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Challenges to Work from Home

Working from home policy throws up a few challenges despite its benefits for both
employees and the organisations they work for.
FROM ORGANISATIONS PERSPECTIVE
A lot of organizations have adopted the work from home policy with the belief that employees
should not be tied to the working place five days a week. Organizations believed in their hiring
and trusted their employees to get the work done irrespective of where they work from.
However, this was not found to be true always. One of the major reasons for this is that many
companies focus more on the technology and not enough on the process. Although such
adjustments can bring about minor improvements, the real change requires us to tackle the
fundamentals. Studies suggest that the policy fails due to one of the following:
Communication, coordination and culture.
 Communication: In a remote environment, it becomes difficult to explain ideas since people
can’t put forward their questions and have discussions in real time. The lack of such face to
face interactions can lead to misunderstandings and can eat up a lot of time in conflicts. To
understand this, a simple exercise was carried out in one company in which participants were
asked to get into groups of three, and one team member was shown an image and was asked
to explain it to the other team members over the phone. That person was then asked to send
out a mail to the caller with the instructions to recreate the image which almost led to strange
drawings beings recreated. This shows that communication can become a problem when
adopting this policy.
 Coordination: Work from home calls for coordinating various team members so that the
everyone’s work is in harmony. But since employees are not clear of what other team
members are doing or what the progress is, they have to interact constantly through various
communication mediums. Hence is very important for the manager to create processes that
mimic the informal ways in which employee touch base for example, stopping by the
colleague’s desk, establishing performance metrics and creating detailed project plans.
 Work Culture: Employees while working remotely, rarely meet face to face with colleagues
and hence focus more on tasks and team gets ignored. While this can work in the short run,
sustaining the team performance over the long run would be difficult. Manager can overcome
this challenge by bringing team members together for short periods of time [6]
Another aspect that has to be considered is the effect of national culture. Few
organisations in Pakistan, offered work from home but stated that the employee has to be
present at least once a week. This led to employees trying to fit work within their “normal”
home life, which led to a decline in productivity, forcing the company to roll back the policy.
In Pakistan, the top-level management typically believes that employees can’t be managed
when they are not in their “line of sight”. Hence the idea in itself is unpopular among
managers and this impacts the implementation of the policies. [7]
FROM EMPLOYEES PERSPECTIVE
Employees typically find it difficult in separating work and home lives, as they seem
intertwined. Working from home employees at times find themselves working late into the
evenings, weekends and even on vacations. There is a 33% increase in the number of people
who work on vacation when employees typically telecommute. It is observed that employees
alter the working hours on a daily basis. An absence of face to face interactions with the
colleagues may reduce the distractions faced in work but, at the same time, telecommuters
feel socially isolated. Even job successes and achievements are less celebrated in isolation
than celebrating the same in office. Telecommuting also makes it impossible to learn
informally from colleagues.

Employees who work from home face the resentment from colleagues who cannot
telecommute. The absence of telecommuters creates additional workload for the people in
the office. Hence its vital to facilitate arrangements to telecommute to minimize the
negativity that will prevail within the team. Managers also find it challenging to trust
employees to make decisions as they cannot directly observe their employees and are unable
to evaluate his/her performance [8]

6. https://hbr.org/2015/03/why-remote-work-thrives-in-some-companies-and-fails-in-
others
7. Flexibility or ethical dilemma: an overview of the work from home policies in modern
organizations around the world? Ahmad Timsal and Mustabsar Awais
8. https://www.bc.edu/content/dam/files/centers/cwf/research/publications/research
reports/Bringing%20Work%20Home_Telecommuting