We now live in a world in which a vast majority of us work remotely at least part of the time. After being thrust into a sudden remote work scene over a year ago, many people are still struggling to adapt. They are also encountering a number of hiccups or larger issues that disrupt their schedules or even make it difficult or impossible to do their jobs effectively.
Fortunately, tech offers numerous solutions to the issues remote work presents, for employees and employers alike. Here are some of them.
Problem #1: A Lack of Networking Opportunities
Networking within and outside your company is difficult when there are no in-person events that allow you to mingle with other professionals in your field. And with a dearth of networking opportunities, people worry about making connections that help them advance in their organizations or fields.
Networking isn’t just critical for career growth — it also facilitates stronger collaboration and work satisfaction. If you’re a leader, you must be cognizant of these issues when managing and leading your employees. If they’re feeling stuck and unsatisfied, it will affect their ability to do their work.
Whether or not your business will continue to work remotely for the foreseeable future, you should aim to provide networking opportunities for your employees. And you can do so virtually. For example, why not provide online groups and forums for like-minded employees to bond over shared interests and perspectives? Perhaps you could start digital employee resource groups (ERGs) to facilitate connections among diverse groups.
Even recreational groups, such as a virtual company book club, will help people connect and meet others, including higher-ups within the organization.
Problem #2: Social Isolation
Social isolation goes hand-in-hand with a lack of networking opportunities. Still, this is more related to a lack of general in-person contact, rather than a problem with facilitating connection to advance someone’s career.
People often see their offices not just as a place to do work but also as a space to meet and form friendships. When you take a physical work environment out of the equation, employees feel isolated as they’re spending the majority of their days at home. How can you help combat that feeling?
Business leaders can still provide forums for employee bonding — and you don’t need a physical home base to make it possible. For instance, you could have regular virtual happy hours over Zoom, where you make work-related topics off-limits. You should also set up regular videoconferencing meetings, where coworkers can touch base and feel better connected with one another. Just be careful not to overwhelm employees with too many meetings.
Problem #3: No Face-to-Face Communication
Communication is fundamental to keeping an organization running smoothly. But in the case of remote work, face-to-face communication is extraordinarily difficult. Facial expressions and body language help convey a person’s message and show what they really think and mean — and they’re nonexistent when you’re chatting on Slack or talking on the phone. So, how do you ensure that your employees are communicating well without being in person?
During the pandemic, Zoom became a fixture of most of our work lives. But facilitating productive communication isn’t a quick-fix situation — it requires a little more finesse to do it well. For example, while you should certainly have video conferencing meetings, establish some ground rules, such as asking everyone who’s not talking at a given time to mute their mics. Make sure everyone’s software and platforms are routinely updated, too.
You should also keep these meetings to a minimum to prevent people from getting overwhelmed. Along with establishing rules for the meetings themselves, create a guide for determining which types of circumstances require video conferencing rather than email, phone calls, or Slack.
Problem #4: Distractions
When employees are working from home, distractions abound. Noise from roommates, family members, pets, neighbors, and construction is all too prevalent. The TV is right there, as is the refrigerator. Breaks may become more frequent.
It’s impossible to completely eliminate distractions. However, as a leader, you can implement systems to enhance and improve productivity, keeping the interruptions at bay and ensuring that the work still gets done.
For example, consider using time-tracking software like RescueTime for Teams. This platform keeps track of individual employees’ time spent on apps and websites, provides detailed reports with insights, as well as tracking meetings and calls. The tool doesn’t provide employers with information about the sites employees visit, however, in order to maintain their privacy.
Project management platforms can also help you improve productivity within the organization. Software like Trello, for example, gives you an overview of project stages, individual tasks and responsibilities, and due dates. You can assign team members to roles, see whether tasks have been completed, and more, allowing you to monitor progress and keep track of assignments.
Problem #5: Reduced Training and Onboarding
You’re probably still hiring new employees regularly, and it can be difficult to onboard and train them effectively without giving them instructions face to face. In order to get these hires up to speed, work with your IT team to develop materials (such as videos and troubleshooting guides) to educate new hires on how to use various programs and systems. Consider putting a chat system in place so they can ask questions in real-time, too.
Don’t forget about your current employees, either. Although they have already been onboarded, there may be new systems and procedures they’re expected to use. Again, your IT team might want to conduct virtual training seminars on how to use new equipment.
Finally, keep in mind that there may be paint points that you simply don’t know about. To ensure you’re taking the necessary steps, ask employees about what they need, technology-wise, in order to do their jobs better. A simple online survey might illuminate issues and process hiccups you didn’t know existed and give you a chance to resolve them. Providing these resources will help you and your employees run a better organization.