After the COVID-19 pandemic forced many industries worldwide to shift to virtual work, many employees have happily embraced the work-from-home life (while others miss the routine and connection offered by working from a physical office with their colleagues).
According to Microsoft’s 2021 Work Trend Index, more than 70 percent of workers want flexible remote work options to continue after the COVID-19 pandemic, while more than 65 percent crave more in-person, face-to-face connection with their teammates. The same research found that 66 percent of business decision-makers are considering redesigning workspaces to better accommodate for hybrid work.
Additionally, a 2021 McKinsey survey found that 52 percent of employees would prefer more flexible hybrid working models where some employees work from home and others report to a brick-and-mortar office. If their company no longer allowed remote work, one-quarter of respondents said they would consider finding a new job.
Although remote and hybrid work are likely here to stay, working from home isn’t without its challenges. In this article, we will share some of the top pain points of remote work—from shoddy WiFi connections to a lack of connection with colleagues—plus actionable strategies to help you achieve work-from-home success.
Battling wifi troubles
According to the 2021 Work Trend Index, one in 10 remote employees say they do not have an adequate internet connection to do their job. Obviously, you need fast WiFi if you have a big client presentation or an important company all-hands meeting looming.
The solution? Upgrade your modem, purchase a network extender, or use an ethernet cable to connect to the internet directly. When your internet seems especially unreliable, consider switching to audio-only calls. Consider reaching out to your operations team to see if your company will cover the costs of these internet-related investments. Many organizations have instituted work-from-home stipends to reimburse employees for hardware as well as monthly internet costs.
Yearning for human connection
According to the Achievers Workforce Institute 2021 Engagement and Retention Report, 42 percent of participants say company culture has taken a hit since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. More than one-quarter of employees surveyed said lack of communication was the biggest factor.
When your office lives inside a computer, it can be especially challenging to find moments of genuine human connection. When you fire off a Slack message or two about the newest episode of the trendiest Netflix series, your attempt at connecting may fall flat compared to the more organic conversations you would have in a conference room or breakroom. Not surprisingly, workers in a recent study cited loneliness and lack of face-to-face meetings as top pain points of working from home. While reduced connection certainly applies to the water-cooler chatter of yore, it also applies to work-related communication. A study of more than 60,000 workers found that shifting an entire company to remote work can make it more difficult for employees to collaborate and exchange information—and lead to more siloed communication. Perhaps that’s why more than two-thirds (67 percent) of employees in the 2021 Work Trend Index said they want more in-person work or collaboration post-pandemic.
So, how can you find ways to more effectively connect with a distributed team? Be intentional about your meetings: Outline your agenda ahead of time, resist the urge to work behind the scenes while on a call, and make time to talk about non-work-related interests. Fun chat channels organized by interest (such as cooking, pets, travel, and kids) can be a great way to connect, too.
Fending off bad habits
Anyone who works from home understands how the line between home and “the office” tends to blur. In fact, research shows that while working from home can improve certain aspects of work-life balance, it may also lead to overworking and the struggle to balance work hours with family commitments. When you can technically work from the comfort of your couch—or bed (Shh, we won’t tell!)—it can feel harder to get and stay focused on the job. And if you face an overflowing laundry basket, parental obligations, and/or a full lineup of shows you’d like to catch up on, it can be especially tricky to tackle your work to-do list. Likely because of reasons like these, more than half of remote employees in the Achievers Workforce Institute 2021 Engagement and Retention Report said they worried their manager had doubts about their productivity. When asked what they did to assuage these concerns, 44 percent of work-from-home respondents said they either log on earlier or stay online to work later. Even worse? More than one-third (37 percent) say they skip their lunch break in order to work.
So, what can you do in order to manage the distractions and settle into a healthy routine? First, be kind to yourself and understand that working from home means you won’t always be able to fully separate work from home. That’s where realistic work-life boundaries step in. When you’re not commuting to and from the office, it’s a good idea to not only set up a designated workspace in your home (in an area with minimal distractions), but to find other ways to separate work from your home life. For some people, that may look like showering and putting on different clothes in the morning. For others, it may mean squeezing in a workout between work and dinner. And don’t forget to take breaks during your work day!
One study examining the effects of remote work across nearly two dozen industries found that while working from home can reduce psychological and physical stress responses, full-time remote work may reduce overall work productivity. That downtick in productivity can be attributed to a whole host of factors we’ve already covered, including less effective collaboration, distractions (hello again, Netflix), and worrying about a global health crisis—all of which can lead to a decrease in overall motivation. The good news? Recent research suggests that leadership can boost motivation when they give employees more control over how and when they complete their work and provide the tools employees need to be autonomous and feel connected to their colleagues. So, if you feel like you’re lacking the autonomy to feel engaged and inspired by your work, ask your manager if you can discuss ways to redefine and hone your role.
Considering one in six jobs are now remote, it’s important for both employers and employees to invest time and other resources into making it work for everyone involved. Workplace challenges will continue to happen whether you work from home or at an office. But by recognizing some of the top pain points and how to address them, you can help ensure better work-life balance and overall job satisfaction.