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The Covid-19 pandemic changed the global workforce in a way that will probably never reverse course. Although remote work was out there before the pandemic, remote jobs are much more plentiful now. They’re also more in demand than ever before.
Workers realized that they like the freedom that working from home gives them, and many employers recognized that having their workers do their work from home was cheaper and more advantageous than having them come into the office.
However, as with anything, there are some negatives to keep in mind with this new working environment. There are some very real dangers that anyone working from home, or supervising workers who work from home, needs to keep in mind.
1. The lack of real-life human interaction can be mentally dangerous
Although Zoom and other video conferencing software can make working from home more engaging than simple phone calls or email, the emotional and mental stability of employees who work remotely is something that every leader needs to be cognizant of.
The American Psychiatric Association completed a survey last year that revealed remote workers often suffer from isolation and loneliness. Even worse, the same study found the number of employers offering remote workers access to mental health services has actually decreased since the onset of the pandemic. The study found that only 20% of employers offered this service one year after the pandemic commenced. This was in contrast to 35% of employers offering mental health services at the start of the pandemic.
2. It’s hard for remote workers to unplug and get away from work
Although workers often complain about an inability to get away from work these days due to the prevalence of smartphones and employers using email outside of working hours, this problem is even more profound for remote workers who quite literally are just steps from their office at any given moment.
Boundaries surrounding “off-the-clock” hours should always be adhered to and respected by employers, and there needs to be an acute awareness of this fact for staff working out of their homes. Management needs to respect employees’ time and assist them in getting some much-needed downtime when they’re not working in their home office.
It’s important to take breaks and keep the work office just that — a workplace only, if possible. Don’t get into the routine of doing your work in the living room or at the dining room table; this will serve to create an association in your mind that when you’re in those locations you should be working. That association should be avoided at all costs.
3. Remote work can cause anxiety
Although social interactions and venturing out to work can cause anxiety for many workers, the reverse situation is also true for many American workers. Remote work can often be a cause of anxiety. A survey last fall found that 47% of remote workers are experiencing anxiety. This anxiety can lead to depression, irritability, sadness and panic attacks.
As mentioned in the previous point, one of the biggest risk factors for anxiety is the fact that one’s home is their office, and workers often feel as though they can’t step away from the job. There’s a prevailing feeling among remote workers that they always need to be working on something rather than taking a break. Even just the process of walking past the home office can turn into a source of anxiety for some.
4. There are increased security risks for remote workers
Remote workers need to be mindful of cybersecurity risks by keeping their computer networks safe and secure, not just for their data but also for that of their employer. For this reason, employers should make sure the right infrastructure is in place for a worker’s home office, and if not, compensate the employee to install what needs to be installed to keep their information safe.
Hackers recognize that remote workers are a goldmine and they will target this sector accordingly. Leadership can help their workers be protected while working remotely by giving them the guidance to stay up to date on cybersecurity and best practices for navigating the remote work environment. A good IT staff isn’t just there to assist the workers at the office; the IT staff needs to be accessible for your remote workers as well.
There’s no question that remote work is going to be part of our lives for good. The pandemic changed the way many businesses oversee their workforce and the resources involved with keeping their staff on-site. That being said, every major change in the workforce throughout history has come with some dangers. Be mindful of these pitfalls as our new normal becomes permanent.