How to Address the Challenges of Working from Home
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Most office employees had a reasonably routine work life a few years ago. Then the pandemic turned everything upside down. Virtually overnight, companies that were completely against remote positions told all their employees to begin working remotely. It was a sudden transition that some of us struggled with. Even today, with remote positions becoming more common, the challenges of working from home can still be tough to handle—for individual team members and businesses.
We get it…
But with the benefit of some hindsight, we’ve discovered some advantages of hybrid and fully remote models. By internalizing these lessons and incorporating them into your strategy, you (or your team) can look forward to a less stressful, more productive remote work experience.
Is It Time to Return to the Office?
Ever since the first lockdowns were enacted back in 2020, companies have been eager for their employees to come back to the office. Some organizations set hard deadlines for their employees and wanted to return to pre-COVID conditions as quickly as possible. Other companies planned for a partial migration back to the office but were willing to accommodate a hybrid schedule. (For example, in 2021, Google set a goal for 20% of its employees to telecommute. A year later, Google changed its policy to encourage workers to return to the office by offering “work from anywhere” time.)
At the opposite end of the spectrum, companies like Slack have adopted a remote-first approach. The question is, which approach has yielded better returns?
Interestingly, a study by Vodafone found that 75% of businesses that introduced the concept of flexible working have experienced high-performance levels among their employees. This business model has empowered many companies to leverage their employees' actual productivity and achievements into a more focused, efficient workforce. Additionally, companies like Autodesk have seen a significant boost in job applications thanks to their flexible work options.
But that’s not all…
- Nearly 78% of employees believe hybrid/remote working has improved their well-being.
- 62% of workers report feeling more productive when working remotely.
- 77% of those who work from home show increased productivity.
Granted, for some businesses, in-office employees are a necessity, not a luxury. And there will always be some advantages to working on-campus. Nevertheless, the benefits (e.g., convenience, increased productivity, savings, employee satisfaction) may very well outweigh any drawbacks of working from home.
Why Working from Home May Be Better for Parents
Before discussing the challenges of working from home, it’s worth looking at the group that tends to benefit from it most—parents. As you may have guessed (and possibly experienced firsthand), those with children find remote work easier, more convenient, and more cost-effective. Plus, it increases their happiness and overall well-being. In fact, a study conducted with employee caregivers has shown that 73% of parents spend the time they save on commuting with their kids.
Yet, many companies continue pushing employees to get back to the office, which makes things tough.
For instance, what if the company wants employees back in the office, while at the same time, schools want kids to stay at home for their safety (e.g., snow day or another pandemic)? What about regularly scheduled breaks? Will the parents be able to go to work in the office? Who will look after their children while they're gone?
This dilemma is even thornier due to a lack of childcare options. During COVID-19, approximately 20,000 childcare centers closed, and 1 in 9 childcare worker jobs were lost. Even today, many childcare centers are having a difficult time finding enough staff to operate at full capacity.
There are many scenarios that could leave parents scrambling to find proper care for their children while they return to in-person work.
The best solution for parents in such a predicament is for their employer to work with them individually. Ideally, management would let them work within an adjusted schedule, if not 100% remotely. Otherwise, the parents will be forced to make tough decisions and may have to look for new work.
What Are the Benefits and Challenges of Working from Home?
Millions of workers have experienced highs and lows while working from home over the past few years. And to get a balanced view, it’s important to consider both sides…
Benefits of Working from Home
- No more commute
When your morning commute only covers the distance from your bedroom to your home office, it's easy to come to work on time and with lower stress levels. Compare that with employees who may spend an hour or more each day on their commute to work, and it’s easy to see why remote work is preferable.
- Quiet work environment (assuming there are no kids in the house)
Many people can only give a task their total concentration when they're in quiet, peaceful surroundings. For many remote workers, their home fits that description perfectly. There aren’t other employees talking, playing music, or otherwise making noise.
- Flexibility to run errands
This is a massive benefit for remote employees, especially when running errands that couldn't be done outside of regular business hours. Having the ability to sign off quickly or mark time in their calendars to complete a personal errand is extremely convenient.
- Freedom of work environment
Have you ever been stuck in a cubicle next to an obnoxious coworker? You can understand why so many workers are big fans of either the hybrid or 100% remote option. When employees work from home, they can adapt their work environment to match their specific needs and preferences (and they'll probably be more productive as a result).
Challenges of Working from Home
- An inability to “leave work at work”
When your home is your office, and your office is your home, it becomes increasingly difficult to compartmentalize your life and take a break from work when needed. This is one of the biggest challenges of working from home and can lead to burnout.
- Many distractions
This is especially true of parents with children at home but can apply to any remote worker. Whether it's feeding the kids, managing a 100-pound dog who barks while you’re on Zoom, trying to juggle chores around the house with work, or getting sidetracked by a neighbor's activity, working from home has its fair share of distractions.
- Lack of structure
Many employees struggle to stick to a set schedule when working from home. “Clocking in and out” each day at a specific time provides much-needed consistency and motivation. Managers must provide some coaching for their team members and regularly check in with them. This doesn't have to be a drawback if clear communication and manageable expectations are in place.
“Zoom fatigue” is a genuine phenomenon. Remote employees can easily experience burnout by sitting in front of their computer screen day in and day out. Remote workers might not take needed breaks throughout the day. They will lose motivation, and their productivity will start to slip as a result.
- Technical issues
Another problem with working from home is that it can be difficult to fix technical issues without the IT department or a tech-savvy team member nearby. In some cases, issues can be resolved with some troubleshooting on your part. In others (like if your WI-FI is spotty), it can cause frustration for you and your team.
It’s clear the work-from-home model has unique advantages and drawbacks. And as time goes on, we'll likely see more business organizations choose to implement this option moving forward. After all, in addition to the benefits listed above, working from home…
- Mitigates the potential for spreading illnesses
- Allows employees to keep working despite inclement weather
- Saves employers an average of $11,000 per every half-time remote worker
In time, remote or hybrid work may very well become the “new normal” for the corporate world. Until then, remote employees will continue to navigate the challenges of their situation successfully, strive for an acceptable balance between their home life and work life, and perform their duties at a high level. Our own employees have been navigating the challenges of working from home for a decade—and they’ve proven it’s possible.