Nowadays, remote work, and managing remote teams are extremely common. The main reasons behind this lie in the fact that companies have started to understand the positive impact remote work can have on their employees’ job satisfaction, productivity, and also the savings it can bring to their business.
However, in spite of these benefits, managing remote teams can be challenging in a way that ensures its members really feel a “part of something”, and that they’re working towards a common goal.
That being said, we’ve outlined some of the most commonly faced challenges where managing remote workers is concerned, as well as some tips, and best practices as to how to overcome them. After-all, a happy remote team is a productive remote team!
For the majority of remote teams, communication is the key to success. Each member of the team must know what the others are working on, at all times. This is something that can be easily lost when the entire team is working remotely. Remote teams simply cannot function with inadequate communication between its members.
What your team needs is a dedicated space where your workers can keep each other in the loop about progress on their projects, and the project as a whole.
Short daily meetings over Skype is a great way to do this, but your team will also appreciate having a “virtual water-cooler”. Internal team communication tools like Slack are fantastic for this, and come with the added bonus that future additions to your remote team can easily look up the answers to issues frequently faced by new remote workers.
The truth is, it doesn’t really matter which remote tool you decide to use, just as long as you team has a heavily encouraged line of communication, your remote workers won’t feel isolated from one another.
Lack of face-to-face interactions
One of the most enjoyable of working with other people is getting to know them personally. It’s much harder to do that with remote teams, with workers living in different places and time zones.
It’s not easy to organise, but if possible, make plans for your remote team to get together with each other once a year to provide them with the opportunity to meet their remote coworkers in real life.
For full-time remote employees, you could consider arranging something like an annual meeting in an exotic location.
This is something that the team can work towards as an end-of-year reward for their hard work, and it certainly shouldn’t be treated as a straight up holiday!
Having your remote team together is an excellent opportunity to get some important work done in one room – just make sure there is enough time left over for them to properly enjoy each others’ company in their downtime!
Unhealthy company culture
This is something that can plague any remote business. In any company, fostering a healthy working environment requires a sound plan.
This process can be tougher than usual when managing remote teams, but why should it be? Sure, it’s much easier (but yet easier said than done) for members of the management team, or the CEO to pop into chat with a team that works in the same office, but this doesn’t mean that the same outcome can’t be achieved with a remote setup.
An easy way to solve this conundrum with a virtual workspace is to make sure everyone feels comfortable in contacting whomever they wish, with any question.
So, how do you go about creating such an environment? Setting up virtual coffee breaks between randomly selected employees is one way (there are several Slack bots that can help you achieve this).
Another way is to have virtual movie nights, where each member of the remote team takes it in turns to select films for the rest to watch. There are plenty of ways, the key is to make it fun – be creative!
Lack of trust in management
This one leads on from the previous point regarding an unhealthy remote company culture. When working remotely, it can be easy to let your mind wander down a dangerous path, and become frustrated at management if a perceived lack of transparency exists.
Again, it isn’t rocket science. Managers of remote teams should be working their hardest to ensure that each member of their virtual workspace has a clear idea of their expected working hours, all deadlines, what it is that the company is working towards, pay structures (wages, pay rises, paydays), and even the policy on taking sick days – managing remote employees is no different to in-house workers
Once everyone is on the same page, the team will feel comfortable, and honest themselves should any issues arise. There is certainly a repeating pattern here – constant communication is key to getting the most out of any remote team, or individual remote worker.
Losing track of your remote employees’ productivity
Not keeping track of what’s being done, who is doing what, and likewise who isn’t doing what they are supposed to is something that can cause the demise of any remote enterprise.
Are you totally aware of how much work your remote team is getting done, and at what rate? If not, then you need to change this, and fast!
Luckily, there is a simple way make sure you don’t end up in this situation, and it’s also an easy fix if you do find yourself in it: monitor, and evaluate your remote employees using the same KPIs you would when dealing with in-house workers.
If you do this, everyone knows what they are doing, and each member of your remote team can be held easily accountable for their level, and volume of work.
Managing remote teams successfully can bring your company massive benefits, but overcoming the hurdles en route to that success will take time, patience, and a lot of practice! It’s unrealistic to expect every new idea or system that you implement to work straight off the bat.
The best thing you can do is remain dedicated to seeking out any existing, or potential issues your remote team faces. Put it to your remote employees, talk things through, and come up with a mutually agreed best practice going forward.
Your remote team will surely appreciate being a part of the decision-making process, boosting your chances of overcoming any challenge faced. And if you feel like you’re in need of more tips on managing remote teams, there are plenty of resources and guides (especially by Time Doctor) that can help you along the way. So read on and explore. 🙂
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Did we miss any of the troubles you might face when managing remote workers? Would you like to share any experiences? Let us know in the comments below…