Overcoming Challenges Involved in Remote Work

Within the last few months, working from home has gone from a luxury to a necessity for many companies. It will likely remain so for the foreseeable future. It is not a novelty for everyone; in fact, employees who work from home at least some of the time represent approximately one-quarter of the United States' workforce. However, most of your employees may not be use to working from home, and you may not be sure how to manage them. There are challenges involved in working from home, even in the best of circumstances. The following tips for working remotely should help you and your employees to overcome them.

1. Dealing With Distractions

Employees who seek to work from home often do so because they want to be available to handle situations that arise in that environment. Unfortunately, these situations can cause distractions that can affect productivity even when the situation is voluntary. You can encourage employees to try to maintain their normal work routines as much as possible when working from home by maintaining approximately the same schedule and setting up a dedicated workspace. However, when working from home is an unplanned situation in response to a crisis, factor in some flexibility.

2. Keeping Communications Constant

You should check in with your employees on a daily basis. This should happen routinely to help mimic the work environment and give employees something they can count on in a professional life that can be somewhat chaotic. If your workplace is generally highly collaborative, then you may want to set up conference calls involving all team members. However, if your employees typically work independently, you can make calls on a one-on-one basis. In the latter case, you would schedule a time every day that each employee can expect to get a call.

You should also try to vary the means of communication. For example, video calls mimic face-to-face conversation, which provides more information to each participant in the form of visual cues than they would get from an audio-only conference call. There are many mobile-based apps that allow for video conferencing, often for free or a nominal cost. However, investigate the level of data security available before choosing which tool to use.

When you utilize more than one form of communication, establish rules for the use of each. For example, video conferencing for daily check-ins, instant messaging for urgent questions, and email for less pressing concerns.

3. Providing Opportunities for Social Interaction

Working in social isolation can take its toll on anyone after a while. Your employees who are extroverts may find it the most difficult as they are energized by interacting with other people. While introverts may hold up better at first, eventually the strain may get to them as well if they feel cut off from their friends in the office.

There are ways that you can simulate the social environment of the office even when your employees are working from home. This may involve special virtual office get-togethers via video conferencing, or it can just mean setting aside a few minutes at the beginning or end of your daily conference calls for people to chat informally and catch up.

4. Offering Emotional Support and Encouragement

Even under the best conditions, employees need time to adjust to working from home. You can help by setting reasonable goals for them to accomplish. Keep your criticism constructive and be sure to praise what your employees are doing well.

For employees who are struggling, be a source of emotional support. Listen with empathy to their concerns and anxieties. Some employees may not feel comfortable expressing these to you directly. Try to draw them out gently by asking specific, open-ended questions about how they feel about the situation. Try not to ask questions like, “How are you doing?” or “Is everything okay?” because then it may be too easy for the employee to simply answer “Fine” or “Yes” when that may not be true.

Whether working from home is a short-term or long-term arrangement, voluntary or involuntary, you can help make it a success by remaining firm but flexible.

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Lewis Robinson

Lewis Robinson is a business consultant specializing in social media marketing, CRM, and sales. He's had the opportunity to manage his own startup businesses and currently freelances as a writer and business consultant. He can be contacted at ljrobinson.crm@gmail.com.
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