When contemplating the various challenges of working from home, the focus is often placed on how workers can resolve them, but it is important to understand that employers face a number of challenges that they must find solutions for too. These range from ensuring productivity remains high and collaboration is still possible, right through to making sure employees still feel connected to the organization.
Keep reading to find 10 examples of challenges of working from home for employers, along with possible solutions. You can also visit the ViewSonic workplace solutions page to find out more about optimizing the home office workspace.
In recent years, much has been made of the various benefits that are associated with home working arrangements, but the challenges of working from home also deserve some attention. After all, telecommuting has fundamentally altered the way many people think about work, and the way work is carried out, and any transformation of this kind will have hurdles that need to be cleared and difficulties that need to be addressed.
For this reason, in this article, we will provide 10 examples of challenges that are associated with working from home, and we will also offer realistic solutions for employers and those who are managing remote teams. After all, there are a number of ways in which remote work arrangements can benefit employers.
Challenge #1: Workers Experiencing Social Isolation
One of the main advantages of office-based working is the social element that is built into the arrangement. While employers do not want any of this socializing within the workplace to impact productivity, it is clear that interacting with other people on a daily basis is good for workers’ mental health and morale.
Communications technology can assist with this particular issue, providing something akin to typical work-based social interaction. Solutions like Microsoft Teams and Zoom can at least limit the negative impact. Management should work to create a company culture in which employees use online communication tools as much as possible, and not only for business-related conversations. Creating a channel for personal sharing can encourage employees to discuss things such as trips, weekend plans, and social events. It may also be sensible to provide a degree of flexibility so that staff can attend the workplace at times if they feel it will help them.
Challenge #2: Productivity Levels Dipping
Although research indicates that productivity among remote workers tends to be high, this will not be the case for each and every remote worker. For employers, a key challenge involves making sure employees maintain the levels of productivity they typically achieve in the workplace, despite them working away from any in-person supervision.
Regular contact with staff can help to keep productivity levels up, especially when combined with clear target setting. When further action is required, performance and activity monitoring software may be able to help employers to identify the remote workers that are not working hard enough, but this needs to be balanced against privacy concerns. Furthermore, ensure employees are equipped with a monitor setup that is conducive to productivity as working from a laptop can be slow and inefficient. For help choosing the right monitor, see our guide on how to choose a computer monitor for business.
Challenge #3: Physical Discomfort in a Home Office
When purchasing chairs and desks, many employers prioritize ergonomics. In doing so, you can potentially limit issues associated with physical discomfort, which can lead to a loss of productivity and increased absenteeism. However, remote workers may not have access to good equipment, and this could lead to physical discomfort in the long-term.
Taking the time to educate your workforce about issues related to physical discomfort – including how to sit, how to position their screen, and the importance of light – can be important. For a detailed breakdown of all these factors, read our guide to setting up a productive workspace at home. In many cases, employers may also need to bite the bullet and invest in desks, chairs, and other equipment for their employees to use when working remotely.
Challenge #4: Issues with Teamwork and Collaboration
The physical separation of your workforce and the reliance on remote teams can lead to issues with collaboration. At the same time, employees also miss out on the kind of chance encounters that often spark new ideas. These various issues can then potentially have a knock-on effect on creativity and innovation within your organization.
Again, Microsoft Teams and similar software solutions play a key role in remote collaboration, but management will also need to pay careful attention to discussions in order to encourage universal participation. While digital collaboration software is quickly advancing, it is also important that employees be equipped with the right hardware. Monitors that are optimized for video conferencing will go a long way to facilitate more efficient online collaboration between remote team members.
Challenge #5: Workers Not Having Access to Software
In an office environment, it is easy to control access to software, and this means you can ensure all employees can use the tools they need to do their job. When managing remote teams, potential issues can develop, with some employees not having access to the right software, or with employees using different versions, leading to compatibility problems.
Cloud-based software solutions like Microsoft Office 365 and Google Workspace can help to provide consistency across the board in terms of the software employees have access to. Platforms such as these provide the kind of comprehensive solution to a centralized communication and information sharing strategy that is vital to the success of remote teams.
Challenge #6: Security Issues Stemming from Remote Work
Having a team of workers accessing your network remotely, sometimes from their own devices, potentially opens your organization up to a range of security threats, from viruses, malware, and ransomware, through to phishing and other forms of social engineering. Minimizing any associated risk, therefore, needs to be a top priority.
All computers being used for remote work should have up-to-date virus software installed. A remote-access VPN can be used to encrypt the connection between employees’ devices and the company network. Regular cybersecurity awareness training should also be provided, and a strong password policy should be adopted. In some cases, it may be best to invest in dedicated work computers for employees, rather than allowing them to use their own devices.
Challenge #7: Workers Becoming More Sedentary
Concerns about sedentary lifestyles are common in relation to office environments, but they apply to remote work too. After all, when dealing with remote teams, it becomes more difficult to enforce breaks and lunch hours, and the commute to and from the workplace is also removed, which could reduce daily exercise.
Organizations should clearly communicate the importance of taking scheduled lunch breaks and rest breaks. If you get wind of employees who are failing to do so, discuss this with them and re-iterate the associated problems. It may also be worth scheduling a team meeting to discuss the importance of exercise, and sit-stand desks could also help.
Challenge #8: Issues Surrounding Work/Life Balance
Work/life balance is among the biggest challenges of working remotely, and it can have consequences for employers. The issues here could involve over-working, where employees spend too much of their time working or thinking about work, but they could equally involve doing too little work, especially if there are distractions at home. In the US, Gartner found that a proper work/life balance is more valued by employees than health benefits.
Monitor how much time your employees are actually spending at work. While overtime can play an important role in some companies, it needs to be balanced against ensuring a proper work/life balance is maintained. When possible, offer access to a physical workplace, too, as this could allow employees to escape home-based distractions.
Challenge #9: Problems Linked to Understanding Work
When employees are in the same workplace, ensuring everyone understands the tasks they have been assigned is relatively simple, and management staff and colleagues are typically available to assist anyone who is struggling. When staff are working remotely, it becomes harder to identify those who are having difficulties.
With this particular challenge, constant communication is absolutely critical. Apart from team meetings, also make time to have regular one-on-one meetings with individual employees. You should also encourage employees to ask if they have a problem and take care to avoid making them feel like a nuisance if they do so. In some cases, it can also be helpful to encourage workers to contact their colleagues for remote assistance and support.
Challenge #10: Reluctance to Work from Home Regularly
Finally, one issue you may encounter is a reluctance from some employees to work from home regularly. There may be all kinds of reasons behind this reluctance, from distractions at home to being in a long-term habit of going into the workplace. Simply ignoring this issue may cause unhappiness and even lead to people looking for work elsewhere.
The best solution here is to provide choice, where possible. Allow employees to work in the office if they genuinely prefer it, and provide a level of flexibility, so they can change their work arrangements on occasion, in order to break things up. It may also help to offer incentives for working from home, such as flexible start times.
While managing remote teams can present a number of issues, many of the challenges of working remotely that impact employees can actually be resolved by employers. The main things to prioritize include regular communication, provision of the right equipment, and adopting a degree of flexibility in working arrangements when possible.
If you are exploring the possibilities of remote work, you may also be interested in How to Optimize Productivity with Remote Work. You can also visit the ViewSonic workplace solutions page for more insights into remote and hybrid work.