For most people remote work has been a boon. Less commuting, a more comfortable work setting, flexible time management, and more opportunities to see family have added up to improved quality of life.
However, it hasn’t been positive for everyone, and there are challenges any employer needs to address. Luckily after a year and a half of remote work we have a much better understanding of how it can be improved.
1. Miscommunication Communication is about more than words– people use facial expressions, posture, and tone to express both meaning and emotions. When you can’t see a person, or can’t hear them clearly, it’s much more difficult to be certain of their meaning and attitudes.
2. Isolation Working alone can cause loneliness (unsurprisingly). At the office even if you don’t talk with coworkers you benefit just by their being nearby. Even introverts can find remote work difficult.
Isolation also makes it harder to learn about company culture. Frequent casual conversations fills people in on everything from important company news to coworkers’ personalities. Building team spirit is also much more difficult without frequent, face-to-face contact.
In addition, without colleagues and managers nearby, there are fewer opportunities to demonstrate one’s accomplishments and work ethic. Forming mentor-mentee relationships with managers is also more difficult.
3. Burnout Although working from home pre-pandemic was often associated with slacking off, we now know that burnout is a larger issue. One reason may be that people worry that colleagues won’t see their accomplishments, increasing pressure to perform. Another possible factor is that it’s harder to maintain boundaries when working from home.
4. Team projects Collaboration is also more difficult when everyone is separated. Not only is miscommunication more likely, but coworkers may end up doing the same work, or taking conflicting approaches to the same project.
5. Too many video calls After offices switched to remote many managers insisted on frequent video conferences, leading to burnout. According to one survey 40% of all remote workers were exhausted from video calls.
6. Interruptions There are plenty of distractions at home that could interrupt work or disrupt calls. 52% of remote workers feel poor audio is a problem during meetings, with talking in the background and phone alerts the leading culprits.
7. Technical issues Thanks to cloud conferencing video calls are nowhere near as hard as they used to be. However, many people still use substandard built-in cameras and microphones that are hard to position properly and don’t provide clear audio or video. Most professional-quality hardware remains expensive and difficult to set up, especially at home.
Most of these challenges are related to communication and stress. Improved video conferencing quality and better use of video conferencing can address many of them.
For example, rather than using video conferences just for tracking work progress, which can be awkward and stressful, workplaces can hold team building meetings designed to put everyone at ease and create stronger camaraderie, leading to a more positive and productive team.
Video can also be used for one-on-one meetings with managers to discuss career goals, so workers will feel assured they are getting the mentorship they need. Managers will also benefit from having more opportunities to develop leadership skills (a problem reported by 60% of remote team managers).
Video may not be a perfect replacement for face-to-face interaction, but with improved quality, stress and miscommunication can be reduced. Seeing each other clearly also helps people build relationships.
New noise reduction technologies can reduce the effect of interruptions on meetings, by preventing noises from being heard by other participants. This will make it easier to focus and also reduce stress.
Some challenges call for other solutions. Online project management platforms that clearly assign responsibilities and make team goals and standards clear are arguably better for tracking progress. Overworking can be addressed using software solutions, and if dropping productivity is a concern group training can help turn things around without singling out anyone.
In upcoming enterprise collaboration posts we’ll dive into how AVerMedia’s solutions help organizations reduce remote work stress and improve productivity.