Making WFH Great: The 4 Greatest Struggles Of Working Remotely

 

The verdict is out—work from home (WFH) is here to stay, at least for now. With no clear end in sight for the pandemic and the possibility of phase 3 still hanging in the balance, companies here (and the world over) are likely to stick with remote work policies for the foreseeable future.

Twitter, for one, has announced that its employees are free to continue working from home “forever.” Likewise, Google, Facebook, and Apple have all extended their WFH policies to 2021.

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On the home front, recent surveys by employee engagement platform EngageRocket indicate that 8 in 10 Singaporeans would want to keep working from home “in some capacity” post-circuit breaker.

Clearly, though, WFH is not without its challenges; only 15% of Singaporeans surveyed desired WFH all the time, and 10% refused WFH entirely.

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In the interests of employee satisfaction and productivity, managers would do well to look strategically at how to make WFH great for everyone involved, starting with identifying the four greatest struggles of working remotely.

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1. Frequent miscommunication

Research shows that 70% of all communication is non-verbal. Human beings communicate not just through words, but by using non-verbal communicative cues to form appropriate contexts and interpretations that inform how we understand and relate to one another.

When you’re staring at each other through webcams, screens and devices, though, it’s much harder to pick up on things like body language, tone, or facial expressions.

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Consequently, there’s a lot more room for misunderstandings, especially when people tend to jump to conclusions and/or think the worst of others.

According to a 2015 report by the Institute of Leadership & Management, for example, 88% of remote workers felt that there was a much higher risk of miscommunication in teams that aren’t co-located.

 

2. Longer working hours

Pre-pandemic, remote workers were often stereotyped as less productive than their in-office counterparts; the assumption was that if you’re not physically around, then you’re probably not really working, either.

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Contrary to popular belief, though, study after study has found that since the start of WFH, people are working longer hours than they did before.

EngageRocket, for instance, found that 70% of respondents identified longer working hours as one of the greatest challenges of WFH. Similarly, the Microsoft Work Trend Index found that people are now working 3 hours longer during WFH than before.

 

3. Inefficient personal productivity practices

More than anything else, WFH underscores the need for greater employee ownership and autonomy, self-management, and personal productivity.

After all, adjusting to the new normal often necessitates:

  • Adjusting to the myriad distractions at home
  • Coping with different sources of stress as a remote worker
  • Having to be more deliberate about time management

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A study published in the Harvard Business Review, for one, reported that the 53 minutes of time savings (on average) from not having to commute every day was “often immediately absorbed by additional, less productive work.”

In the same vein, according to EngageRocket, 7 in 10 employees pinpointed distractions, space constraints, and family presence as the toughest aspect of adjusting to WFH.

 

4. WFH burnout

Pre-pandemic, the idea of WFH may have initially conjured up images of blissfully working from your bed in your pyjamas.

As it turns out, though, WFH is no walk in the park. With the compounded struggles of social isolation and the pressure to be available 24/7, Singaporeans are increasingly facing WFH burnout.

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37% of Singaporean employees surveyed by the Microsoft Work Trend Index, for instance, attributed their burnout to poor work-life boundaries. Thanks to the sheer difficulty of drawing concrete work-life boundaries, people are more overworked, overloaded and overstimulated with information than before.

 

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