The national lockdown following coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has compelled a large number of people to adapt to the work from home (WFH) model. While there are several benefits of remote working, including higher productivity and flexibility as well as improved employee morale, it may not be a viable option in the long run, suggest studies. To make it a bigger success in organizations, researchers suggest that the WFH movement brings forth several challenges that need to be resolved immediately.
A recently released SCIKEY Mind Match Report reveals that 99.8% of the workforce is incapable of working from home and only 0.02% showcase highly productivity attributes. It highlights that 95% job seekers are resistant to learning and exploring, among them 65% lack in practical communication skills and 71% lack in planning and execution.
Another report by Feedback Insights, a Bangalore based research firm, revealed that around 65% employees are concerned about personal well-being; a lack of connectedness with the team and an overall anxiety about the job environment. Also, network issues (56%) and frequent distractions at home (47%) are the other key challenges faced by employees. Business leaders (58%) indicated managing teams remotely to be their biggest challenge owing to the cultural change of working remotely. 50% of business leaders have also indicated data security and regulations to be a major area of concern.
From the above research reports, we can outline the key concerns and how these issues can be resolved by enterprise decision makers during and post the COVID-19 era.
Communication gaps to team collaboration
As employees don’t have the familiar face-to-face access to their colleagues, it often leads to confusion, distrust and even conflicts within a team. Employees often miss the face-to-face discussions, in-person meetings and informal brainstorming sessions over coffee breaks. And a good number of employees believe, it affects their general wellbeing (65%), shows the Feedback Insights report.
To cope with the challenges of working remotely, teams have to adopt a more agile style of working and senior managers/leaders should split the tasks into smaller manageable sub tasks etc. Teams should also make it a point to interact more often through leveraging communication and collaboration platforms. Online platforms like WebEx, Slack and Hangouts can help bridge the communication gap to a great extent.
Poor employee engagement
Organizations are facing difficulty in maintaining company culture as people tend to lose the sense of common identity, especially if they have been employed recently. This leads to lower employee engagement and eventually a higher attrition rate. Also, distractions at home lead to procrastinating employees who sooner or later end up in a vicious cycle of low morale, as the peer influence factor disappears.
While engaging with these employees, especially under the remote working scenario, one should pay close attention to the details of the tasks assigned to them. The SCIKEY Mind Match Report reveals that 40% of the IT workforce is logic-driven. In order to engage remotely with them, it becomes mandatory to assign them a task that is logic-driven and to answer their queries, no matter how small or how many.
To deal with such issues, companies can conduct virtual induction sessions as well as training programs to personally guide new joiners who struggle to acclimatize with a remote working environment.
A transparent leadership communication and effective employee engagement activities are some of the key tasks that employees have from their firms, primarily driven by the lack of a physical connection with team members/firm and also the business uncertainty prevalent in the current context. The Feedback Insights report stresses that more than half the leaders (53%) believe that given the possible business changes post the lockdown the key priorities would be to ensure that employees are future ready through employee training and upskilling (24%) and maintain employee morale and well-being (16%).
Problems such as internet outages, application crashes, and broadband network limitations are common problems when working from home. This is especially true for SMEs and start-ups, which may lack the technology infrastructure and/or adaptability to the remote working procedures. The lack of robust technology infrastructure can disrupt not only individual performances but the overall business cycles as well.
In most cases employees are grappling with getting the right hardware and software tools and myriad technical issues which typically be handled by the IT department at offices. In that case, companies must streamline their applications at both the macro and micro level to ensure that every employee has access to all the tools they need to meet their deliverables. This may include the distribution of laptops/computers to employees, providing broadband access and offering reimbursement for internet usage for office work.
Grappling with security challenges
Research shows that remote workers are more prone to data theft and other kinds of malware attacks. That’s because many employees prefer to use their personal laptops which typically don’t offer enterprise-grade security. While they connect their inadequately protected laptops to the enterprise network, those employees may be unknowingly enabling a cyber-security risk that can jeopardize the entire organization’s safety.
In this scenario, it is crucial for companies to deploy the right firewall, endpoint verification, and VPN tunnels, thereby allowing employees to work on their own devices from home without the risk of third-party data breach incidents and ransomware attacks.
The key takeaways
The WFH model if implemented strategically can result in cost savings, productivity gains, and ultimately a more efficient workforce. It offers flexibility, better work-life balance and a sense of autonomy among employees.
While the advantages are many, tackling the above-mentioned challenges should be a priority for companies to facilitate a smooth transition to remote working. Scheduling virtual meetings with fixed intervals, training employees with project management tools and communication platforms, and having a strong data security strategy in place are imperatives to get business success, especially in such challenging times.