5CA has championed working from home since our humble beginnings. But, while seeing other companies get on board with remote work has been great, we know it has its problems.
Not everybody thrives when they work from home. Generally, those with an aptitude for remote work learn on the go and can manage their own time. But there are dozens of reasons why it might not be the right choice for people.
We built a WFH aptitude assessment into our recruitment model with that in mind. That way, we can screen our CXperts, ensuring everyone thrives in a remote environment and those who thrive provide the best results.
Having worked remotely for two decades, we can identify problems and do our best to defeat them. Because, as with everything good in life, there are plenty of challenges to address along the way.
And while we believe remote work is the future, we know it isn’t all sunshine and roses. Organizing and maintaining a remote workforce is hard, and there are no Matrix-style contortion tricks to get around it.
But every issue has its solution.
We know it because we’ve been there and have worked our butts off to foster the best WFH environment for our CXperts: by identifying problems ASAP and solving them with a solid work-from-home strategy.
Is working from home the new normal?
If we had a cent for every time somebody has said something is the new normal since 2020, we’d have more money than Mario on his way to the castle.
But they also aren’t wrong. Thanks to the pandemic, working from home had to be the new normal.
With everyone stuck at home, companies of all shapes, sizes, and niches, had to go remote. It became pretty clear there was no better time to work from home. And the stats prove it. Microsoft Teams, for example, saw a boost in users, rising from 20 to 75 million in just five months.
People were using software they had never used before, and others were using software they hadn’t even heard of. Zoom memes became commonplace, and older generations earned the value of a well-placed gif.
While many enjoy the benefits of working from home, the same isn’t true for everyone. Many still prefer a desk over their kitchen table and water cooler chatter over freedom to use the WC without drawing the attention of coworkers.
At 5CA, we’ve been a pioneering force for work-from-home life from the beginning. We know its ins, its outs, and its challenges. And we also know how to solve them.
Common WFH problems (and how to overcome them)
Whether 2020 was your first foray into remote work or it’s just not for you, there are plenty of reasons you might prefer being in the office. In ways, it’s like going to the gym vs working out at home: some of us like having someone telling us what to do; others want the freedom to figure it out themselves.
And, like exercise, both work.
But some people want to work from home and get tripped up. With so many challenges to overthrow, it can feel overwhelming. That’s why we want to help by covering some of the most common problems you might run into when working with a remote team. And tell you how we overcame them ourselves.
1. Time Management
Believe it or not, plenty of bosses think their remote workers are slacking off. It couldn’t be more different.
People working from home are more likely to overwork at home than in the office. Having work and home lives collide leads to burnout. As a result, they feel overworked, overstressed, and like they have no time for themselves.
When in charge of their hours, many people forget to eat, don’t get to exercise, and spend at least 3 hours more on the job.
To curb this, ensure your employees stick to a routine.
- Create boundaries: It’s too easy for people to check their work email at 7 pm when they should be relaxing. Don’t let them. Make sure your workers know their work hours and insist they stick to them.
- Form schedules: Routines are the difference between a productive day and wasted time. By inspiring your workforce to schedule their days, workers will keep to their tasks and be more inclined to “hang up” their laptops at the end of the day.
- Leave work behind: This goes for bosses and employees. Remote work makes it harder for people to separate their work and home lives. So, they don’t always have a chance to relax. Make sure they stop working at the end of the day. They’ll enjoy work a lot more.
Average working hours have decreased in the last 30 years, but that’s not a bad thing. Working too much is one of the biggest productivity killers. If you’ve ever sat around in an office watching the clock tick by, you’ll know first-hand.
Having longer working days means there are more hours to fill. And unfortunately, when you have too many hours, it’s easier to get side-tracked. Even more so when you’re at home and surrounded by distraction.
Feeling uninspired is like throwing a wrench into the works for getting anything done. But there are ways to avoid this and keep people feeling motivated.
- Take a break: Taking breaks makes a person more productive. Productivity app, DeskTime, found 10% of their most productive workers take scheduled breaks. Rather than only breaking for lunch, inspire your workers to schedule regular breaks. Their work and wellbeing will only benefit.
- Shake things up: Although our brains are hardwired to love routine, it’s never good to eat the same thing every day. It’s the same as with work. Let people know that, if the work gets done on time, you don’t mind when they do it. If they feel sluggish, it might be worth taking that break half an hour earlier.
Thanks to COVID-19, even introverts felt isolated. Loneliness is at an all-time high. For many, going into the office to see your colleagues is an essential part of being human. We are social creatures, after all.
And while many people find the idea of becoming a hermit enticing, it can get old fast.
No matter what software captures the social aspects of work, there’s a difference between sending gifs in Slack and telling Elon Musk he’s muted over Zoom.
We can link so much of our mental health and wellbeing to being around other people. Whether it’s morning commutes, coffee-buying, or watercooler gossip, human interaction can lift spirits — even if you can’t wait to get home at the end of the day.
Loneliness can be a big problem when working from home. What people don’t realize is we need social contact to satiate us. Not unlike the way we need food to stave off hunger.
- Change your surroundings: While this was easier before COVID-19, it’s always good to get out of the house. Your workers can have the best home office and still feel burnt out from seeing the same thing every day. Going to a coffee shop or collaborative workspace brings people back into the world.
- Engage your workforce: One of the primary reasons for a disengaged workforce is the relationships workers have with their supervisors. In the world of remote work, managers need to be proactive in engaging their teams. Be it online games, teambuilding activities, gamification of work, or even virtual parties.
- Schedule reoccurring hangouts: It’s so easy for people to forget to talk non-work things with their colleagues. Having work hangouts is a great thing to stave off loneliness and up morale. Whether virtually or in person, talking about hobbies and interests makes everyone feel seen. But be sure to make it a regular thing — everyone needs something to look forward to.
Truthfully, maintaining a successful and happy remote team isn’t unlike romantic relationships. Communication is key. While this is true for all work teams, it’s even more important when working from home.
When you see somebody in person or sit across a table from them, you can pick up on social cues. If you’re working virtually, it isn’t as easy.
Text doesn’t read the same as body language. And video chats make it so people must look at themselves as they speak, which can be distracting if you’re not used to seeing yourself talk.
Miscommunications will happen, and without a clear line of communication, people will be more inclined to sort things out themselves.
- Have meetings: Organised work meetings are a great way to get everyone on board and up to date. You can do these via video chat, text, or group email, but we recommend software like Microsoft Teams or Zoom so you can see each other. Ensure everyone feels heard, and everyone understands. When you’re all on the same page, you can do some amazing things.
- Share updates: Ask people to update you and the team regularly. In return, update them too. Let everyone know what’s going on in the project and what may or may not happen long term. Keeping that communication open will make sure everyone knows what’s going on.
Strategy makes working from home fun
Implementing a strategy can make working from home more fun. Not only that, but you’ll get the most out of your workers as a result.
Even the biggest freedom-seeker needs some form of strategy if they want success. There’s a thing as too much freedom, but not in the way most of us think. With strategy, Into the Wild would have turned out much differently.
And while your remote team might not be parking a bus in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness, there’s a lot to be said for giving them some guidance. For lots of us, WFH is the future of work. But it’s only going to be successful if you keep fostering those working relationships, too.
If you have a WFH strategy in place, your team will soar
Forming a well-thought-out work from home strategy means supporting your team through the fog. In ensuring they don’t work too much, feel able to communicate with their co-workers, and effectively manage their time, you’ll get the best results.
We founded our global remote operating model to empower and engage our CXperts. With it, we’re able to work together seamlessly and bolster productivity. And in doing so, you foster a work-from-home environment people of all walks of life can love.