The Challenges of Going Remote

13 November 2020

We live in a world where change is constantly happening, and with it comes our responsibility to take agile steps. The first one being adapting our working methods. Especially, as managers of start-ups or bigger firms, there is a consequential duty to prevent the ship from sinking. While few made the choice to implement a remote-first alternative to their traditional office setup, meaning they allow their employees to work from home, many had to face the obligation of going remote with very little preparation or even knowledge on the process due to a world pandemic. As a result, employees were confused about the way they should work within a remote setting. This lead to an overall lower performance within organizations, and companies as a whole began facing serious trouble.


What prevailing challenges do these employees and their managers face?


Lack of communication

Despite the numerous platforms made available to connect with each other, it is always harder to communicate explicitly behind a screen. Often, in an office, when we find ourselves in interrogative situations, it is easy to just turn around to our colleague and say “hey, can I get a hand with this? I don’t quite get it.” However, we tend to hesitate more when we have to email these exact words. The formal tone, the lack of visible body language, and all details missing from a regular face-to-face conversation limit our information exchange.


Lack of human interaction

A typical employee’s working day at an office is usually filled with interactions. From greetings, to meetings, a good amount of direct comunication takes place at the office. Especially during breaks and lunch hangouts, coworkers get to connect on a deeper level beyond formal work. Au contraire, when individuals find themselves working remotely, a big part of socializing is taken away from their day. While at first it may be perceived as an advantage to work from your comfort zone, that main source of comfort can have an opposite effect. Many experience it as “cabin fever,” the feeling resulting from spending too much time alone in one place. This isolation can have negative effects on the employees’ mental health, thereby their motivation to work.


Distractions at home

Contrarily, a person who does not live on their own could experience distractions that could potentially affect their productivity.  The dog barking in the background while the employee is trying to follow an important remote conference. Or, perhaps, the kids are yelling at each other and the person has to pause what they are doing every two minutes to ask them to stop. There is a wide set of scenarios similar to these that people go through on a daily that lowers their performance. Especially, in comparison to what it would have been if they had a setting where they could solely focus on their work.



What steps should be taken in order to minimize the negative effect of these challenges?


To ensure a smooth engagement among all remote workers, the most important factor is to communicate. This simple action is what keeps organizations standing strong especially at times of crises. By the same means, it could have potentially saved many from collapsing.
One of the traditional communicate methods in a physical setting is through workshops. These meetings allowed for a profound engagement among all participants to share ideas and evaluate them. Correspondingly, they could discuss different topics and tasks to be performed. The point is to communicate with each other and come to an agreement about the actions to be taken.



Even more when working remotely, it is strongly recommended to go the extra mile and ‘over-communicate’. Do not worry about overstepping, but rather prioritize their needs. Ask as many times as needed if they have any inquiries or doubts and if everything is going well. Several tools are at our disposal to use abundantly, making this step rather easy; ensuring clear communication between both ends. Especially, given the limitations and restrictions imposed nowadays that cancel out the possibility for a physical meeting. Several platforms, such as Excelway, are made available to recreate a workshop concept online. This way, people can continue to engage with each other while working remotely. As a company, your role is to provide an adequate set of tools, allowing for a coherent form of exchange and feedback.

In essence, if one is given some freedom to do his or her work at their own time and chosen method, they can be more creative and motivated to perform the task at a higher level than under restricted conditions and timing. Especially, if they are provided with a set of tools to guide them through communication. However this can sometimes not be enough to ensure their efficiency working from home. These people are often the ones who fall under the category of feeling lonely or are too distracted at home.


Take advantage of your tools

Just like there are tools to organize your online meetings and workshops, by the same method, you can organize virtual break talks and lunch hangouts to minimize the overwhelming effect of isolation. Unlike plain and dull emails, breaking the formality using emojis, and gifs to express an idea on platforms such as Slack or even WhatsApp group conversations can help create a more humane bond among workers. These methods are equivalent to the office coffee breaks. They can further enrich the connection and help facilitate communication amongst remote employees which as mentioned before is a game-changer. Employees, this way, can feel more comfortable communicating their situation, allowing you an opportunity to resolve it.
By the same method, the people who work in a busy space can feel more freedom to talk about it, and together you can perhaps develop solutions to increase their productivity.

New challenges arise as change continues to take place in our lives. A remote setting is becoming the new common ground for both existing and starting companies. Gladly, innovative products and services are constantly being created to fulfill gaps within the world of remote work. It is the company’s responsibility to stay up to do date with these tools that will benefit its employees and the company as a whole.

Written by Sophia

Passionate about how people build things together, Sophia has dedicated her academic and professional work to understanding group collaboration in a remote setting. Today, she is the founder of Excelway.
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