Remote work is rapidly becoming the new norm for many companies, yet the unorthodox way of working isn’t all upside.
In fact, working remotely can have the opposite intended effect in some cases: reducing productivity levels, creating communication issues, and leading to a poor work-life balance that ultimately affects employee mental health.
In this guide, we’ll explore the often-overlooked negative impact of remote work on work outcomes, and what you can do to address the most common problems the work dynamic can present.
When you make the transition to a remote work model, the most notable difference is usually the way in which you communicate with your team.
Unless you already have the digital infrastructure in place, including systems and tools for communicating efficiently when remote, it’s almost impossible to avoid the emergence of silos in your remote work environment.
What are communication silos?
Imagine you have a series of office cubicles in a row, with doorways connecting one to the next. In this scenario, when employee A wants to raise an issue about a shared task or project with employee B, they need only get up and walk a few steps to speak with their colleague.
Now imagine that you have the same row of office cubicles, but this time each cubicle is self-contained, and there’s no passage from one to the next. In this case, if a problem arises, the employees have to either walk the long way around to get the attention of their colleagues or communicate with them digitally.
The second scenario encapsulates what it means to be in a remote work communication silo: you’re effectively cut off from your coworkers, making it difficult to stay in touch. When communication breaks down, workflows suffer, projects take longer, and confusion can wreak havoc among your team’s ranks.
How to Address it:
To tear down the virtual walls that cut your team members adrift from one another, explore ways of streamlining your communication systems.
Here are a few ideas:
- Clarify your communication expectations for the remote work setting.
- Schedule regular check-ins to make sure everyone is on the same page.
- Use varied communication channels, including both synchronous and asynchronous tools.
With the right systems and tools, you can negate the impact of siloing that naturally occurs in a remote work environment. Find online solutions and software platforms that bridge the virtual gap between team members, and it can feel as if you never left the office.
The best pc activity monitor software allows monitoring employees at work, so you can see the impact new communication tools have on productivity after you introduce them. With employee screen capture software monitoring a computer is easy, and you can also ensure team members are using the right channels of communication throughout the day.
Waning Work-Life Balance
Work-life balance is an important issue to discuss in the context of remote work since it affects employees’ personal and professional lives.
Fail to address the impact of a waning work-life balance at the individual level, and you’ll notice a significant downturn in positive work outcomes.
In some ways, it seems counterintuitive that working remotely would lead to a worse work-life balance.
After all, it’s everything employees could ask for, right?
- Work from the comfort of their home
- Take breaks when they need to
- Avoid the time-consuming daily commute to and from the office
Yet it would be naive to assume that this counteracts the negative impacts of working remotely.
In a remote work environment, it’s easy to make assumptions.
Managers assume that they contact their team members at all hours in hunt of project updates or with questions about progress. On top of this, many employees experience the sensation that they need to work harder since they enjoy the privilege of working from home.
These factors contribute to a growing pressure in the remote work setting to be present and available to coworkers around the clock. What used to be a typical 9-5 workday now starts at 8.30 am and doesn’t end until 6.30 pm or later.
How to Address it:
On the management level, it’s important that you respect the work-life balance of your employees.
While they may have more freedom with their schedules, without concrete boundaries in place, employees can slip into dangerous habits of giving more than they need to at work.
After a while of over-committing, many employees run into the issue of burnout, as they feel as if there’s rarely a moment in the day when they’re not available to the demands of work.
Support your remote workforce by enforcing strict rules surrounding work-related communication, and offering tools that enable employees to silence notifications once they clock out for the day.
Part of the reason employees fall prey to worse work-life balance when working remotely is because of a lack of structure.
While it may seem like a chore at times, the daily routine of commuting into the office, grabbing a morning coffee, and chatting with coworkers before sitting down for the day’s work can create a feeling of comfort and familiarity.
It’s only once this workday structure is a distant memory that you start to realize how important it could be for achieving high levels of productivity and performance.
When you start working from home, there are various obstacles standing in your way to creating an effective workday structure:
- There’s nobody around to see when you start work or stop to take breaks
- You don’t have a dedicated workspace, and even if you do, there’s no productivity cue of seeing or hearing colleagues at work
- There could be a variety of distractions from family members to other noise around your home
Without a clearly-defined work structure, employees can struggle to reach the same levels of productivity as they might if they were working in a shared office space.
How to Address it:
To address the issue of diluted work structure, it’s important to model an effective day of remote working to your team.
Provide examples of how your team members can structure their day to work to their strengths, and see the lack of shared structure as a positive rather than a negative.
You can also introduce Windows desktop monitoring software as a way of keeping everyone accountable but also helping them understand when they are most productive through productivity reports, and how they should structure their workdays.
For example, let’s say you start employee productivity monitoring and find that one team member seems to get into their groove mid-morning. You notice from monitoring computer usage that their productivity trends upwards and they are at their most active at the 10-11 am mark.
In this case, you could share this internet and workplace productivity data with the team member, and encourage them to build their day around this time of peak performance. This data from your employee system monitoring could provide the motivation they need to create a workday structure that suits their work habits.