Working from Home Tradeoffs and How to Mitigate Them

reymar is the UX/UI lead at Cazoomi. He loves to hang out with his family, and travel the Mindanao region of the Philippines. 7 minute read

Working From home Tradeoffs and How to Mitigate them

In the past year, we’ve all read more about working from home than ever before. Entire industries pivoted overnight, and companies sent their employees to work from home. Some loved it, some hated it, as it happens with everything new.

But for some of us, working remotely or working from home is not something new. I’ve been running a 100% remote digital agency for six years now, so the pandemic brought very little in terms of work adjustment. Or so I thought in the beginning.

You see, working from home or working remotely is an introvert’s dream. To me, it meant that I can work from my comfortable home office and, whenever I felt the need to see other humans, I could grab my laptop and go to a coffee shop or to my favorite bistro in town.

All of that changed when the pandemic clustered us within the walls of our homes. Yes, working from home has always had its tradeoffs. But never were they felt more acutely than in the past year.

In case you’ve been feeling them, the following tips may help. They outline how my team and I make remote work easy and sometimes even fun.

4 Work from Home Tradeoffs and the Technology that Can Help You Mitigate them

1. Lack of Human Connection

When I decided that I would work with a 100% remote team, I knew that it wouldn’t be easy. I know that meeting your colleagues in person has its undeniable benefits, especially when it comes to teamwork.

But I also knew that working remotely allowed me to find and hire rockstar copywriters from all over the world and that these copywriters will have a great work-life balance. No more commute and no fixed schedule meant that my agency offered a place to thrive for the night owls, for the early birds, and for everyone in between.

Still, when the pandemic took away our ability to interact with friends and family, this was felt in our ability to concentrate and our productivity.

How did we mitigate this?

We relied on messaging apps more than usual. I created a separate channel for “fun” talks. We even shared memes and discussed the situation in all our respective countries. I think what helped the most is the fact that we basically created a virtual “watercooler” for office gossip.

It’s definitely something that we’ll keep doing, with our without a pandemic going on.

2. The Lack of a Dynamic Feedback Loop

When you work in an office, it’s much easier to get feedback from your colleagues or managers. When you work remotely, things get harder, especially if, like us, you have a team spread across several time zones.

If you lack the proper systems, it can take days until someone gets feedback on their work. I’ve never been a fan of unread-emails-until-I-get-to-them but oftentimes it can feel overwhelming to manage a team and nurture your leads and your existing clients.

How did we mitigate this?

First off, we perfected our processes. We took the time to analyze our top prioritize and create clear processes for assigning projects, reviewing them, offering feedback, and finally — sending the completed work to the clients.

Another great solution for avoiding too much back-and-forth via email and messaging apps is the integration of your mission-critical systems. If you integrate your CRM with your marketing automation solution, for instance, your sales and marketing teams will need to do much less emailing asking for information about certain campaigns or certain customers. I highly recommend the Mailchimp to Salesforce integration — it’s a huge time-saver!

3. Zoom Fatigue Anyone?

You’ve probably already heard about the “meeting that should have been an email”. The corporate world was never too good at avoiding useless meetings. When everyone started working from home, our routine was centered on “Zoom calls that should have been an email.”

All of a sudden, I found my inbox overflowing with Zoom requests. People were trying to compensate for the lack of human interaction with as many calls as possible.

At first, I was happy to get to see some of our partners and clients and get to talk to them outside the constraints of emails. But in a couple of months, I realized that Zoom fatigue was settling in.

How did we mitigate this?

First off, I avoided adding more Zoom calls to the plate of my team. If it could be settled via email or messaging app (and it almost always can!), we didn’t need to schedule a call.

I’m a huge fan of balance in…everything, so I scheduled calls with team members only when I felt that they needed them (or when they told me so directly).

As for client calls, I put time limits on them and, yes, even opted out when they felt blatantly unnecessary.

4. Productivity, Performance, and Motivation Drop-Offs

It’s very easy to blame these on working from home. To some extent, it’s hard to stay motivated and productive when you work in the same space you relax, cook, and sleep.

Some of us can work in crowded spaces — I’ve met people who can set their laptop on the dancefloor of a busy club and clack away at their keyboard without a care in the world. Others need perfect silence and a dedicated workspace.

Truthfully, the classic office space doesn’t offer the ideal work environment for every type of worker out there, either. Working from home (or remotely) can, as long as you have the necessary space to create the home office you need.

On the other hand, no matter how perfect a fit your office was during the last year, a drop in motivation and productivity was normal. It happened to all of us. And it had nothing to do with where we work from.

It had to do with the sudden transitions and with the changes we were forced to adapt to. Add the feelings of insecurity, fear, worrying about family members and friends — and you’ve got the perfect storm.

How did we mitigate this?

I took more time to inquire about the health (mental or otherwise) of our team members. Even if it was one line in an email, it made a difference.

One thing that helped, especially with our newer team members was offering “office hours”. Once per week, for one hour, they could chat with me about anything — work-related or not. This helped my team get more clarity on certain projects, learn more content writing/copywriting tricks, and feel like they belong to an actual team, even if we’ve never met in person.

What I didn’t do (and never will!) is get my team to install monitoring apps that register, clicks, time spent on a certain project, or even monitor them with a camera. Aside from the ethical considerations (which should be enough to deter you from using these solutions), I’ve worked with engineers enough to know that any such tool can be fooled, overwritten, or hacked into.

Final Thoughts

I think it’s Mark Manson who once said that you’ll always have problems. The goal you should work for is having “better” problems.

While working from home is not without its problems, I strongly believe that it is a better alternative to being cooped up in an office for at least eight hours, whether you’ve got something to work on or not.

I know that there are industries where working remotely is not an option. But where it is, it’s a shame to not try it out at least. Especially now, when we’ve got the technology that can, ironically, humanize remote interactions.