Much has been said about how the modern workforce is going mobile. This gave rise to the increase in the number of companies who allow their employees to work remotely from home. According to GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com data, the number of regular employees who work from home increased by 115% since 2005.
This is good news for most people, as it provides employees several benefits including shorter commutes, more time for self and family and the ability to work with minimal supervision and at one’s own pace. Indeed, working from home sounds like an ideal set-up compared to working at an office.
However, as a lot of people found out, working at home is not really for everyone. While most people chomp at the opportunity to work from home, some immediately regret the decision as they find that a remote work setup is not what they have expected.
In fact, here are some of the disadvantages of working from home:
Human beings are social by nature and we have this natural instinct to connect with other people. That is something hard to do when you are miles away from your nearest colleague. While others would say that pantry and water cooler gossip do nothing to improve productivity, these interactions are missed when you start working from home. There is just no one in your house who you can talk to about whatever is going on about work. This solitude can lead to stress and even depression.
Solution: Remote workers can alleviate these feelings of isolation by using computer apps like Slack to communicate with their colleagues. However, nothing beats face-to-face communication.
If you think water cooler gossip and office mates are distracting and that working from home will be distraction-free, then you are in for a rude awakening. There might even be more distractions at home than at work. While having more time with family can be one benefit of remote work, having your family around while working is also a disadvantage. After all, if they are around, you tend to want to spend all your time with them.
Even if you live alone, there are too many things around the house that can take your attention away from work. There’s the TV and the temptation to just Netflix and chill. Even household chores can be a distraction, as you feel compelled to tackle them when you are at home. Without direct supervision, it can be difficult to actually motivate yourself to work.
Solution: Set up an office area that is away from possible distractions (TV, family members) and is clutter-free, so you don’t get the urge to tidy it up instead of working.
When you work from home, you tend to focus only at the tasks given to you. Without too many interactions with managers or even other co-workers, remote workers tend to be out of the loop and could not see the big picture. That is why managers tend to just give them certain tasks that do not need much supervision. While this is convenient, this can also result in the stagnation of that employees skills, as they are no longer learning anything new.
In addition, because of the lack of supervision, the setup becomes too results-oriented. While that’s not a totally bad thing, as employees often want to be judged by results, it leads to a lack of information about the other important aspects of evaluating employees. With that setup, employers are unable to gauge how employees interact with their co-workers, if they still continuously learning and, most importantly, if they are ready for a bigger role, like leading their own team. With the lack of direct supervision, answering these questions will be difficult and, as a result, remote employees are rarely considered for promotions.
Solution: If you are working remotely, schedule regular meetings with your employer and coworkers so you know what is going on at the office and vice versa. This will keep you in the loop and allow you to share your ideas and stay on your bosses radar.
When you don’t have regular communication with your boss and colleagues, you can feel out of the loop and uncertain of expectations. So, if your workplace is serious in its attempt to create a truly mobile workforce, they should implement plans and policies that will make it easy for management and employees to communicate with each other in spite of the distance. This includes investing in different technology that would facilitate communications including an effective business phone system like RingCentral, messaging apps like Slack or HipChat, as well as online storage and sharing apps like Box and Dropbox. Guidelines on how to manage employees should be provided to managers to specify their responsibilities not only in task and project management, but also in terms of their people’s career development. Trainings can also be given to differentiate management of in-office employees from management of remote workers.
Lastly, an open communication line between all parties about how the setup can be improved is a must. There is no perfect solution, but slowly, you and your employees can find the policies, technologies and best practices that will work for the company.
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Klaris Chua is a digital content marketer who has written many pieces on startups and small business communications. She used to be a reporter for a business newspaper but the conventional path of a writer didn't appeal to her. You can connect with her on Twitter.