Do you have team members working from different locations? And, are you looking for ways to manage your remote team more efficiently?
But irrespective of what the stats speak, some executives still hesitate to give remote teams a try.
“How will I get to know if my team is working efficiently?”
“It’ll be difficult to connect with the team when we are rarely face-to-face.”
“But, introducing any remote employee to my IT team will hamper the work culture of my office.”
As a business executive from North Carolina, does this sound familiar and relatable?
Don’t worry! You’re not alone!
North Carolina has the second-fastest-growing IT industry in the USA. Like many other businesses globally, a lot of North Carolina businesses are facing a flexible workplace revolution.
Let’s dig deeper into the following section and find out about the everyday challenges this flexible workplace revolution has brought.
Common Challenges of Remote Working
Many people find it convenient to work remotely these days, and companies also benefit from hiring such remote teams.
Despite the apparent benefits, it still has a fair share of challenges that make it demanding for both employees and managers.
Here is the list of those challenges:
1. Managing Distractions at Home
Working remotely, team members can avoid many common workplace interruptions like – co-workers dropping by at desk, long meetings, snack breaks, and noisy colleagues in the cubicle, and so on.
That’s a relief!
But the bad news is that employees still have to deal with interruptions and distractions working at home. It may be the employee’s significant other, a very young kid needing attention, family responsibilities, pets, or someone dropping by unannounced or something else.
Sometimes we even witness employees struggling to find a quiet corner at home to take a conference call.
It’s even more challenging for employees with parental responsibilities – who are staring at school and day-care closure these days.
It’s interesting to see the results of a survey of employees from the USA conducted in June 2020 who worked from home during the coronavirus pandemic. They cited a list of distractions, which shows Social Media as the biggest distractions while working from home. Smartphones and binge-watching follow it among the other distractions.
2. Communication Issues
Remember, clear and open communication is essential for productive and engaged remote teams.
But since a lot of remote work communication happens via e-mail and the likes, it doesn’t take much to develop misunderstandings.
You can blame it on many factors:
a) Lack of mutual knowledge in difficult situations
For example, while working at the office, when you know that a co-worker is having a rough day and is stressed, you may ignore a harsh e-mail from them.
But if you receive such a communication from a remote co-worker, you will most likely take an offense or may also think poorly of their professionalism.
Such miscommunications are common, and they lead to interpersonal challenges in teams.
b) Lack of inclusion for remote workers
The miscommunication within teams may increase if some team members work in the office setting while the others work remotely. It is common for members working from home to miss all the overheard discussions and meetings at the office.
Besides, if decisions at work are made without these remote members, it may lead to feelings of insecurity and non-inclusion.
c) Different time-zones
The businesses are hiring talent from across the world, and it gives them the flexibility of remote teams.
However, the remote team members may work at different time-zones, and thus effective communication can be a challenge. In some cases, there will be members who’ll be sleeping and therefore unavailable to answer an urgent query when other team members will be in a different time-zone working on getting things done.
Such situations lead to communication gaps among team members.
d) Delayed response time
You may often find your remote workers complaining about the added time and effort needed to locate information from other co-workers.
Even getting answers to simple questions can feel like a massive task to a worker working at home. Teams thus face difficulty getting questions answered directly, fast, and meeting deadlines.
3. Isolation and lack of in-person interaction
Remote working for a long time present the challenge of social isolation and loneliness amongst workers.
I’m sure you’d agree that a socially isolated and lonely worker will find it hard to stay motivated for long. And eventually, it’ll reflect poor work performance.
Let me tell you why people feel isolated by working remotely.
We know that it’s very natural for people working in shared offices to experience “water cooler” moments of interaction with colleagues. They get to celebrate birthdays together, share meals, or even after-work drinks.
But people working remotely often complain of missing that social interaction of an office setting.
And at times, such extended work schedules of working remote cause employees to feel less “belonging” to the company.
That’s not a desirable situation for anyone.
4. Tech issues
It is well known that IT teams or developers cannot work well without good tech support. Decent Wi-Fi speed, remote access software, digital communication, and collaborative tools, safe network, etc. – they all are essential.
With many organizations transitioning to remote work for the long-term now, there are few tech issues that teams should be made aware of. It will help prevent accidents like valuable data loss and address the connection problems and privacy concerns.
Let’s find out more about the everyday tech issues:
a) Wi-Fi Speed
Good internet connectivity is one of the most common challenges for those working from home. When other family members share the internet, the home Wi-Fi bandwidth gets overloaded, and internet speed gets affected.
b) Maintaining Security
Most offices have their in-built protection systems from cyber-attacks that most people do not have at their homes.
So, working online, without a firewall or other security measures makes workers vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Since many remote workers often use their own devices for work, it makes them all the more vulnerable to many potential cyber-security problems.
c) Need for Specialized software at the home computer
Sometimes, the worker needs to install the specialized licensed software on the home computer. It can get tricky if the employee cannot do it on their own, and work will suffer in this case.
5. Lack of face-to-face supervision
Now this one’s a common concern for both the managers and their team members.
Lack of face-to-face interaction in remote working bothers everyone. And there are many reasons why.
Managers often worry the employees will not work as hard or as efficiently if they are not supervised closely (as in office premises). Such managers end up micro-managing due to this fear.
Many employees complain about less access to managerial communication. In some instances, employees may feel that remote managers are out of touch with them. Such situations create unnecessary anxiety for the teams.
6. Develop Bad Health Habits
Remote workers tend to develop poor health habits when they’re not careful enough. I am sure poor health style is the last thing you’d want your team to develop.
I am sharing the list of pitfalls your workers must avoid while working from home.
- Overworking / Working for extended hours
- Irregular sleeping hours
- Poor personal hygiene
- Poor posture while working
- Bad eating habits – Taking frequent snacks break or forgetting to eat.
- Picking up addictive habits – too much coffee, binge-watching net series, online games, etc.
- Not exercising
7. Poor Productivity
None of us want to have people with low productivity in our teams.
Here, you have to be vigilant.
Honestly speaking, a distracted, disconnected, and multi-tasking employee can soon become unproductive. If not paid attention to, low productivity can become one of the most difficult challenges to overcome.
Notice if the employee takes longer than usual to complete tasks regularly.
The longer your team member take to complete tasks, the more the tasks will eat into their personal lives. The less effective they become as a team member.
8. Remote collaboration
It is common practice for team members to work together on different projects. In a regular office setting, this simple activity seems easy. But such collaboration on a single project becomes challenging when you have people working from different remote locations and when they have a shared document or a file to work on.
Phew! That’s a huge set of remote work challenges.
But don’t get disheartened. I am now going to talk about how to manage remote teams efficiently.
How to Efficiently Manage Remote Teams?
Despite all the challenges you face managing a remote team, one thing is sure – Remote work is here to stay.
So, if you plan to hire an IT team based in different areas of the city or other cities or different countries, you seriously need to rethink your team management approach.
Below is a comprehensive list of how to effectively manage your remote IT team.
I am sure these tips will help you bridge the distance between your in-house and your remote teams. It will also keep everyone in the team accountable, productive, and happy.
Moreover, these practices will help you to:
- Keep communication issues to the minimum and in control.
- Build a great rapport with every member of your remote team.
- Monitor the team’s performance.
- Be sure the team can prioritize work.
Let’s read on and find out how useful these tips are.
1. Have a Daily Check-in with the Team
Do you know many successful remote managers go in for daily calls with their remote team members?
Yes, you heard me right! Daily!
Don’t worry; you will not be overdoing anything if these calls are made daily.
Here are some critical pointers related to these daily check-in calls.
- Remember to make individual one-on-one calls if your employees work independently from each other. Else you can go in for a team call if their work is more collaborative.
- Make sure these calls are regular and predictable.
- These calls must be the forum where employees can consult with you, voice their concerns, and raise their questions.
- Please do not assume that an e-mail or a text will suffice.
- Try to use video conferencing often to establish the face-to-face interaction that usually lacks in remote working.
2. Have A Regular Communication
It is well-known that a lack of communication leads to challenging situations. But more so when employees work remotely. Then communication becomes paramount.
Therefore communicate as often as possible—clarifying anything that could lead to a misunderstanding.
Do communicate well with your team – It will bring up the team spirit, involve people, and show you trust your team. So,
- Be in regular communication with your team.
- Don’t just communicate – sometimes over-communicate.
- Share what other people are working on, even if it is not directly linked to the tasks they own.
- Be transparent about what’s going on in every vertical of the company.
Therefore communicate as often as possible—clarifying anything that could lead to a misunderstanding.
3. Make Good Use of Technology
What are your views on the technologies you use to work with your remote team? Do you believe technology has any role to play in managing remote teams?
Remember, when you manage a remote team, the technologies you use can either be a remedy or a burden.
And therefore, it’s a good idea to invest in useful digital tools that can make your and your team’s work-life simpler. You and your team will be able to overcome many challenges of remote working this way.
Even if your team already uses some digital tools, you may still need to check if you need new software and update the ones already in use. It will help you streamline your remote work processes.
a) Communication Tools
Such tools are convenient in remote working. They are used to convey information and to keep everyone engaged.
Don’t assume that only the E-mail and text messaging form of communication is sufficient – they are the short-term solutions for communication. You can explore using some Instant Messaging services or telecommunication applications like Skype.
b) Collaboration Tools
Tools like Slack, Cisco WebEx, Zoom, Google Hangouts, and Microsoft Teams provide simple team collaboration platforms.
And just for getting things done on a single project! Trust me; they are very cool applications and important in remote working.
c) File sharing Tools
The file-sharing tool comes in handy when you have to transfer files, distribute them, and share access—for example, DropBox, and WeTransfer.
d) Document synchronization
It aims at comparing two documents for any modification, addition, or deletion of a document. This way, employees can have the latest version, and the information remains the same everywhere.
e) Cloud storage
Gone are the days when physical computers were used as data servers. Nowadays, the data is stored remotely on the cloud and accessed via a telecommunications network. Google Drive and One Drive are common examples.
It is a communication method with a live, visual connection via a video with multiple team members from different locations.
Replace in-person meetings with videoconferences, and your team will get the “feeling” of seeing one another as they communicate.
4. Setting and Managing Expectations
Set clear expectations with your team if you want remote work to become efficient and rewarding.
Spell out crystal clear rules related to the medium, frequency, and ideal communication timing for their teams. It will help address any miscommunications even before they arise.
- For example, suggest using zoom videoconferencing for daily check-in meetings, but IM only when something is urgent.
- Build expectations on the best times of day for team members to reach you and for you to reach them individually.
- Set clear expectations of the tasks, key projects, and deadlines of individual team members. Please do not assume the team understands where they need to focus their energies on currently.
5. Provide Opportunities for Remote Social Interaction
You must think of ways to address loneliness in remote teams and encourage social interaction within the team.
It is required to help the worker get over their feeling of isolation while working remotely.
You can be innovative and do a lot of things:
- Keep some time towards the beginning of team calls just for catching up and on other non-work items.
- Plan for virtual coffee dates or pizza parties (in which pizza is delivered to all team members at the time of a videoconference).
- Invite a performance artist to give a virtual performance.
- Offer encouragement to team members.
- Encourage the exchange of peer-to-peer Thank you notes.
- Schedule meetings with no agenda.
Remember, these are a must to help reduce feelings of isolation and promote a sense of belonging among the team members.
6. Resource Your Team Well
Do make sure your team has all the necessary tools – laptop, the right software, headset, webcam, or even a high-speed internet connection.
It’s not advisable to assume that everyone has all of those things. As a manager, it’s your responsibility to make sure they do.
7. Offer Encouragement and Support
Help your team open up about issues that may be troubling them. There’s a lot you can do here.
- Acknowledge their stress.
- Listen to your team’s anxiety and stress.
- Help them prioritize work tasks.
- Show confidence and trust in your team.
- Offer words of encouragement often.
8. Be Flexible
In the current scenario, people have a lot going on in their lives.
Remember, it’s okay at such a time to trust your team and give them the freedom and flexibility of doing things on the schedule that works best for them. It will help them stay productive in the long run.
Besides the tips mentioned above, you must remember to:
- Be reliable and responsive
- Promote transparency
- Avoid micromanagement
- Lead by example
- Help team members address distractions
I know, managing remote teams is not an easy job. However, with the right tools in place, you can help your team stay focused and productive.
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