We're nearly three years into the remote work revolution. At this point, most companies understand the basics of working with a distributed team. Setting up a meeting, connecting on a group call, or collaborating in different locations isn't as challenging as it once was.  

But some remote work challenges are a little more difficult to manage. The toughest ones have the potential to make or break teams, drive talent away, and cost organizations millions to hundreds of millions of dollars.

That's why we wanted to take some time to talk about the top challenges still ahead this year. From skill shortages to cybersecurity, we're covering the top remote work challenges to look out for in 2023. 

5 remote work challenges still alive in 2023

Here are the five biggest remote work challenges to prepare for in 2023. 

1. A growing skill shortage

Companies across the world are currently undergoing a severe labor shortage. It's critical, still growing and projected to continue for decades. There are many factors contributing to the growing talent shortage, including:  

  • Aging populations
  • Shrinking populations
  • Enduring COVID-19 disruptions
  • Employee value changes 
  • Economic woes
  • Inflation rates
  • And more

At the same time, the labor market's demand for workers is increasing. As a result, most regions are experiencing a tightening labor market, with high competition for workers and many unfilled jobs.

These issues look slightly different in every region. For example, Australia is struggling to replace a retiring population. Its labor market is tightening at an almost unprecedented rate and nearly doubled from 2021 to 2022. Other countries face artificial demographic challenges as workers immigrate to other regions.

No matter the regional dynamics, remote work can be the deciding factor in attracting or losing talent. It enables employers to source talent without geographic restrictions. However, it also allows employees to leave their current positions in favor of more enticing offers.

The pandemic shifted our cultural values and life priorities. Staying stuck in an unfulfilling, draining position is out. Flexible work that enables a healthier work-life balance is in. As a result, people are now far more willing to switch employers, reskill for new positions or entirely drop out of the workforce.

The companies poised to thrive in this tight, competitive and fluctuating talent market have a solid remote recruitment and hiring plan and likely have plans to leverage the global talent pool as well.

2. The debate on employee monitoring

Shifting to remote work came with a shift to electronic employee monitoring. And the conversation around ethics, new norms and accepted practices is heating up this year. Of course, employee monitoring isn't controversial in and of itself. Most workplaces practice some form of surveillance, whether that's checking attendance, tracking break times or doing spot work checks.

But remote work monitoring has the potential to feel like micromanagement. Electronic workforce surveillance technologies – or "bossware" tools – are burgeoning. These tools boast capabilities that far outmatch human supervision.

This level of electronic remote monitoring can be constant and incredibly intrusive. Employees report feeling stressed. Fifty-nine percent of surveyed employees feel stress or anxiety related to workplace surveillance, with 43% saying it violates trust. Another survey found 72% of employees were concerned about workplace monitoring leading to an invasion of personal privacy.

But here's the thing. Employees aren't entirely against remote work monitoring. On the contrary, most understand the need for it in some capacity, even recognizing certain benefits under certain conditions.

An Accenture Strategy report found that 92% of workers were open to data collection as long as it improved their performance or well-being or brought other benefits. In addition, 62% were willing to exchange work-related data for more customized compensation, rewards and benefits. Furthermore, 61% were willing to do so for more customized learning and development.

In short, monitoring-related remote work challenges are still being worked out. Until clear laws, industry guidelines and standard practices are in place, organizations must remain transparent and open, providing employees with clear, proactive communication on corporate monitoring practices.

Gartner found a 20% jump in employee acceptance of email monitoring when employers provided the reasons for doing so. Their consultants recommend communicating the decisions, results and benefits to employees, showing how data collection is used to create a healthier organization and improved employee experience.

3. The mental health consequences of isolation

Remote work reduces stress and increases feelings of happiness, focus, productivity, creativity, morale and work satisfaction. But it does have the potential to be extremely isolating when employees don't have the right level of support or social integration.

Work-related social isolationism leads to increased anxiety, stress, depression and social vulnerability. These consequences became a mental health crisis after social distancing restrictions were implemented. Large-scale global surveys conducted during March and April 2020 found that 75% of workers felt more socially isolated after shifting to remote work. Those feelings came alongside higher stress, anxiety and emotional exhaustion.

The damaging impact of social isolationism is well-established. In 2010, Nobel Prize-winning researchers Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton noted being alone correlated with a high incidence of stress, worry, sadness and other negative emotions.

The Lancet reported that reduced contact, confinement and routine loss cause distressing levels of boredom, frustration and feelings of isolation. Extreme social isolation can lead to acute stress disorder within ten days and contribute to post-traumatic stress even three years later.

It's a mental health crisis that often goes unnoticed. Remote employees report an improved work-life balance and happiness with remote work while feeling isolated and missing social connections with colleagues.

In one study, 88% of employees enjoyed working from home more often, while only 44% wanted to return to the office on a regular basis. And yet, 58% missed being with their colleagues in person. 

Microsoft's 2022 Future of Work Report noted that remote work increases job satisfaction, improves the work-life balance, decreases emotional exhaustion and brings other positive benefits. Yet, it can lead to employees feeling socially isolated, guilty and attempting to over-compensate.

Interestingly enough, Millennials and Gen Z workers are more likely to work remotely and the happiest to do so, yet younger employees are more at risk for isolationism. Harvard reported that 61% of young Americans feel profound loneliness, and 63% experience significant symptoms of anxiety and depression. 

The workforce may be used to remote work and prefer it, but our psychological need for social connection remains. Aloneness isn't a new norm that workers can adapt to. Organizations need to create new avenues for connection and fully integrate remote workers into a social corporate culture.

4. Company culture difficulties

Corporate culture is another one of the primary remote work challenges still on the front burner this year. An SHRM executive survey found maintaining corporate culture to be the biggest talent management challenge posed by remote work – even ranking ahead of enabling communication and collaboration.

That's not surprising. Workplace culture thrives on personal, ad hoc and spontaneous interactions. And it took an immediate hit without the ease of face-to-face or proximity-based social connections. Remote working colleagues can't catch up in the hallway, jump into a breakroom conversation or swivel around in their chairs to ask a team member a question.

Instead, culture has to be integrated into the remote workflow. While we've gotten better at collaboration and communication, communicating company values, mission and ethos tends to be harder online. As a result, companies will continue to work toward communicating their culture virtually in 2023.

5. Increasing cybersecurity concerns

Pre Covid-19, few organizations were operationally prepared for widespread remote work. The sudden transition resulted in several issues. Cybersecurity was an immediate and lingering one.

Cybersecurity defenses for an organization working in-office are unsuitable for a distributed workforce. In-office security traditionally relies on a secured network perimeter with managed devices. Remote employees work in an uncontrolled environment, use various devices and access private networks. 

This renders former security strategies obsolete while increasing organizational vulnerability to cyber threats and data breaches.

A commissioned Forrester Consulting study laid out the new realities.

  • Home networks now serve as corporate networks – multiplying the organization's potential attack surfaces and creating more opportunities for incidents.
  • 98% of remote workers use at least one personal device for work every day.
  • Over half of remote workers use a personal device to access customer data.
  • Around 77% of remote workers have six or more devices connecting to their home networks.
  • 43% of security leaders lack visibility into employee home networks and connected devices.
  • Remote work is vulnerable to several types of attacks, such as malware, phishing, fraud, software vulnerabilities and others. 

In addition, there is a correlation between remote work and higher cybersecurity incident costs. IBM's 2022 Cost of a Data Breach Report found that costs are higher when remote work is causing security breaches. That said, the average costs of attacks and breaches were less this year than in 2021, indicating positive outcomes for organizations that respond appropriately to the new threat landscape and working reality.

Tackle this year's remote work challenges with Outstaffer.com

You can't solve these remote work obstacles overnight. But with the right strategic approach, tools and partnerships, you can address the 2023 remote work challenges like you have every remote work challenge that came before. 

At Outstaffer.com, we help eliminate some of these challenges with our #WorkFromAnywhere platform. With solutions like Managed Devices, Workforce Monitoring and VR Workplaces, we make concerns like cybersecurity, employee monitoring and culture concerns a thing of the past. 

Plus, as your Employer of Record, we make it easy to hire, pay and equip the top talent from around the world, helping you avoid talent shortage woes and ensuring you have the best team from the start. Ready to create your future-proof remote workforce? Get started with Outstaffer today.

Jan 11, 2023
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