With remote work on the rise, more employees are choosing to work from home or other remote locations. In just the past few years, more than 92 million Americans being given the freedom to work remotely for at least part of their work week. This is a huge jump from the incomparably lower number of remote workers before.
This kind of setup offers benefits such as lower business costs, increased productivity, and better overall flexibility, but it also comes with its own set of challenges. There are fundamental rules in managing remote teams, and in this article, we’ll look through some of the most common challenges faced by managers of remote teams as well as some solutions to overcome them.
Miscommunication is a common pitfall for those who work remotely. Sometimes, messages aren’t conveyed accurately when done through email, chat, and even video calls. This is a particularly challenging hurdle to overcome, but there are still ways to handle it.
Solutions for Communication Challenges
- Practice active empathy. Being mindful of how your messages may come across in terms of wording, context, and tone is absolutely critical in reducing the risk of misinterpretation. Always aim to come off as friendly, relatable, and kind.
- Apart from group video meetings, make some time to do smaller-scale meetings and even one-on-one calls. Some people may not have the opportunity to voice out any concerns or questions when there are several people involved in a call; more intimate conferences can let them communicate more openly.
- Centralize communication on as few platforms as possible. Although it is often necessary to keep multiple ways of communicating, the risk of having too many of those is that some people might not be on the same page as the rest of the group. Keeping communication hubs centralized will help in keeping messages and notifications easy and convenient to access.
- Set up systems and procedures that keep all important parts of a team’s projects well-documented and easily accessible.
Coordinating schedules and managing everyone’s time is challenging for any workspace, much more so for those with team members who work remotely.
Solutions for Schedules Challenges
- Create up-to-date resources and make sure that team members have access to these to find direction for any common questions and challenges they might face when working on their own time.
- Utilize the many collaboration tools available to remote teams. Different management and communication channels can even help teams in different time zones work and communicate with each other effectively.
- Make sure you record and share any important meetings that are conducted for team members who may not have been available to attend them at the time.
- Keep consistent structures in terms of timetables and time-sensitive task goals. When everyone is working on their own time, predictability will keep a team on track.
Most managers will make the mistake of thinking that accountability will be a bigger concern with remote workers compared to their in-office counterparts. Research actually suggests this to be unfounded. But if you need a little bit more assurance or if you just want to make sure all of your bases are covered, there are some ways to promote accountability among team members without resorting to micromanagement.
Solutions for Accountability Challenges
- Keep deadlines and deliverables requirements well-defined and enforced. This prevents any costly delays and minimizes frustration all around.
- Make sure everyone is aware and fully understands overall project goals. Team members who see how their work fits into the bigger picture are more motivated and productive.
- Compensate workers fairly. It keeps workers feel valued and motivates them to render work equivalent to their wage. This is especially true for any independent contractors.
- Establish daily and weekly routines that involve checking in with team members. Foster an environment where they check in on each other to keep everyone feeling both accountable and supported.
Team Work Challenges
Without a doubt, remote work can be isolating for some people. It’s hard to work in a team if you don’t feel like a part of it. In these cases, it’s important for managers to be on top of intentionally cultivating a workplace culture that values inclusion and collaboration.
Solutions for Team Work Challenges
- Celebrate your team member’s wins. Highlight people’s successes in enthusiastic and public ways. Give positive shoutouts during Zoom meetings, and virtual high-fives on Slack. Try to acknowledge, even in simple ways, how much you appreciate your team members and you’ll find that making them feel seen goes a long way.
- For those that are able to, have regular video calls or meetings with team members. Email and chat messages are great for effective communication but can get a little cold or impersonal at times. Video meetings help establish more solid connections between workers.
- Unity is important. Make sure company and team-wide updates are shared in a timely and transparent manner. A team works best when they feel like a cohesive, united group. And make sure to use remote working collaboration tools to assure people that they’re working as a team.
- Be open and transparent about any concerns you may have with your team and make them feel that it’s acceptable, and even encouraged, for them to be the same way. Airing out any grievances before they turn into bigger issues, and taking care to do so in a timely and professional manner, is important to make sure that remote teams function well together as a group.
Navigating through remote team management challenges can seem a little daunting. But as long as you work on staying on top of your team’s communication, schedules, accountability, and rapport, you’ll have the right tools to find your way through them and above them.
Often touted as the inevitable future of all office-based work environments, the remote working setup is here to stay. With all the growing pains that come with it, the provided tips on how to anticipate, react, and overcome all these remote team management challenges can help you realize your team’s full potential.