The Challenges of Working from Home

Are we preparing for a New Normal?

As the famous writer William Arthur Ward once said, “The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.”

With the spread of the virus COVID-19, many companies have been forced to adapt to new ways of working. Around the world, almost all counties have enforced lockdown, making it such that only essential employees work from their offices, while the others adapt and implement work-from-home strategies.

While the option of working from home has always been around, with an estimated 20% of the Indian workforce working from home, the onset of COVID-19, the numbers have increased drastically. While some teams have always allowed the option of working from home, this transition to working from home full-time is a new experience for many. While in the current situation these options have been inevitable, many have been facing challenges in adapting to this new working environment. Here are some common challenges that may arise while working from home.

Maintaining Work-Life Balance Many managers do not prefer to let their employees work from home. This is because they assume that the employees are less likely to work to their best potential. Unlike in an office setting, numerous things can cause distractions in at home and lead to diluted productivity.

For those living with a family, it can be quite a struggle to juggle between working on their job and looking after their additional tasks like attending to children, cooking, cleaning and completing household chores – all of which make it difficult to focus entirely on work.

On the flip side, it has also led to increased working hours. Many employees who work from home regularly have noted that they tend to spend more time on work, than they would in an office. In the entire process of ensuring to convince their managers that they aren’t slacking off at home, the time that would otherwise be spent on travel and preparing to head to work is now spent entirely on work.

It is necessary to establish a clearly demarcated workspace in the house and set a strict schedule that can be followed throughout the day. Exceptionally long days can lead to burnout. In order to maintain the quality of work and a work-life balance, it is important to stay self-motivated and organised. Keep track of things that are likely to distract you and formulate a plan to ensure that it doesn’t disrupt your work.

Communicating with Team Members Due to the unexpected nature of the pandemic, many organisations have been unable to set up well-defined structures for working from home. Therefore, all new projects and changes have to be communicated over digital platforms. This may be a new experience for many employees who may need time to adjust to this new system. This has led to a feeling of distance and miscommunication between team members as they are no longer be able to have impromptu chats and brainstorming sessions during the workday. All of this has resulted in difficulty to communicate new ideas and build a sense of camaraderie with the team.

This can also adversely affect job growth if the manager doesn’t have experience in managing teams that are working remotely. Employees may get overlooked for promotions and new work opportunities despite being good at their job if the team lead is unable to effectively track work metrics of their team. Organisations should ensure that managers are well trained in effective strategies when it comes to leading teams that are working remotely.

-Yet, the Benefits are Many In India, many employees may struggle due to power outages, poor internet connectivity and irregular access to technology. Companies must take steps to ensure that employees are provided with the resources needed to effectively work from home. Although there is a learning curve to working from home, there are also many benefits.

Companies have come to realise that money and resources can be saved, resulting in cost savings, and convenience if employees begin to work from home. TCS (TATA Consultancy Services) has announced that by 2025, 75% of their workforce work from home permanently. IT companies such as IBM, CISCO and Microsoft offer flexible work options to their employees and many IT companies are set to follow in the post-COVID-19 environment. While there are quite a few challenges involved, reports show that employees who have the flexibility to work form their own setting are likely to be happier and more productive. Can we expect this to be the new normal and a standard practice, even after the Covid-19 situation is resolved?

There’s quite a possibility that the way companies manage the workforce will change. A complete evaluation of the pros and cons of remote working is needed. But like its said,

“Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by discomforts.”
- Arnold Bennett

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