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What to Do When Remote Work Doesn’t Work For You

Not every organization is prepared to offer remote work. From software tools to the management processes, it takes more than an Internet connection to do it well.

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For most people, the recent shift to remote work has traced an interesting path. It started as a welcome convenience but quickly progressed to a highly stressful experience for some. People struggled to balance work and home life. They navigated a schedule filled with video calls, increased instant messages, and homeschooling while thinking about the increasingly worrisome state of the world outside. 

Working remotely is pretty much “business as usual” for people in the technology and other digitized industries. That’s why some companies have decided to make that switch permanent, with Shopify, Twitter, and Facebook announcing that employees can work remotely permanently. Given the high prices of commercial real estate, company executives are seriously considering moving more employees to remote work. 

But shifting to a permanent remote work model may not be viable for everyone, even for roles that don’t require a physical presence in the office. Before you decide to make that switch permanent, take a look at these signs that your organization may not be ready to adopt the remote work trend

Your Teams Thrive on Face-to-Face Interactions

Collaboration technology has come a long way. Instant messaging apps and video conferencing software help employees stay in touch as if they were working side-by-side. When it comes to collaboration and brainstorming, however, they tend to fall a little flat. 

Certain types of work and roles rely on a collaborative approach to achieve business goals than others. When you need to bounce ideas off each other, focus on one conversation while others continue to brainstorm, or sketch something to illustrate your idea better, there’s nothing like being together in the same room. You can sort of do these things remotely, but even in a video conference call, the interaction tends to be one-on-one. You miss the spark of the eureka moment when you pick out something from another conversation going on across the room. Online technology cannot replicate that experience yet, so if your team needs it to produce their best work, you need them to work together, in-person.

Your Business Isn’t Prepared to Invest In Remote Tools

My remote company recently introduced a $1,000 reimbursement program employees can use for their home offices. For instance, if someone needed a new desk, computer, ergonomic mouse, or software program, this program would cover the cost. Google also offers a similar reimbursement amount for staff to expense the necessary equipment and office furniture they may need to work remotely.

The focus of these programs tends to be on physical things like furniture, so many companies may not be prepared to offer that. One area they can’t skimp on is cybersecurity tools and solutions for remote workers. Many tech companies already have these in place with corporate virtual private networks (VPNs), two-factor authentication, and single sign-on software. Companies that aren’t used to dealing with remote employees may be unaware of what’s needed to secure their systems. They may neglect to offer cybersecurity training to remote staff, which can lead to inadvertent security breaches. 

Unless companies are willing to invest in the technology infrastructure to secure their networks and the IT staff to maintain and support it, remote work is not for you. 

Your Management Team Can’t Commit to This New Way of Working

Moving to permanent remote work might be easier to do if the work your organization does is suited to it, but it won’t work long-term if your leadership team can’t manage remotely. How will that lack of a physical presence by either your leaders or employees affect the relationship, evaluations, promotions, career development, and other advancements?  

Traditional management rated employees on a combination of effort and results, but that’s not viable in today’s work environment, whether on-site or off. The Association for Talent Development wrote that effective management “involves addressing results through people, processes, procedures, and innovation.” 

Your leadership team must transition to a results-based style and evaluation method supported by appropriate tools and processes to ensure a successful remote working arrangement for everyone. Otherwise, employees and managers will feel stifled and frustrated, leading to poor performance, productivity, and possibly higher attrition rates. 

As we work our way through the remote work facts of life, it’ll be interesting to see what organizations can switch quickly and which can’t. It’s not always going to be a smooth transition for everyone. If organizations are aware of their shortcomings and what they need to improve, it can be a positive experience for everyone. 

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