The debate around remote working rumbles on. Supporters of working-from-home claim remote working is the future and it’s here to stay. Others say remote working is over and others say, is there a solution for both parties?
Before the pandemic, remote work was already becoming more accepted, especially in certain industries and for specific roles. However, the pandemic forced many companies to adapt quickly to remote work.
There was no choice. No questions were asked.
The impromptu adaptation accelerated work-from-home models across various sectors — and in the main employees preferred the new arrangement.
Employers and executives are not so convinced. Subsequently, there is currently some reluctance, or resistance from some employees to return to the office.
And so, here we are, in the midst of a remote working tug-o-war.
There are, of course, pros and cons for both sides of the argument.
Pros and Cons of Remote Working: In Brief
Many studies and anecdotal evidence suggested that remote work could be as productive as, if not more productive than, in-office work. But other studies show more flexibility has caused a drop in productivity.
Employees prefer the flexibility in managing their work-life balance together with the time and cost savings of not having to commute to the office.
But remote working seems to work best for workers with young families. Parents have more time to spend with their children and are more available for school runs.
Young and single employees on the other hand are not feeling the benefits. The biggest complaint is feeling lonely. Some remote workers feel isolated and the lack of social interactions can have negative effects on mental health and overall job satisfaction.
There are also wider considerations to consider.
Analysts in the US reveal a trend that could emerge as a potential collapse. NPR reports that almost 30% of offices are vacant. That could lead to landlords being unable to make mortgage payments. With the risk of defaults higher, we could be heading for a financial crisis that eclipses the 2008 banking collapse.
Household brands such as Apple, AT&T and Morgan Chase have all dragged their employees back into the office kicking and screaming.
What Are The Challenges of Remote Working?
Remote work brings challenges in a number of areas. Among the chief concerns are IT security, maintaining team cohesion and company culture, communication, tech issues and mental health.
What Are The Chief IT Security Concerns of Remote Working?
Remote work can introduce security risks, especially if employees are using personal devices or unsecured networks to access company data. Companies need to invest in cybersecurity measures to mitigate risks and increase cybersecurity awareness throughout the workforce.
IT support teams should prioritise encryption tools, remote desktop protocols, secure file sharing, patch management, data backups and secure Wi-Fi connections in the homes of your employees. Virtual desktops are a solid IT security solution also.
Take into consideration whether remote workers are using personal devices for work. If so, ensuring these devices have up-to-date antivirus software, firewalls, and security patches is crucial to prevent malware infections and data breaches.
The devices should ideally be business class. Laptops will be more favourable for hybrid working. However, not all laptops have sufficient horsepower under the hood to perform some work-related tasks efficiently.
Remote workers could also be more susceptible to phishing attacks and social engineering scams. Regularly educate remote workers about cybersecurity threats, phishing attacks, and safe online behaviour to reduce the risk of security breaches.
Companies should adopt a zero-trust policy that verifies the identity of remote workers through strong authentication methods). Ensure that access to company systems and data is strictly controlled based on job roles and responsibilities and that manual methods are enforced.
For more information, read our article on How to build a zero-trust cloud environment.
What Are The Difficulties of Maintaining Team Cohesion?
Maintaining team cohesion and a sense of belonging can be difficult when team members are physically separated. Building strong working relationships takes more effort in a hybrid model.
Some remote workers report an increase in their workload. The lack of face-to-face supervision can lead to managers assigning additional tasks, and the pressure to prove productivity while working remotely can result in longer work hours.
Communication Challenges for Remote Workers
Communication also plays a central role in maintaining team cohesion. The hybrid working model relies on digital communication tools, which can lead to misunderstandings and misinterpretations. The constant need to manage email, chat messages, and video meetings can be overwhelming and stressful.
Reports show that relying primarily on digital communication tools can lead to information overload, miscommunication, and feelings of isolation among remote workers. Digital communication is less natural and spontaneous.
In certain industries or roles that require frequent collaboration and brainstorming sessions, remote work can hinder creativity and teamwork. The absence of in-person meetings can make it harder to build strong working relationships.
Tech Issues Can Frustrate Work-From-Home Employees
IT problems such as internet outages, software glitches, or hardware malfunctions can disrupt work. This puts a dent in productivity and causes frustration. These issues can be more challenging to resolve when working remotely.
Remote workers also complain about a lack of IT support. The absence of immediate, in-person assistance can lead to delays in fixing IT-related issues together with feelings of helplessness.
Mental Health Risks of Remote Working
There are a growing number of articles documenting how remote working is increasing stress. However, research studies do not back up those claims.
Some employees reported struggling with isolation, and there were concerns about the blurring of boundaries between work and personal life. Without a physical separation between the office and home, it can be challenging to “switch off” from work, leading to stress and burnout.
‘Zoom fatigue’ caused by an overwhelming number of video meetings is also reportedly causing exhaustion and stress. On the flip side, it has encouraged firms to rethink prioritising critical meetings and dispensing with meetings that are less necessary.
The mental health angle is clearly personal. Whilst some employees will benefit from remote working, others won’t. Employers and employees will need to be flexible and come to some sort of compromise.
Implementing hybrid work models, where employees split their time between working in the office and working from home seems the obvious option. This approach aims to combine the benefits of in-person collaboration with the flexibility of remote work.
What Are The Benefits of Hybrid Working?
A 2022 article in the Guardian newspaper identified that a “compromise” was needed between employees and employers. Hybrid working.
But is hybrid working the answer?
There are some key advantages. Hybrid working offers employees flexibility in choosing where and when they work. This can arguably improve work-life balance and job satisfaction, but can also be disruptive to a routine schedule.
Cost savings on both sides is the biggest attraction. Employees can save money by not having to commute and will probably spend less eating at home than they will be buying their lunch from M&S or Cooplands every day. Not to mention pub visits. However, that is subjective.
Businesses can also reduce overheads by downsizing offices. There is also a salary-saving solution on the table if remote workers accept it. But again, these supposed benefits may take some ironing out.
You have to ask at what cost will a lower salary actually cost. Business owners should be looking to recruit and retain top talent. Some top talent will want the flexibility of remote working but probably won’t accept a reduced salary package for the privilege.
Hybrid and Remote Working Solutions
And so we arrive at the suggestion of a compromise. Employee preferences will have to be taken into consideration, but so will the requirements of a specific role or project.
A team project usually produces better results when a team is sitting together. Whilst remote working tools offered by cloud-based tools can smooth the creases of communication, face-to-face interaction is more effective.
Firms also have to decide whether they have the necessary technology, security measures, and remote work infrastructure to support a hybrid model. And if not, do you have the budget to install the right equipment?
Read our article on implementing a hybrid work model to determine whether you have the right IT infrastructure to make it work
You will also need to establish clear policies and guidelines that define how hybrid work will operate and provide training and support to help employees adapt to the hybrid model and use remote work tools effectively.
Access Remote Working Specialists
Implementing a hybrid model offers some pivotal benefits if you take advantage of remote specialists. As a matter of fact, the benefits of accessing remote specialists are a solution that can tick a number of boxes.
Cloud technologies and remote working tools allow companies to hire talent from a wider geographical area and outsource work to external experts for specific tasks or projects.
Remote specialists often possess specialised knowledge, experience and skills that may not be available in-house. This can be particularly valuable for complex or specialised projects.
Hiring outsourced specialists can also be cost-effective as it eliminates the need for full-time salaries, benefits, and office space, reducing overall overhead costs.
You probably won’t need to train a specialist either, other than on how your product works. This saves both time and money compared to training in-house staff.
Specialists are often selected based on their track record and expertise, which means you can expect high-quality work and deliverables. Experienced specialists are less likely to make mistakes or require extensive revisions, which can save time and resources.
Outsourcing certain tasks or aspects of a project can transfer the associated risks to the specialist, such as compliance or regulatory risks. But at the same time, remote specialists bring fresh perspectives and innovative ideas to your projects, contributing to creativity and problem-solving.
IT Support for Remote Workers
It’s unlikely that remote working is going away any time soon. And if companies choose to go down the hybrid-compromise route, paving the way for effective remote working should be a priority.
Remote workers need to be set up with secure and reliable remote access solutions, such as Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) or remote desktop services that allow employees to access company resources and systems securely from remote locations.
IT teams or IT support specialists also need to be available to offer assistance with software installations, updates, troubleshooting and fixing IT issues promptly — and at all hours of the day. Outsourcing IT to a 24/7 helpdesk provides an ideal solution here.
Adopting remote desktop support tools and 24-hour monitoring will be needed to resolve issues on remote devices when necessary. Ensure these tools are secure and compliant with privacy regulations.
Improving the home Wi-Fi connection of remote workers may also be necessary to ensure they have a stable and secure internet connection. Heightened security protocols will also be required as standard home Wi-Fi routers don’t provide the same level of protection as business protocols.
IT Support in London
Providing robust IT support for remote working employees requires a combination of technical solutions, clear policies, proactive communication, and ongoing training. It’s essential to adapt and evolve IT support strategies as the needs of remote workers and the technology landscape change.
Whether you intend to switch to a hybrid model or engage a distributed workforce full-time, taking advantage of outsourced IT support in London can be a cost-effective and efficient way for businesses to access professional IT services without the need to maintain an in-house IT department.
Micro Pro has been providing best-in-class IT support services to businesses in London and the southeast for almost 25 years. We started out as a single office in Kent but have expanded our reach to Surrey, London and Glasgow.
We appreciate that businesses need access to IT support specialists you can rely on. Our tailored and personal approach has proven effective for over two decades, and together with our expertise in solving IT problems quickly and efficiently, we are confident moving to a hybrid or remote working model will help you reap all the advantages and avoid the pitfalls.