Remote work is still quite a relatively work model, but it is growing quite fast. In fact, remote work has now grown six-fold in the US since the pandemic hit. The biggest hurdle is that businesses tend to struggle incorporating remote work into their workplace. A research done by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that 71% of employers had difficulty adapting to the new norm of fully remote and hybrid work. As a manager handling a remote team, you are bound to experience challenges, particularly if you are new to this kind of work model. With the right approach, though, you can be able to settle in quickly and start reaping the benefits to business. Here, we will tell you the common challenges in managing a remote workforce, including some essential tips to help you manage your remote team to success:
Challenges of Managing Remote Teams
Before we expound more on how to manage your remote team, you ought to be wary of the challenges you and your staff might encounter when they work from home:
Imagine a scenario where you receive a terse email from one of your remote staff members. If they were reporting from the office and noticed their demeanor was off, you would understand that they were having a stressful day. On the other hand, if you received the same email from a remote worker, you cannot know their current circumstances.
Remote Work Burnout
It is easy for your employees to separate home and work life when they report to the office daily. However, working from home blurs the lines, causing your staff to work longer hours than if they commuted to and from the office premise. Sometimes your remote team might extend working till the wee hours of the morning, resulting in burnout. A report published by Zippia shows that 86% of remote workers are burnt out at their current jobs. As a manager, you ought to find ways to create a strategy towards productivity whilst reducing cases of burnout.
Challenges in Communication
Another crippling challenge that makes managing remote workers demanding is the lack of clear and concise communication between you and your team members. It is easy to assign tasks to your employees when you pass them in the corridors or during morning briefs. However, communication becomes tricky when everyone is miles away from each other. Poor communication also makes it harder for your team members to seek clarification or additional information from each other.
Virtual work can only be productive when staff members carve out noise-free workspaces in their homes. However, it is not uncommon to find your employees carrying out their tasks from the sofa with the television blasting on high volume. The sudden transition to remote work might also not allow your staff to find caregivers for their children and create a designated area to work from home.
Loneliness among employees
The main challenge remote workers face is social isolation since they do not need to leave the house. Even though introverts might enjoy being away from other people, extraverts might feel like there is a missing puzzle piece in their lives. Eventually, employees who can no longer cope with the loneliness might contemplate leaving the company.
Unclear expectations and boundaries
A grave mistake you would make would be to assume your remote employees know what to do since they have been working from the office in the past. It would be wise to clarify what you expect from your employees working from home. You will be in for a bumpy ride if you don’t set boundaries for how fast they respond to messages or your expectations surrounding attending virtual meetings.
Practical Tips for Managing Your Remote Workers
Now that you have a good grasp of the possible challenges you could face while managing your remote team, let’s explore some practical tips for managers handling remote employees:
Develop Effective and Healthy Channels of Communication
According to a survey by Buffer, 41% of respondents cited that communication was the biggest challenge they experienced when they switched to remote work. Poor communication with your remote team leads to a lack of purpose, isolation, poor distribution of knowledge, and poor collaboration. Methods you could implement to ensure effective remote communication with your workers include conducting employee surveys, performing a communication audit, and incorporating efficient tools and apps like Slack. Asynchronous communication is key to handling remote teams, aiding time zone differences, and fostering a more inclusive and accommodating environment.
Create a Defined Team Rhythm and Structure
The success of your business is heavily reliant on predictability at your workplace and the organizational structure you have in place. When employees work in different geographic locations, it becomes easy to experience a disconnect. The best solution would be to keep everyone in sync by creating a predictable rhythm. Ensure you draft a clear timetable for meetings, briefings, and tasks so everyone knows where they should be at all times. Time zones are also a crucial factor you should consider when scheduling meetings. It would be wise to rotate the meeting times so that nobody feels inconvenienced.
Practice Fairness and Equity
You might find yourself in a position where you are managing co-located and remote teams simultaneously. It wouldn’t be wise to give one team more benefits and perks. If the other team catches wind of their colleagues’ upper hand, they might be disgruntled. Therefore, we advise you to treat everyone equally and offer them similar opportunities and benefits.
Recognize Excellent Performance
As we mentioned earlier, treating everyone on your remote team equally is crucial. However, it is also essential to recognize employees that exceed your expectations and demonstrate excellent performance. Since you won’t be crossing paths in the hallway, ensure you make a deliberate effort to applaud high-performing employees during meetings. Emphasize that you are not playing favorites, but you are congratulating them for good work and urging the rest to follow in their example.
Improve your Onboarding Process
Sourcing for and hiring the right talent is hard enough if you work from the office. Onboarding becomes even more challenging when recruiting new employees for your remote team. A bad hire wastes your resources and reduces your team’s overall productivity. It would also not be wise to retain such an employee, forcing you to return to the drawing board. Therefore, it would be wise to fine-tune your onboarding process to ensure you are attracting and retaining only the best for your company.
Create an Appropriate Cybersecurity Policy
A major downside of managing your remote workforce is the increased risk or cybersecurity attacks. A hacker can infiltrate your end devices from your remote employee, putting your entire business at risk! You could lose money or confidential data. That is more or less equal to having an atomic bomb in the wrong hands. The best way to secure your data is to train your remote employees on best cybersecurity practices.
Remember, your team works from distributed locations meaning that security surveillance is tougher. This poses a massive threat to your business. It is vital to invest in employee training to ensure all your remote staff are aware of common cybersecurity threats. It will help keep your business safer as you work remotely.
As a business, you should also invest in the right tools to protect your infrastructure. You can use tools like VPNs to secure your end-to-end communication between your team and your applications and data that reside in the corporate data center and headquarters. You can also use SSL certificate that encrypts the data between the server and the browser. You can find a single domain at low price, multi domain, or wildcard SSL certificate to secure your websites.
Be Considerate and Provide Emotional Support
Your remote team faces unique challenges like isolation that your employees and supervisors reporting to the office daily might not understand. It is also essential to consider that you might be the source of their problems when you bombard them with work after hours. Approach your remote team with compassion, always keep in touch, and ask them if you can help in any way.
Listen More than You Speak!
Remember, you are a manager, not a dictator. A massive component of remote work is the ability to choose your own schedules. As you continue to establish deadlines and expectations for your team, it would also help to ask for their input and give them autonomy over their work. For instance, you could discuss with your remote employees and allow them to share their input regarding work hours and their preferred communication channel. Giving your remote team a voice will make them feel more included and boost their productivity.
If you are remote workers then keep experiencing the same challenges and feel like you are doing little to nothing to ease their pains, their productivity might decrease. In the worst-case scenario, they might contemplate leaving your company. Therefore, it would be wise to familiarize yourself with their troubles and develop the right approach. For instance, the best way to manage work from home without diminishing your employees’ work-life balance would be to establish rigid working hours so nobody is stuck on their workdays past midnight. Asynchronous communication is key to handling remote teams, aiding in time zone differences, and fostering a more inclusive and accommodating environment.
Schedule In-person Meetings
When your employees have been working remotely for too long, there is a chance they might be detached from the company. Working from home does not mean they cannot switch things up and attend in-person meetings. Occasionally, it would be wise to schedule a meeting in the office to ensure all your employees are on the same page and working towards a common goal. You could also encourage your remote team to air their grievances and brainstorm together for possible solutions.
Foster Collaboration between Team Members
Again, remote employees hardly have time to interact with one another and speak about non-work-related topics, especially after experiencing an abrupt transition from office to remote work. As a manager, you are responsible for creating avenues where your employees can let loose and catch up. You could spend the first ten minutes of a work call checking up on each other. Alternatively, you could schedule a virtual pizza party where everyone gets a pizza delivered to their home to be enjoyed simultaneously during a video conference call.
The past few years have shown us that change is inevitable, even to the way we work. Remote work is here to stay, at least in the foreseeable future. As a manager it is time to embrace hybrid and fully remote work models. You should strive to deliver the best for your team. Focus on improving collaboration among your remote team. Ensure nobody feels left out just because they are working from home. Inclusivity makes your remote workers feel appreciated and will motivate them to be more productive. Don’t forget to keep an eye on your remote team’s wellbeing as well as your own!