The global pandemic shifted the job scene, as many employees across the globe switched over to remote work. Gone were cubicles, in-person interactions, and roundtable meetings.
The past few years have highlighted the real benefits of having the ability to work remotely, while on the other hand illuminate the many struggles employees have faced.
Let’s dive into some of those benefits and challenges.
Benefits of remote work
So long commute!
One of the best benefits of working from home is employees get to avoid commuting every day to work. Instead of sitting in constant traffic and wasting several hours to and from work, employees can get hours back in their day. This can have several positive effects.
Employees could be less stressed knowing they don’t have to wait hours to get home. It also could help with the general health of the worker.
Instead of sitting in their car for 60-90 minutes every day, people can use that time to potentially go on a walk or spend time with family and friends.
This links with not having to commute; employees are able to save money by avoiding having to leave their house to work. First off, people can save money and not have to fill up their gas tank so often. With gas prices soaring, cutting the amount spent on gas could help the individual have more financial freedom in their life.
Furthermore, some employees must pay parking fees or pay for for public transportation to get to and from work. With remote work, those expenses are eliminated.
Also tied to commuting to work, many employees must wake up early in the morning to ensure they are able to get to the office on time. Some must leave in the dark. Many people go to work yawning, dragging their feet, and on their second cup of coffee.
However, with remote work, employees get some hours of sleep back. Instead of waking up at 6 am to make it to work at 8 am, employees can get an extra hour of sleep. Not only does this boost the overall happiness of the employee, but employees are more alert and ready to work.
When employees have more sleep, don’t have to commute, and have their workspace in the comforts of their home, this can result in increased productivity.
As stated in Gallup’s State of the American Workplace, “all employees who spend at least some (but not all) of their time working remotely have higher engagement than those who don’t ever work remotely.”
The optimal engagement of remote workers has increased from 20% in 2012 to 60% to 80% of time working remotely today.
Why is this? For one, employees have higher autonomy working in their homes. They are afforded the luxury of working in an environment comfortable to them and not have someone looking over their shoulders constantly.
Furthermore, employees don’t have to deal with office interruptions and people constantly coming to their desks.
Friends and family time
“Sorry I have work.” “Sorry I have to wake up early tomorrow.” ‘Sorry I have to stay at the office late.” These are all common phrases employees have said to friends and family. Work can be busy and at the same time, take away time away from loved ones. Relationships are negatively affected, friendships lost, and life feels to just be filled with just work.
However, with remote work, there is some flexibility. If one must work late, they are able to do that while they are next to their loved one.
If a friend wants to go eat dinner, an individual knows they can stay out later and get an extra hour of sleep because they don’t have to commute to work.
Like getting more sleep, this could increase the overall happiness of employees because they know they can still be an integral part of their friends and families lives while also being productive at work.
Challenges of remote work
Relationship building with managers
It is so important to build a great relationship with your manager. Your manager is integral in helping you grow, gain skills, and help you with any problems you have.
However, working remote causes a problem. Instead of your manager having the ability to come talk to you at your desk whenever, the conversation online becomes less organic and spur-of-the-moment.
Why is this important? This will prolong your manager getting to know you better, your strengths, your weaknesses, and your needs. The longer this process takes, the longer performance management of the employee will be difficult for the manager.
This also puts a strain on the employee. If they don’t have a great idea of their manager’s expectations, their needs, and how they work, their job becomes even more difficult.
Working remotely, the employee can’t just walk over to their manager’s office or desk. They have to send a message, send an email, or give them a call (which might not be answered promptly).
Relationship building with co-workers
The office environment captures the true culture and pulse of a company. Co-workers turn into friends, and it could make the job more enjoyable. However, when you are only working from home, those relationships can prove difficult to build.
Just like not having the ability to go to a manager’s desk or office, employees aren’t able to go to a co-worker’s desk to quickly ask for help on an issue or take a break and talk to people around them.
There is a lack of human interaction that comes with remote work, and it creates a company of individuals who really don’t know each other.
Since employees are working remotely, there is a possibility that work will be sent to you at all hours of the day. This could lead to burnout.
Sitting in front of the computer screen for long hours of the day (sometimes longer than if you were working in person) could cause even more stress. Your eyes begin to strain, and your ‘comfortable home’ turns into a room filled of stress. Individuals could slowly feel overwhelmed in their own homes and feel drained.
In this instance, employees would need to have a meeting with their manager about their work schedule and set their availabilities online.
“You’re glitching.” ‘I can’t hear you.” “You’re muted.” These are all common phrases used as people shifted to remote work.
Remote work has forced two things on people. First, the competent use of technology. Whether it be Zoom, Microsoft Teams or any other video conference source, employees had to learn how to navigate each video source. For some, it has proved more of a nuisance than a gift.
Zoom calls crash, video and audio sometimes don’t work, and hours of time are wasted trying to figure out solutions to get it running.
Secondly, if employees work from home, they must ensure that their Wi-Fi is reliable. Nothing is worse than being in an important meeting and your screen freezes because your Wi-Fi is glitching.
Distractions unique to remote work
Even though working remote prevents distractions in a work setting, a new set of distractions takes over. Since you are in the comfort of your home, several things could occur: If you have roommates or family members, they could be too loud, interrupt you when you work, and not have any boundaries.
To make matters even more difficult, if individuals have children, trying to focus on work while having a kid running around the house could prove to be very stressful. In addition, if people have animals, their dogs or cats could make it difficult to work if they decide you have worked enough that day and want attention.
Outside of human distractions, being in your home (without supervision) allows people to spend more time on their phones, turn on their TV, and do other things outside of working. Resisting the urge to turn on Netflix could be hard for people.
COVID-19 significantly has impacted the landscape of work with many companies shifting to full remote or hybrid remote models. With that, people have had to adjust.
While there are many positives and challenges remote work presents, one thing is clear, remote work isn’t going away.
As the global pandemic slowly fades away, these next few years will be an interesting time for companies and the longevity of remote work.
Only time will tell if remote work will be a lasting and permanent option for employees.