tranquil work area if you constantly get up from it. Remember that preparation is the bane of procrastination. Everything you need in a day should be ready and within arm's reach.

Dealing with stress

Focus and perseverance are good qualities. However, it's essential to rest the mind periodically. A 2020 study found that roughly 3 out of 4 fully remote workers identified as "burned out." This effect was primarily from the pressures of an increased workload to justify the privilege of working from home.

Taking a few mini breaks throughout the day will keep the mind fresh. Occasionally stepping away from work has shown to increase energy and overall performance. Breaks can involve any number of pastimes. Some small activities to try are tidying up a workspace or going through a stretching routine.

No sense of a team

Coworkers cultivate a level of camaraderie from working together in an office. This gets lost in the solitude of fully remote work. The psychological effect of isolation is one of the biggest challenges of remote work.

Recreating this team spirit is a vital step to preserving mental health. The company's messaging platform is the most obvious place to do this. Popular options include Slack, WhatsApp, and Microsoft Teams.

Set up a chatroom explicitly for "water cooler" talk to decompress. Engaging in short, non-work-related chats is a great way to reestablish the connection that remote work lacks. If your coworkers have access to video calling, then a virtual lunch is an easy-to-coordinate event.

Remote work can be equally as effective

Remote operations can be just as productive as in-office with the proper management systems. Companies need to place a stronger emphasis on flexible communication to adapt to the varied working situations of their employees. However, it's not all up to the top brass to make sacrifices.

Careful setup of a home workstation is imperative to maintaining high productivity levels. The value of frequent communication and time management also shoots through the roof in remote settings.

More than ever, we need to support one another professionally and mentally as we tackle the unique challenges posed by remote work.

Author bio: Ben Hartwig is a Web Operations Executive at InfoTracer who takes a wide view from the whole system. He authors guides on entire security posture, both physical and cyber.

Featured Image: Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko

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