We’ve been forced to do it, it has become a way of life. For many, it has worked out better to work remotely, or at least better under the circumstances. With a move like remote working, it would’ve been ideal that it be a choice we agreed on rather than something we were forced to do, like sanitising our hands as we enter shops. What were we thinking before that? While remote working is the hero that saved many businesses and industries it doesn’t mean it’s all good. We’ve been doing it collectively for over 18 months now so let’s look at the downside of remote working.
Lack of bonding
Teamwork makes the dream work. One of the most important parts of teamwork is group fit and that is achieved through bonding. Most of this bonding happens in the social exchanges that occur in the course of working rather than by the work itself. People bond through office chatter, shared experiences, social interactions and more. The result of teams not sharing time outside of work tasks is that they lack bonding time and experiences. It’s fair to say that this also reduces no work-related conflict.
Nobody likes meetings, absolutely nobody. You would think remote working makes this better but people dislike meetings more in remote working setups. Aside from the dislike for them, the quality of meetings is also greatly diminished by remote working. Great meetings should be used to iron out issues and not as the first point of contact with issues. With teams that are spread out and communicating less, meetings become more central, something they are not designed to be.
Not for everyone
Some people, believe it or not, like the idea of being in a shared environment with others. They enjoy the interfacing and face ti face contact that comes with the office. They genuinely thrive through interaction with others. These people are for the most part extroverts. Remote working takes a lot of fun out of work for these people and they may struggle. Perhaps it hits worst when they are in leadership positions and continue to make contact with others who may not feel the same way.
Communication is complicated
Walking over to your colleague’s desk or office with the document to be discussed can help you get through things quickly. Trying to do so remotely is a bit more difficult. Sure you can email the document and call them to discuss it but there’s a high probability that page 43 is the least of their concerns as their kids are swinging on the ceiling at that moment. All this to say communication becomes very complex when you have different influences and environments acting on the team members.
Harder for new members to fit in
While it is true that in all online communities adding new members is difficult because the new members have a hard time building relationship and feel like outsiders this is even harder when you are in a remote working environment. The lack of the aforementioned bonding moments makes it more difficult to find opportunities to fit in. Adding new team members then becomes very difficult, or at least them fitting in. It’s not universal, some personalities will thrive even in such adversity very difficult, or at least them fitting in. It’s not universal, some personalities will thrive even in such adversity.
Culture is more difficult to communicate
Workplace culture is very important to how teams and whole organisations get on. Culture is of course expressed through many things and symbols including office layout, visual cues, dress code, communication styles and much much more. So it is very difficult to communicate culture in a remote working setup. Without control over the environment and other factors that influence culture, it is a much more complicated task than in normal office setups. Casual Fridays, lunchtime, after-work drinks and other traditions, don’t work as well in remote setups. Though I think you might still be able to convince most of your workforce to attend drinks in a remote work setup.
While we accept that many had to take on remote working as a response to covid 19 and lockdown we cannot ignore the fact that remote working has some drawbacks which we must always be aware of.