Challenges in 6 Months of Remote Working: How Employees Tackled Through

Introduction

While the world becomes absorbed with the US presidential election results, India reported its highest-ever daily new COVID-19 cases. Businesses, too, continue to suffer. CEOs are faced with overwhelming challenges in uncharted waters as they scramble through the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a report by McKinsey, very few world leaders predict the incoming of better economic conditions.

The pandemic has forced organisations to reevaluate their efforts towards seamless customer experience, employees’ work conditions, and how digital channels can support business continuity.

It’s commendable how firms have made work-from-home a huge success using remote working solutions.

It’s reported that 69 per cent of Indian employees believe their productivity has increased while working remotely — the highest in the APAC region, including countries like Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Malaysia and Thailand.

Whether your organisation is new to remote working or has transitioned years ago, here are some of the most common challenges we’re facing in this pandemic — and a few simple tips to cope with them.

Distractions at home

Adjusting to a new workplace can be hard — especially when that workspace involves your parents, kids, pets, snacks or any combination of the above. Without a structured digital office, it can be challenging to get into that ‘work mode’ and resist the urge to binge-watch your favourite TV series, listen to music, or snuggle in bed with the hopes of working productively from there.

Besides leisure, most of us tend to get distracted by the constant stream of news that 2020 brings us — from the latest developments in our country to pandemic updates and health concerns.

Naturally, employees would lose focus while working from home, and employers tried to understand and accept their limitations wholeheartedly.

Here’s how they battled through:

a) By doing as much as they comfortably could with remote work solutions offered by cloud providers

It was natural to expect some turbulence in the work-life balance initially. No matter how much emphasis social media put on productivity, employees started by doing the best that they could to manage. (Yes, even if it meant a dip in their productivity graph post-lockdown as opposed to regular office-days.)

Cloud solutions, the latest technology, facilitated this transition to a great extent by supporting organisations with communication platforms to bring everyone together.

b) Setting up a dedicated workspace

To ensure maximum productivity, there should ideally be a separate room or cabin solely for work. This helps to associate that specific space with working, and reserve the rest of the house for unwinding in the when done.

Employees tried to set up their own office corners with what was available to them. Even dedicating a workstation can greatly increase productivity.

c) Taking regular breaks

Working for long hours at a stretch is undeniably taxing. To add to that, one needs to make time for meals in between work and for personal obligations.

Taking breaks can improve focus — and knowing that there’s an end to the current sprint will help to make it feel more manageable. This Pomodoro technique was widely used to boost focus and avoid procrastination.

Based on this technique, cloud-based remote working solutions have incorporated the cool feature of updating your status on your work-tools and keeping everyone informed for better collaboration.

Communication with “quaran-team”

Effective communication — both internal and external — is a hard nut to crack for organisations. Interactions can get complicated even at the best of times, and when you’re not in the same physical space, it can be even trickier.

However, remote working solutions to facilitate seamless communication, like Zoom and Microsoft Teams eased the jobs of team leaders by bringing everyone on the same platform.

Here’s how they battled through:

a) Daily huddles and meetings

Fixing daily huddles at the start of the day can go a long way and motivate employees to achieve their daily goals. In these regular meetings, each member enlists their tasks of the day in order of priority. The manager can assess workloads and accordingly distribute more work to balance the burdens.

Moreover, this routine gives an opportunity to raise any issue faced by the staff and maintain constant human contact.

b) Being elaborative while communicating

It is always better to err on the side of initial over-communication than risk under-communication. Cloud technology-based platforms for instant messaging like Slack or MS Teams support funny GIFs and smileys to brighten up a simple message and strike that connect.

c) Keeping things ‘face-to-face’

Virtually, that is. Using video calls for meetings is the closest one can get to being in the same room. Video conferencing allows wholesome conversations with hand gestures and facial expressions instead of just hashing out on texts.

Video calls are must when you feel like there’s tension brewing and issues that need to be addressed. One of the cloud technologies unified communication as a service or UCaaS provides all the features needed for smooth inter-organisational communication.On this platform, all your tools can be integrated to save time and efforts.

Co-existing with family and friends

Whether you stay with your parents or roommates or spouse, living in a full house is all fun until you have to work in the same set-up.

Remote work can be difficult — especially for children, but also for adults who aren’t familiar with remote working — to understand that being home all day doesn’t mean you’re available or free.

Moreover, as we said, it might not be possible for everyone to set up separate work stations due to confined spaces.

Here’s how they battled through:

a) Setting clear boundaries

It’s important to ensure that the members of your household know your work hours and respect them. Often they don’t even realise that they might be interrupting workflow. Agreeing on a virtual cue like ‘headphones on means deep focus mode’ can help maintain a seamless working flow.

b) Considering co-working

If your housemates are working from home too, consider taking a co-working approach. Or, if you decide otherwise, make sure to assign different desks and spots for your remote set-ups.

Motivation

By now, everyone working from home realises that staying motivated is a much harder task than avoiding distractions. A distraction is short-term but lack of focus is what keeps us from achieving our daily tasks.

On the other hand, staying focussed is an ongoing, long-term endeavour. It fosters faith that the work we’re doing is worthwhile.

Furthermore, it’s important to ensure that the work feels meaningful. No matter how difficult it is to focus right now, the only way to stay on track is to put in a complete effort.

Here’s how we battled through:

a) One day at a time

Taking it each day at a time is an appropriate approach to breeze through tough times — both personally and professionally. Set your daily tasks so that you can see what you have achieved each day and how it aligns with your long-term goals.

Breaking complicated tasks into smaller units is helpful and simplifies professional turmoil. It makes your job manageable and achievable at the same time.

Burning out

As much as it seems completely bizarre to over-work while eating snacks or watching your favourite TV show, such distractions can actually lead to involuntary over-work. Especially when cooped in a house during a pandemic, people can turn to work to bide their time and thereby experience more stress.

Here’s how we have battled through:

a) Sticking to a timetable or a routine

By setting a time to start and end the day, one can build a mindset of clocking out accordingly and maintaining a work-life balance. Tomorrow will be another day, always.

b) Developing a hobby

People during lockdown turned to cook, bake and read to pass those long days. However, those hobbies have become habits for a few. To maintain a proper work-life balance, it is very important to have a hobby as an unwinding evening activity.

It can help reduce stress and tension, and generally, impact your mood in a positive way.

The road ahead

A lot of us might still be feeling isolated, even after Unlock 6.0 in place. However, we’re definitely doing better than we were earlier. Employees have come a long way in terms of improving their focus and productivity.

Organisations are even considering a shift to a fully-remote set up in the future. The road ahead seems fun and full of innovations.

Outsourcing, crowdsourcing and video conferencing will be some of the most used corporate jargons in the coming years. While you go through the re-engineering process, don’t forget to stay safe and connected with your colleagues and clients.

How have you weathered through the crisis and what was your experience with remote working? Comment down below!

Content-admirer, having a knack towards marketing and consumer-behavior. I work with Servetel Communications, a leading cloud telephony provider in India.