Work from home (WFH) was already an operating model for most BPO companies pre-pandemic. Offered initially to individual contributors and managerial roles, the WFH arrangement responds to the terrible challenge of daily commuting (majorly in Manila). When the pandemic happened, the BPO sector has left no choice but to re-evaluate the current WFH policies and make the needed adjustments in very little time to accommodate all employees in a WFH setup to ensure business continuity. Now that the big majority of BPO employees are working from home, many BPO employees see this setup as an employment option. In fact, 62% of the BPO employees we asked are expecting their companies and future employers to allow remote work even after the pandemic. Despite the interest in continuously working from home, BPO employees expressed concerns about their overall wellbeing and productivity.
Because of that, BPO companies that decide to continue the office-centric culture might encounter workers’ resistance and trouble to attract and keep talent. That could happen because people love work-from-home benefits, such as increased flexibility.
But working from home also has various downsides that should get more attention. It’s critical to discuss what kinds of challenges remote employees face to help companies implement conditions and practices that ensure WFH team members struggle as little as possible.
Thus, it’s beneficial for team members to know what to expect when shifting to work from home as that allows them to prepare and consider how to address possible obstacles.
Here are the most frequent challenges team members face working from home during the pandemic.
5 Most Frequent Difficulties Remote Employees Encounter
1. Inability to Unplug
According to our focus group discussions, 57% of WFH BPO employees find that the inability to unplug from work is their most significant challenge in a work-from-home setup. Indeed, it can be hard to leave work behind when a home is also the workplace.
Although WFH can provide a relieving sense of freedom, it can also turn into an obligation that is always present, making it hard to draw a line between work time and leisure time. Employees need to be able to detach from work in its entirety to be productive the next day.
Those in traditional offices usually have an easier time closing the door to their work-life and going home to unwind and enjoy their hobbies and families. It is what helps them maintain lower stress levels and balance.
On the other side, most WFH employees turn their bedrooms, kitchens, or living rooms into offices, distancing the ability to leave them after their shift finishes. That can be even more challenging during the pandemic for people who live in places with restrictions, lockdowns, and fewer available outdoor activities.
2. Distraction Management
Working from home often imposes a challenge most office workers don’t face – family members, partners, and children. Although it can be uplifting to spend time with loved ones during the breaks, it’s also a struggle not to want to be more with them.
Plus, kids are also required to take their school works at home, making it hard for WFH parents to switch from service mode to teacher mode. With other potential distractions, such as outside noise and connectivity issues, WFH employees could spend hours trying to concentrate and distance themselves from the world around them.
3. Collaboration with Colleagues
WFH employees typically rely on digital platforms and virtual meetings for collaboration with teammates. But many employees loath Zoom conferencing due to feeling overly self-conscious, anxious, and uncomfortable.
As a result, online meetings could be less efficient. Employees typically feel the pressure to show they’re paying attention and participating, which affects their engagement.
Thus, that could hinder team collaboration and leave out critical information. Another potential issue is that WFH employees could be less willing to meet up with their teammates after work due to feeling burnout from video conferencing.
4. Isolation and Loneliness
Despite various disadvantages, employees can share their ideas, connect, and form lifelong friendships in offices. Those who work from home don’t have that possibility.
Many WFH employees never met their colleagues or are used to seeing them during online meetings or as chatroom nicknames only. That can trigger a sense of isolation and loneliness, which can be detrimental for those with a small number of friends.
Moreover, the pandemic has made it much more challenging to make new connections and approach strangers. As most BPO employees live in localities with various restrictions, the office has become the only viable place to find new friends and social connections. This made us realize that remote employees are often left without options for socializing outside of their family and usual social circles during this very challenging time.
5. Sense of Purpose and Motivation
One of the most significant factors in employee engagement is the sense of purpose. Employees love seeing the impact of their actions and how their work contributes to a higher cause. It’s what makes what they do meaningful and boosts motivation.
A 2020 Harvard Business Review survey found that remote workers often miss the joy of problem-solving with a colleague. They also find it harder to perceive their actions and contribution as visible due to having no colleagues or clients to remind them.
As a result, employee work performance and motivation could deteriorate, causing a sense of inertia and pointlessness.
Undoubtedly, the global shift to work from home brought countless advantages, and employees must have the flexibility to choose their preferred form of workplace. However, it’s critical to also point out the potential limitations of working from home and effectively address them.
A work-from-home setup can be very demanding. Both BPO companies and employees have the power to influence the remote work experience by preparing and implementing efficient strategies and creating a productive setting that allows people to unplug. But for that to happen, BPO companies must be willing to provide their WFH employees the "true" flexibility to disconnect from work during their off-hours, and employees should be aware that work from home isn’t perfect despite all its benefits.