In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, many organisations asked their employees to work from home. One writer described the COVID-19 Pandemic as a “time machine to the future”. Over the past year, the pandemic has accelerated a technology-enabled trend to wit: the move to virtual remote work environments which has the potential to remain strong and become the ‘new normal’ even after the pandemic situation abates.
Remote working has accelerated the adoption of a variety of technology solutions, including collaboration and videoconferencing apps. It has eliminated the daily commutes of workers (resulting in saving on commute costs and other expenses), thereby allowing them to be more efficient and effective. It has enabled virtual collaboration with colleagues and promoted innovation, as well as increased workforce diversity of thought and talent. Flexibility and freedom are the most benefits of remote working. Remote working is incredible, but as with every other thing else, it’s not without its challenges and downsides.
With employees working remotely due to the pandemic, the challenges of data security and privacy have become more pronounced. As organisations transition their workforce, cybersecurity challenges have been created. Inexperienced remote workers often lack security awareness; they are unfamiliar with the best/standard practices concerning the physical safety of their devices, cyber threat detection, password usage, and data protection. Against this uncertain backdrop, organisations become more susceptible to cyber threats. According to a Deloitte research, the need to accommodate remote workers has increased the likelihood of a large-scale cyber-attack owing to unmonitored networks. A study cites that the three biggest struggles of remote work are insufficient collaboration and communication, loneliness, and the inability to fully unplug after work. With remote working, there is a chance of a lack of mentorship, reduced interpersonal networking opportunities, and a lack of camaraderie with colleagues.
There could also be work-home interference and distractions while working remotely which causes a break in concentration. There’s been a debate surrounding the productivity of remote workers. It’s been suggested that remote workers are often more productive than those who work in an office. Some persons are a natural, while others struggle with and have a hard time eliminating distractions and focusing on their work.
For remote working to thrive, reliable power supply, internet connection and infrastructure are needed. However, it is possible that once in a while, remote workers will encounter connectivity challenges and power outage. Collaboration delays could occur due to differences in time zones.
What are the solutions to these challenges?
Frank Weishaupt, CEO of Owl Labs believes that as an employer, it’s critical to maintain a community for all workers despite their physical location, and require manager training specific to remote workers as well as provide the latest technological advancements in digital collaboration tools across the organisation. Communication among team members is key to success and productivity. There must be clear-thought out communication channels and protocols to facilitate a smooth course and exchange amongst team members when working remotely. Guidelines should also be made available to aid inexperienced remote workers navigate through these tools and communication protocols.
As people turn to remote work, tools such as Pomodoro Technique and FocusMate to mention a few are being created that focuses on the remote specific productivity needs of remote workers. With these, remote workers are able to improve their productivity and track their work time.
Physical office environments typically have a sort of security in place to prevent security risks and cyber-attacks/threats. To mitigate against cyber threats and security risks, necessary cybersecurity protocols and procedures, as well as trainings and guidelines on how to implement them should be provided for remote workers.
To overcome connectivity challenges and power outage, organisations should invest in great and reliable service providers for remote team players. To bypass the obstacle of collaboration delays due to time zone differences, a kind of balance and an overlap between team members will have to be created if productivity is to be attained. Tools like Slack will help to achieve this. A culture of communication among team players will help to manage the situation effectively. Creating a calendar (using Google calendar, for instance) and ensuring that it stays up to update will ensure that targets are hit and deadlines met.
Conclusively, remote work is the future of work. With effective communication channels, security protocols, reliable internet service, project management and coordination platforms, organisations will get the best out of remote working.