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The Risks of Working Remotely

08 August 2023

Remote work was already there before the COVID-19 pandemic started, but has definitely become a lot more common since then. Not only are there many more remote jobs than before, they are also in a lot more demand.

Not only did employers realize the cost benefits of having remote workers, but workers themselves also prefer the comfort and flexibility of choosing where they work from.

But despite the benefits that remote work brings for both parties, it also has its downsides. There are still some things that remote workers need to keep in mind when they take on a remote job.

Let's take a look at some of the risks of working remotely

Problems with Remote Work



Loneliness and Isolation

Although working remotely is considered to be an introvert's dream, it's not actually all that it's cracked up to be. Staying at home and interacting with nobody throughout the day can get very isolating, and many remote workers find that loneliness starts to creep up on them after they've been working remotely for a while.

In fact, most of us don't actually have a lot of things to do in our lives beyond working, taking care of our responsibilities at home and resting. Many remote workers end up staying indoors for days at a time, which undoubtedly has a negative effect on their mental health.

In fact, the American Psychiatric Association discovered that remote workers tend to suffer from isolation and loneliness, and that most employers don't offer their remote employees access to mental health services.

As a result, the mental health of employees starts to decline.

It's always a good idea to maximize your interactions with others. Whether you do so after work hours with your friends, or spend some time with your family everyday, if you work remotely, you should have time designated for social interaction per week if you don't want to fall into the self-isolating trap that remote work has built up.

This isn't to say that all remote workers will suffer from this problem! Many will still have an active social life. But a large percentage does seem to be at risk, and this problem should be addressed by both, the employees themselves, and their employers.



Work-Life Balance

Work-life balance nowadays tends to be pretty skewed already, thanks to smartphones and emails and phone calls that happen outside of work hours, or the need to bring your work computer home during the weekend to meet unreasonable deadlines.

But this problem is actually worse for remote workers, because they are considered to always be in their office space. The boundary between at-work hours and off-work hours needs to be respected, and employers should understand that people who work from home are still doing all the work, for the same amount of time - just in a different location.

In fact, this lack of boundary is also often perpetuated by employees themselves, which takes away from their work-life balance. While the idea of working whenever you want sounds exciting, it can easily start to bleed into every aspect of your life.

When working remotely, it's important to establish the boundary the same way you'd do if you were working in-office. For example, stick to your work hours, instead of thinking that since you're technically at home, you can do your work whenever you want. Establishing that temporal boundary is also necessary!

A physical boundary also helps greatly. Instead of working at the dinner table, or on the couch - or worse, on the bed - have a separate location that is specifically for you to do your work in. When you are at work, you must stay in this location so that you don't get distracted by other things.

Once you get off work, leave it, and move elsewhere. If you merge the places you carry out your personal responsibilities and your work responsibilities, the physical barrier will disappear and your work and personal life will start mixing together.

If you feel like every day is just one long work day, you're bound to get burnt out and this will affect your mental health.



Anxiety

Social interaction can cause a lot of anxiety for some people, but the reverse is also very true. In fact, loneliness and isolation can give people anxiety as well, which can result in further irritability, depression and other mental health problems.

The anxiety could be for any reason - from having spent a long time indoors, from feeling that you are unable to step away from your job, or even that spending so much time not interacting with people makes you question any further interactions you have with others.

In fact, remote workers also tend to have persisting anxiety around their workload, because they may feel that they are slacking off even when they deserve their breaks, and this can be a cause of anxiety.

If you feel like you are growing anxious due to the nature of your job, you can and should get help. If you drag it on too long, it can get worse and make you more anxious.

If possible, taking a few days off from work and taking some time to meet your friends and family and do things you enjoy doing can also be beneficial.



Home Office Ergonomics

A major issue that affects people working remotely is that their physical health begins to decline because they are not as conscious of ergonomics.

Most office spaces are designed with ergonomics in mind, but home offices are usually just a random quiet spot in the house where you can get your work done without being disturbed. While you do need a quiet spot, if your ergonomic practices are not up to par, you can end up with various health problems that can start causing you more problems in the long-run.

For example, many remote workers don't designate a proper setup for themselves, and end up working in bed, on the couch or at the dinner table. None of this is good, because not only does it blur the lines between at work and at home, it also causes your posture to deteriorate.

Working from your bed, or in chairs without lumbar support and height adjustment often results in issues like forward head posture, or back problems. This is because you'd be hunched over your computer in an awkward position and put strain on all your muscles.

As they weaken over time, your posture gets worse and gives rise to problems like musculoskeletal disorders and nerve compression that can cause you more pain in the long run.

Having the right office equipment, like FlexiSpot's Ergonomic Office Chair BS2 which provides support and comfort can make your work day easier and keep your body safe.



Cybersecurity Risks

A major risk that doesn't just fall on the employees, but also the employers is that of cybersecurity. Office network infrastructure always keeps security in mind by limiting access to assigned users, and restricting the flow of information and data by keeping tabs on who's doing what.

With office infrastructure, employers are also able to keep an eye on their employees' activity so that they can address any risks as soon as possible.

However, with remote workers, this is not always the case. In fact, remote workers are most likely using their home network connection, and may even be working on their private computers. This is a huge risk, because the average person is not well-versed in cybersecurity, and will not be able to protect their and the company's data.

Unfortunately, hackers also recognize this, and use it to their advantage by interrupting personal networks and taking the information being passed along there. This information could be sensitive as well, and they could use it to demand large sums from the organization in return.

Not only does this put the data at risk, but also makes the employee feel like they are the ones at fault when they were the ones who were victimized.

To keep this issue from becoming a problem, employers should make sure that the infrastructure for the employee's home office is safe and secure. If it isn't, they should provide an allowance in return for the required installations to be done so that the employee is able to keep their and the company's data safe.

Remote work is here to stay, and is most likely not going anywhere anytime soon - if at all. The pandemic has brought about fundamental changes to the way businesses are functioning as well as how the workforce is managed.

The risks that come with remote work, thus, become something that needs to be addressed at the start, rather than as the problems get bigger and become more apparent. Being mindful of the risks of any situation helps to make sure they don't get out of control, and that the company and its employees are able to continue working smoothly.