Since 2020, many industries have seen a sudden shift towards remote work. Despite the world opening back up in 2021 and declaring the pandemic over, the trend of remote work has remained about the same.
With nearly 28 million Americans currently working remotely, there is a good chance you will manage a team with remote workers now or in the future. We’ll review some of the top challenges of managing remote employees, and offer some tips on how to overcome them.
Challenges Of Remote Team Management (And How To Overcome Them)
Lack of Face-to-Face Interaction:
Working remotely means you can’t simply turn to a co-worker next to you. This unique challenge is having an impact on remote workers that we don’t even fully understand yet.
Social isolation is a real threat of working remotely, and it is important employers do what they can to connect their employees. From a team management perspective, it can be difficult to manage a team that does not have the same face-to-face connection as an in-person team.
HOW TO OVERCOME:
How to overcome: Connecting remote employees with one another can be an interesting hurdle to jump over. However, this is an important step in building trust among your employees. Depending on the size of your team and your company culture, there are a few ways you can tackle this:
- Start with regular, weekly zoom meetings. Politely request that cameras are turned on for these meetings. Discuss goals for that week or period and ask team members to contribute. We’ve made a full list of fun virtual meeting ideas to keep employees engaged.
- Consider an annual in-person meeting. If the budget allows for it, attempt to gather the full team in person once or twice a year. Schedule fun activities along with high-level meetings to unite the team.
- Send out consistent project updates and include where each employee participates within the overall progress of the project. Encourage different team members to collaborate together on their parts of the project.
- Celebrate successes as a team. Anytime an employee goes above and beyond, or the team as a whole has a big win, celebrate these successes on a group meeting. Allow your employees to feel supported and encouraged by one another to help bring them closer together.
Difficulty With Communication
Team communication is very different in a remote environment. With most employee communication taking place via email or text, words can often be taken out of context or misinterpreted. It can be difficult to achieve the same level of collaboration and understanding with a virtual team as you would have with in-person communication.
HOW TO OVERCOME:
Fortunately, there have been some big improvements made in virtual communication since the beginning of 2020. Many platforms have been created or improved upon to make communication for people working on remote teams much easier.
- Video Conferencing: Virtual meetings got a major facelift in 2020. Suddenly, video calling has become easier and more accessible to employees working from home. Major companies like Zoom and Teams have created platforms that are easy to use and integrate into daily routines.
- Messaging Apps: Instant messaging has made a comeback with the influx of remote employees. Many platforms have hit the market, such as Slack or Trillium, that are catered towards different industries. These platforms enable you to create groups for different teams or projects, react to other team members’ comments, and celebrate with fun emojis or memes.
- Project Tracking Software: What was usually a daily huddle in an in-person work environment can now be taken care of with various project management or project tracking programs. Companies like Monday have broken down project management into a fully customizable program that can be designed to fit the needs of your project or team. This keeps your team fully informed on the status of a project, who is working on what, and what tasks have yet to be completed.
Time Zone Differences
It’s hard to schedule an 8am morning huddle when it’s only 5am for 30% of your team! Time zones have proven to be a difficult challenge for remote teams that are spread across the country. When you add in the fact that only some states participate in daylight savings time, things can really get messy!
HOW TO OVERCOME:
While you can’t change anything about the time zones, there are a few tips you can follow to keep your team working cohesively.
- Only hire employees within a certain timezone. This is a simple one that many companies abide by – they only hire employees within a certain state or range of states. This ensures all of their employees are in the same time zone.
- Require all employees to work the hours of a certain timezone. As long as these requirements are specified before the employee is hired, it is ok to require someone in California to match their working hours with a company located in Chicago. This may mean an early start to the day, but it can also mean an early end to it too!
- Only schedule meetings later or earlier in the day. If you have the majority of your team out on the West coast, but your company is headquartered on the East Coast, consider saving the afternoon hours for your team meetings. This will ensure the rest of your team can make it, and you can catch up on other work in the mornings.
Tracking Employee Productivity
Remote work can certainly increase an employee’s work life balance. However, if an employee is not doing the same amount of work that they would be doing in an office setting, it can be a poor arrangement for the company.
A primary responsibility of a remote manager should be setting clear expectations for productivity, and being able to track if that work is being completed. This can be difficult when your employees aren’t in the same building you are.
HOW TO OVERCOME:
Depending on the industry you are in, there may be different methods of tracking productivity. For example, if you manage a call center, you may be tracking the number of calls taken in a given day. If you manage medical billers, you may be tracking the number of claims billed out by each biller.
For all companies, there are a few tips for making sure employee productivity is where is should be:
- Establish structured daily guidelines and expectations for each employee. It is vital that your expectations are clearly outlined for each employee under your management. If your employees do not fully understand what is expected of them, it is hard to enforce any amount of productivity.
- Do random audits of different metrics. This will vary based on your industry, but there is always something you can audit to track productivity. Make your team aware at the beginning that you are doing these random audits so they know their productivity will be tracked.
- Ask for weekly reports. This tip is especially important when managing employees with various tasks to complete on any given day. Ask for a simple report, something that won’t take a significant amount of time out of their day to complete. Request that they include bullet points of the tasks they completed in a given day. These reports can also be used for random audits.
- Use productivity tracking software. There is software available that can track the number of clicks or amount of time logged into a computer for any given period. While this may sound invasive, there are many employers that use this on company issued devices to ensure they are only being used for work related tasks. This method is best suited for large teams that are difficult to connected with on a 1-on-1 basis, or employees that you suspect have not been as productive as you expected.
Engaging Your Remote Employees
As a manager of a remote team, it is essential you are able to engage your employees in their own work. Overcoming these top 4 challenges is a good start to ensuring your team can work cohesively as one unit.
If you are looking for other methods to engage your team, take a look at our latest article on employee engagement. Studies have shown that the key to employee retention is engagement, you won’t want to miss out on the valuable tips we have for keeping your employees happy and engaged.