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HR Headaches: The Struggles of Remote Work For Employers

December 2, 2021
HR Headaches: The Struggles of Remote Work For Employers

As we approach 2022, with remote work going well into the 2-year mark, the majority of us have become quite familiar with the pros and cons that come with working from home. While the future isn’t certain and it’s still too early to tell what all of this is going to mean in the long run, one thing has stood out as relatively steady: Working remotely is here to stay, at least in the short term. Some of the perks are undeniable — flexible schedules, comfortable work attire, lower office overhead, and the option to take advantage of global talent. However, there are new stressors that impact many of us negatively. Here are 3 pressing challenges that remote work is bringing to employers and employees.

Challenges for employers

1. Adapting to a new way of working

While some organizations may have been quite familiar with remote work prior to COVID-19, many are embarking on this journey as managers or employers for the first time and experience many barriers. Some aspects they are struggling to adapt to include (but are not limited to):

  • Managing employees across time zones. Teams that work asynchronously at different times of the day have added barriers when it comes to collaboration.
  • Dated technology. Companies that don’t have the resources to invest in proper communication technologies, learning management systems, and cloud-based tools can struggle to create a strong remote culture.
  • Safety and security. Many organizations fail to take their company security seriously or don’t have the resources to ensure all of their employees are properly trained and can protect themselves from “security leaks, online hacking, or external breaches”.

2. Employee burnout and turnover

While burnout is not new, the new work-from-home culture has increased the number of people experiencing burnout in a whole new way.

While many employees cite a strong preference for remote work, others may find that the transition and long-term remote work culture have negatively affected their mental health. Increased hours and blurred boundaries may cause employees to experience burnout and put them at a higher risk of resignation. While burnout is not new, the new work-from-home culture has increased the number of people experiencing burnout in a whole new way. Managing employee turnover is a major challenge for managers in the best of environments and is now being exacerbated by remote work related burnout.

3. Challenges in communication

There are many different challenges when it comes to communicating digitally with your remote teams. These can include:

  • Meaning is hard to decipher. With a lack of non-verbal cues, it can be harder to get a sense for how your employees feel, and what they truly need. It’s also much easier for people to misconstrue words or confuse directions.
  • Delivering feedback must be handled delicately. When communicating face-to-face, it’s easier to have tough conversations and still convey the positive intent. But when feedback is through Slack, these conversations can be perceived as much more pointed. And it can feel like a harder blow for your employee.
  • Lack of trust. Trust is built through honest and vulnerable communication between managers and their team. With remote communication, meetings tend to be more task-focused, which makes it challenging for authentic moments that build trust. Trust is required for high-functioning teams to be built.
  • Communicating culture. Lack of face-to-face communication can make it more challenging to show an employee what the company culture and vision looks and feels like. Employees may feel that when they’re starting a new job, they’ve simply swap one laptop out for another and feel less bought in to what they are doing. This can lead to less productivity or innovative work.

Challenges for employees

1. Creating workplace boundaries

Working from home and having reduced face-to-face contact with colleagues can often lead individuals to feel increased pressure to exceed expectations and prove their worth. This in turn can lead to personal boundaries around logging off being disregarded.

2. Slowed down career progression

Many individuals feel like losing out on face-to-face communication and watercooler chat puts them at a disadvantage when it comes to their career. Without that opportunity to build informal networks at work, employees can experience:

  • Slower ramp-up time for new employees. Without the ability to tap on their colleagues desk for support, new hires may have less resources to help them ramp up and find information.
  • Struggle for exposure to training, mentorship, and leadership. Without intentional programs that connect employees to leadership and training, employees lose out.
  • Lots of interruptions. For some folks, working from home means working with family members, pets, or roommates in a space that is not setup for work. This environment can cause them to be less efficient or productive with their time and can impact their success.

3. Isolation and loneliness

Many employees cite feeling disconnected, with a lack of belonging and their psychological and social needs not being met.

This tends to be one of the largest complaints for employees working from home. Many employees cite feeling disconnected, with a lack of belonging and their psychological and social needs not being met. While there are still drawbacks of remote work, it's not all doom and gloom! Remote work culture is in its early days; much research, work, and innovation will carry the trend forward into the future. Check out these guides to help you excel with remote work at your organization: Remote Work Compliance Tips HR Checklist for Remote Engagement HR Checklist for Remote Hiring and Onboarding Virtual Open Enrollment Checklist

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