Remote work is becoming common for freelancers and full-time employees alike. It is also becoming a cause of conflict in the workplace. Here are four common mistakes remote workers make and steps to take to avoid making them yourself.
Ignoring the Legal Issues
If you handle company data on your personal computer and there is a “data spill” with restricted information processed by your computer, will you have to have your personal computer wiped or private internet history reviewed by the company? If this isn’t acceptable, either use a company provided device when working from home or use a computer you would be able to work without if the company confiscates it for a digital brain wipe. Another issue you need to discuss is data retention policies, such as the need to document and store any messages you share with the company or customers. How does the company want you to back up these messages in the manner they are legally required to follow? If your device is bricked, will the company pay for an iPhone data recovery service to recover both personal and corporate data?
Companies are embracing remote work when it results in 24x7x365 support, such as the ability for their best IT staff to work a 10 PM to midnight maintenance window from home and respond to problems on a Saturday afternoon. One of the biggest mistakes remote workers make is never disconnecting from work. Employers and customers will consider you always connected and reach out to you anytime they want to if you don’t set boundaries. A common problem is remote workers putting in more hours than when they worked in the office and having work interrupt family time and down time, increasing stress without resulting in higher pay. Make sure you disconnect from work, silencing the phone, sending emails and instant messages to a folder that you’ll read later. The word for people always on call is servant, not employee.
Relying Only on One Communication Channel
One major mistake remote workers make is relying on one communication channel. Baby Boomers tend to rely on phone calls with some email. The forty and fifty-something workers tend to rely on emails. Those in their twenties and thirties tend to rely on instant messaging and text messaging. This can result in segregation of communications, leaving out whole sections of a team because they don’t follow the conversation in that medium. Remember to shake things up and call a customer to discuss issues too complex for an email or send an instant message to IT for a quick issue instead of a longer email that may take them a few hours to check.
Forgetting a Backup Plan
Remote workers often fail to have a backup plan. What will you do if the power goes out in your apartment? Do you have a backup battery that would allow you to keep working for a few hours or at least a five-minute reserve from a UPS so you can save your work? Do you already know somewhere you could move in case your personal internet connection is down, whether a coworking space or the library?
Determine your legal obligations and risks before you start remote work. Disconnect from work even if connected to the internet personally to protect work-life balance. Don’t rely on a single communication channel and use the medium that works for that person and type of message. Have a backup plan in case utilities or internet goes out at home, but understand how the environment you relocate to impacts your work.