MightyCall Asked 480+ Remote Workers About Their Struggles, Habits, and Hopes. Here’s What We Found Out.

“All you need is love”, the Beatles song goes. In a remote work context, we can well reframe that to “all you need is peace.” However, in the past year, many of us have seen the daily frustrations of working from home with families, kids, pets, roommates, and what-not pushing the limits of our patience.

In the unthought-of remote work scenario of 2020–21, we’ve seen that a productive work from home environment is a lot different than Pinterest would have it. But what are the most nagging culprits behind our burnout? What challenges, hopes, and struggles do U.S. remote workers daily face at home? And what can their bosses and families do to make remote work comfortable?

These are some of the questions MightyCall asked a total of 480+ people in online remote work communities, in an independent remote work poll.

Based on the responses received, here are the numbers (transposed to percentages for convenience) that business owners and managers alike should have a look at to better understand their employees’ remote work habits.

Plus, we’ll take a look at what those stats mean and how they translate to (more) loveable remote work practices.

1. After nearly a year of remote work, home office hardware and privacy are still a problem

Many of today’s work at homers were thrust into the remote work scene abruptly with the start of the pandemic in 2020. They had nowhere near the convenience of the “digital nomad” or “laptop lifestyle” guru.

Add to that a financial crisis that impacted about 46% of American households as a result of the pandemic, and you’ll see how many remote workers still struggle with the hardware which they need to efficiently work at home but can’t afford to buy.

66% of poll respondents said they lack hardware in their home office. Lack of a printer/scanner topped the list with over 35% of votes, followed by Desktop PC at 31%.

The second-largest factor in remote work is, understandably, privacy. Know that comic where a dad works from a tent in his living room labeled “Office, do not disturb” while the kids and pets run like crazy around it screaming? This is something many of us have become familiar with in recent months.

26% of remote workers polled said they don’t have a personal space for work at home.

That comes down to roughly a quarter of work from homers having inadequate space to quietly and productively work. And with cafes and many open workspaces not safe enough to migrate to, lack of privacy results in pushed deadlines, screaming bosses, and even ruined families.

mightycall remote work survey 2021

What to do if that’s you/your employees

If you’re a manager or CEO of remote workers, knowing the living circumstances of your employees will help foreshadow conflict and missed deadlines. When you know what’s happening in your team’s life, you can find ways to solve challenges beforehand. For example, by opening up the office to certain employees or at certain times or finding safe coworking spaces in your city.

Asking whether your employees lack essential hardware is important if you deal with documentation (say, if you’re a legal practice) that does a lot of printing/scanning. One way to solve the scanner problem is using a mobile scanning app like DropBox Scan App on your mobile phone. This is actually a two-in-one, letting you store documents after scanning them.

2. Lack of informal socializing kills the team spark

Say “remote worker” a year ago, and you’d imagine the bespectacled introvert, gnawing away at their laptop in a dark corner of a coffee shop.

But these days, even introverts aren’t like that! We love to socialize with friends and colleagues whom we know and love. We love our dark corner of the coffee shop only when it’s voluntary confinement.

These pandemic days, lack of socializing is frustrating all of us, both introverts and extroverts. And it’s impacting our spark.

Only 3% of respondents said they miss live business meetings. A whopping 60% feel deprived of informal socializing.

Guess what? It may not be curiosity, after all, that killed the cat, but confinement (at least, Schrodinger’s cat).

mightycall remote work survey 2021

What to do if that’s you/your employees

The 60% of people that miss informal socializing can’t dwindle to 0%, but it may be effectively lowered if more managers and bosses used communication channels not just for work, but for informal chats and even play.

It’s a common mistake to think of virtual team-building activities as “special occasions”. It’s much better to ease into every daily meeting with an informal 5-min chat about anything except work. Make informal socializing with colleagues a part of your remote work life, just like you’d do in normal life, vs. a fancy “bi-weekly team building event”. This won’t normalize your social life altogether, but it will drop more carefree moments into your workday.

If you’re using channels like Slack, Discord, or Teams for work chat, some of the strongest teams actually create a space just for exchanging informal chats and those cat memes everyone loves. Follow their example. Smile.

3. If you’re having one too many Zoom meetings, your team needs a break — literally

With most managers insisting on face-to-face communication as a means to gain illusive control over remote workers’ w̶a̶r̶d̶r̶o̶b̶e̶ productivity (giving 25% of us just enough time to pull a crumpled shirt over sweatpants), Zoom fatigue is a condition 2021 remote workers are intimately familiar with.

Gianpiero Petriglieri, associate professor at Insead, says that the reason even “happy hour” Zoom calls cause fatigue is that using one platform to juggle all our social interactions is detrimental, not beneficial, to human psychology. “It doesn’t matter whether you call it a virtual happy hour, it’s a meeting, because mostly we are used to using these tools for work,” he says.

Here are some Zoom stats from our poll:

53% of respondents said their quirkiest work from home habit was having “pets on/under the desk”, including during Zoom calls.

Among the 18% that chose “Other”, some commented that they have to regularly put Zoom calls on hold to do bathroom breaks.

At least now you know what some of those awkward pauses were about.

mightycall remote work survey 2021

What to do if that’s you/your employees

Zoom is a great way to connect emotionally and check up on how everyone’s faring (or degrading, if that’s what your boss fears), but don’t overdo communication for communication’s sake.

Anna Miranchuk, NPG’s “Women in IT” Silver Medalist and Product Manager at MightyCall recommends using Zoom knowledgeably. “At the beginning of our own remote work journey, we diligently obeyed the ‘over-communication’ rule,” Miranchuk says. “Quickly enough, trampled by the virtual meetings stampede, managers including myself realized they have no time left for actual work.”

Remote workers and their managers will see that a voice chat doesn’t in fact, lower productivity. In fact, audio is great to get through the business at hand. Likewise, use chat groups on Slack or Discord for clarifying running matters.

Zoom can be reserved for weekly face-to-face meetings and team building, making video calls special, not frustrating.

4. Work-from-homers struggle with self-motivation — but not the kind managers fear

Say “self-motivation” and BAM — your boss thinks “productivity”. But this is about another kind of self-motivation — one that eventually explodes on productivity like a ticking bomb, but remains unnoticed for months and even years. I’m talking about physical self-motivation.

Remote workers agree that the biggest lack of motivation they face is pursuing exercise habits. 53% of remote workers polled struggle with exercise in their daily routine.

In contrast, 66% of remote workers are currently satisfied with their productivity, though turn that number and you’ll see that 34% are looking for tools — usually digital — to improve. And this is the problem, that while Pomodoro timer can help improve your short-term productivity, only getting off that home office chair will boost your productivity long-term.

mightycall remote work survey 2021

What to do if that’s you/your employees

Most managers and CEOs are concerned only with business productivity and as long as those rates are OK, they think everything is fine. This is a big mistake.

Among the growing concerns of COVID-19 remote workers has been the feeling that their productivity is on the verge of dropping because of the prolonged lack of social interaction, sports/outdoor exercise, and travel.

While travel and social contacts are still limited, individual sports and exercise are proven psychological rejuvenators that reduce stress. Many famous people started their workday only after a walk. Why not emulate them?

If you’re a remote worker or have a remote team, encourage sports breaks during the workday, hold weekend activities and even challenges (have fun and share the photos) or gather outdoors for a picnic/exercise if it’s safe in your area.

Remember to check in on the psychological health of yourself/ your team regularly and find the exercise routine that fits your workday best.

5. Remote workers don’t plan to move to the office anytime soon. But not all bosses agree.

Before the pandemic, remote work was a dream for many, but a dream out of reach. Many bosses were reluctant to give up control — mainly psychological — over their employees and accepting remote work even as a part-time arrangement seemed improbable.

Last year, we saw how all prejudices dropped in view of necessity. And it’s safe to say, the masse migration in favor of remote work isn’t going anywhere.

75% of remote workers polled say they plan to continue remote work post-pandemic.

So far so good. But there’s still a problem that among the 25% who plan to return to work or are currently undecided, there’s also necessity speaking. For example, some remote workers are already gathering hard evidence for their bosses on the improved productivity of remote workers, or are planning negotiations for at least part-time remote work post-pandemic.

mightycall remote work survey 2021

What to do if that’s you/your employees

If you want to drift towards permanent remote work after the pandemic but your boss doesn’t even want to hear about it, give it a try anyway. Gather the evidence, and more importantly, be the evidence. Document and offer the results of your work as proof of credibility.

If reasoning doesn’t work, however, there’s no reason to stick to a job that forces you to go back to the office when you have other plans for your life, or when other employers are able to accommodate those plans.

The best you can do it set the matter straight with your boss right early on, instead of hoping they’ll change their mind. If they’re immovable to negotiation, you’ll win the time to find yourself another hustle or even start your own. Why not? Entrepreneurship is, after all, the ultimate remote work move.

Final word

As the results above show, loving remote work (or making your team love it) is caring to make your remote work environment the most comfortable it can be.

Whether you’re a remote worker, a manager, a CEO, or a family member of a remote worker, we’ve all got things to work on to make remote work better. As for me, today looks like the best day to address those questions.

Because crazy WFH memes might be fun viewing, but a peaceful household is what all of us need to make remote work loveable again.

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