by Neal Joseph
Five Potential Risks of Working from Home
Disconnected Employees—According to a Harvard Business Review study—conducted well before Covid—remote employees have reported feeling disconnected from their co-workers because of the lack of physical interaction with them. This weakens bonds and lowers trust between colleagues, making collaboration more difficult. According to a Buffer study, 21% of remote workers complain of isolation. Workplace camaraderie and banter plays an important role in staff morale and can be lost in the move to remote work. There are even possible health concerns. Have you ever heard of Hunched Over Laptop Syndrome (HOLS)??? Yep, it’s a real thing.
Distracted Employees—While not being pulled into constant meetings or having co-workers “drop by” to chat can increase productivity, many employers fear that their employees may become less productive if they’re not part of a constant, unchanging environment. Kids, spouses, dogs, and chores can definitely threaten focus, and who hasn’t been on a Zoom call this past year when one or more of these things made an appearance. Clear expectations, precise goals, agree-upon timelines, and expected outcomes can help, but working from home can definitely make it more challenging to stay on task and manage time wisely.
Corporate Culture Gets Lost—For an organization founded and built as a virtual company, working remotely is second nature; it’s all they’ve known. But during Covid, most organizations have, by necessity, moved their employees to work remotely. And to the 10-, 20- or 50-year-old organization that has had brick-and-mortar headquarters since day one, it may seem like working remotely is working great (now), but what about when new people or new leadership are added to the mix? Teams that have been working together in-person for years can carry the corporate culture and ethos into working remotely—at least for a season—but what about when there are reorganizations or new team members that only “know” each other
digitally? How can you ensure that your core values, work ethic, and even quality control are being both communicated and lived out going forward?
Brainstorming and “Spur of the Minute” Ideas Suffer—Video conferencing can certainly help maintain regular communication and discussion, but how many times have the best ideas come from casual hallway conversations or being pulled into an unplanned (but productive) brainstorming session? This is much more difficult to accomplish remotely. Creativity doesn’t typically work on a schedule.
Increased Security Risks—How many of your employees would realize there are new IT and data security requirements as they work from home? How many of your employees would be locking their computers or thinking about whether others can hear their confidential conversations? Remote working means giving your employees remote access to your business network and systems and, oftentimes, to confidential data. Because the security of your network is only as strong as its weakest link, this change can expose your business to additional risk of cyberattack.
There could also be three other potential concerns, at least according to business consultancy Gartner, who continually researches the issue. These broadly drawn groups of workers may experience unintended negative career consequences when working remotely, whatever their productivity. They are:
Digital Introverts: Employees can more easily become less vocal in virtual meetings.
Junior Staff: Inadequate remote training opportunities and the lack of personal exposure to leadership means new employees are struggling to progress.
Women: Remote working is proving challenging to the progression of female workers and equality in the workplace.
And finally, our next post will look at how working at home may affect the spiritual culture of an organization.