TMCnet Feature
February 03, 2021

4 Tech Barriers Remote Workers Are Facing

Most people have a love-hate relationship with technology. On the one hand, it has absolutely revolutionized life for the better. From smartphones to smart light bulbs, tech is making a positive difference everywhere.

On the other hand, when you lean on tech, there are going to be areas where it fails to deliver. These shortfalls have often been avoidable in the past. However, the coronavirus pushed so many people into the remote world at once that it made several defects more apparent.

Here are some of the biggest areas where tech is barring rather than bolstering the remote work world.

1. Inconsistent Internet

Cell Phone (News - Alert) companies are trumpeting the arrival of 5G service. Internet providers are offering ever-increasing internet speeds. This constant push for faster online activity has given the appearance that everyone has a fast connection.

However, this simply isn’t so. At least not always. The problem is, when you work remotely, you aren’t using a business network that costs thousands of dollars to set up. Instead, you’re depending on your humble little home network to keep up with everyone else’s.

This is bound to lead to inconsistencies in places. At times, routers break or signals fail. There are smart home solutions that address the issue and are well worth the investment if you plan to work remotely for the foreseeable future.

2. Deficient Devices

Internet and cloud-based access is a clear concern for remote workforces. However, the tech troubles also spill over to the devices that use the internet.

The issue doesn’t have to do with whether or not modern devices are capable of remote work. They certainly are. However, maintaining a toolkit of up-to-date, quality devices remains a poignant burden for most remote workers.

For example, many companies have adopted “BYOD” (bring your own device) policies for their remote workers. Letting employees work on their personal computers may sound convenient. But the policy is fraught with tech barriers.

Consider the sheer number of devices required to work remotely. It’s recommended that the average remote worker have the following technological tools available:

  • A computer or laptop (or both).
  • Computer monitors.
  • A modem and router.
  • A phone.
  • A printer and fax machine.
  • A camera.
  • A microphone.

This basic list doesn’t even include things like speakers or headphones. Companies may try to save money by shifting the burden of accessing devices onto their workers. However, this can create multiple issues.

For one thing, some employees may decide to continue using outdated devices. This can impact their productivity. It can also make it difficult for them to properly communicate or use certain applications.

Another concern comes from the cost of maintaining and upgrading equipment. The sheer cost of so many digital devices is a natural barrier that can make remote work difficult.

3. Communication Concerns

Even if you can use something to iron out your internet woes, there’s still the issue of using the internet to communicate. The need to communicate has always been important for business transactions. Everything from marketing to hairdressing requires a certain exchange of knowledge.

However, remote workers face a unique challenge when it comes to communication. If channels aren’t kept open, a remote worker doesn’t just fail to communicate details about a project or task. They become isolated. This makes proper communication a remote work necessity.

In many cases, technology meets the basic needs of communication. Slack creates text-driven virtual workspaces. Zoom enables video chat capabilities. Trello provides a cloud-based workflow environment.

However, there are still areas where tech barriers persist. For instance, the flexibility of work hours can make quick questions difficult to answer in a timely manner. Larger meetings can be unwieldy in video chat format.

There’s no doubt that the tools are there. But the ability to use them for healthy communication remains elusive for many.

4. Security and Safety

One of the biggest quiet threats to remote work comes from security — or a lack thereof. This isn’t a reference to putting a new lock on the door or installing a home security system. Cybersecurity is one of the biggest tech barriers at the moment.

The problem isn’t that technology provides hackers and malware an opportunity to strike. That’s always been true. The specific issue arises from changing employee behavior.

As workers spread out and use a menagerie of different devices, it becomes more difficult for cybersecurity teams to manage potential threats. This applies to more than white-collar employees snuggly tucked away in their home offices. It also impacts entire remote networks.

IT professionals are suddenly faced with the task of preparing to protect the next normal. How will cybersecurity function in a world where workers, customers, supply chains, and vendors all work online?

When it comes to individual workers, they can take steps to at least reduce the existing risks. For instance, they can:

  • Create strong passwords and use password managers.
  • Utilize lock screens on remote devices.
  • Install anti-malware on both mobile and desktop devices.
  • Update all devices at all times.
  • Avoid public WiFi (News - Alert) for important transactions whenever possible.

In the meantime, cybersecurity teams must continue to work toward long-term solutions. Given time, these solutions will be found. However, chances are, security concerns will remain at the forefront of the technological obstructions plaguing remote work for quite some time.

There’s no doubt that technology has been a boon to the 21st century. Even the remote work world, in particular, has benefitted in countless ways. However, technology remains a two-edged sword. Its ability to advance and improve always comes with a darker side.

In the new remote-first, post-COVID world these barriers are coming into focus. Some are areas that require basic improvements, such as communication and maintaining capable devices. Others are more necessary, as is the case with internet access. And still others, such as cybersecurity, are downright alarming.

Regardless of the level of the threat, tech remains an imperfect science. As it continues to evolve and improve, remote workers must strive to maintain their patience. With so many technological marvels to already be grateful for, it’s only a matter of time before humanity overcomes even the greatest tech barriers that lie in front of it.

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