Remote Work Arrangements: Necessity Or The Future Of Work
Work has always been an integral part of an employee's life, but before 2020, it was defined as a separate physical space, where they could interact with their peers and work towards achieving their goals. For most employees (except those who choose to consult or freelance), work was distinctly separate from home. Even though the workforce felt the need for a more flexible work regime, it certainly was not a benefit many employers were comfortable giving their employees. All that changed with the pandemic's outbreak, which made the move mandatory, forcing organisations and employees to adapt to the new work patterns overnight.
A year and many employer experience surveys later, it looks like remote and flexible work arrangements, whether adjustable in terms of time or location of the workspace, are here to stay. This is not to say that work will be all about these remote and flexible work arrangements, but it is something that organisations are not opposed to anymore. For an employee, this affords them the benefit of working from where-they-are, spending more time with their families, while promoting greater collaboration between them and their employer.
Remote & Flexible Work: Common Challenges & Ways To Overcome Them
The future is still unfolding, and while things are slowly returning to normal, the road ahead is still long and unpredictable. Millions of employees worldwide have been working remotely or in Flexi-arrangements for almost a year now and have faced their share of challenges. It's entirely possible that you too may have encountered some of them. So, let's look at what some of these challenges are and how one can overcome them.
- Lack of engagement: While the virtual workspace is flooded with gadgets and software to facilitate knowledge sharing and make virtual interactions smoother and more transparent, there's no cure for loneliness that one often seems to experience while working remotely. In the absence of a shared physical space, everyday interactions in the office are replaced by the ding of emails, and IMs, further isolating an individual.
- What can be done: Seek to create windows to interact with colleagues without any work agenda. Schedule catchup sessions with colleagues or have virtual celebrations. You could also sign up for virtual travel for team outings. Engaging in these activities will alleviate the sense of isolation and make you feel connected to your team.
- Loss of productivity due to distractions: No two people are alike. Some people work better in clutter while others can't concentrate unless their workspace is pristine. However, remote and flexible work arrangements often offer enough distractions for everyone. It's quite easy to feel like you can juggle work and home chores or squeeze in one episode of your favourite show between meetings. Still, if it happens continuously, it can seriously derail your productivity.
- What can be done: Work from the same corner in your home, which is relatively free from distractions and discourage interruption from family members or housemates by conveying your office hours to them. Create a consistent schedule and follow it as much as possible. Creating a watertight psychological boundary around your virtual day can improve your focus and help you remain productive.
- Reduced visibility in the workplace: Not being able to be physically present with your team and the senior leaders can have consequences for your career. It can mean that your efforts and contributions are not visible to the ones who make the decisions. It would help if you countered this by intentionally putting your and your teams' accomplishments out there.
- What can be done: Share a monthly or weekly update highlighting your and your team's accomplishments and ask or volunteer for additional responsibilities, such as sitting in on meetings. Doing so make you appear responsible, reliable, and helps you raise your profile.
- Inability to disconnect from work: While flexible arrangements are all about giving employees the agency to integrate or balance their work and life, it often results in the spillover of work into life. In such a scenario, it can feel like work has overtaken your life, and instead of working from where you are, you are living at work. This, in turn, can be detrimental to your social, emotional, and mental well-being.
- What can be done: Creating rituals such as a fake commute, which would mean assigning a transition time period before you log in at work which you can use to take a short walk or create a to-do list for yourself, marking hard stops for workdays, switching off all tabs in the browser at the end of the day — can help you create defined boundaries between work and home.
- Burnout: In the absence of distinguishable boundaries and lack of visibility, one is more likely to work longer hours and prove that they can be productive from home. Add to that personal chores and household responsibilities — all of this can lead one to feel burnt out. It can also mean that your health and self-care may fall by the wayside.
- What can be done: Develop boundaries and be assertive in communicating them to your team. Try and delegate responsibilities that don’t require your full attention. Utilise your free time by engaging in hobbies and activities that give you pleasure and take mental health support, if needed.
As circumstances change, so should our working styles. However, being adaptable shouldn't come at the cost of your emotional and physical well-being. Clear communication, prioritising self-care and overcoming these challenges can make flexible work experience a successful and enjoyable one. Even if for the long haul.