Since 2020, a drastic shift has occurred in how companies manage work, including the switch to remote work. Of course, remote work comes with undeniable advantages like flexibility and better work-life balance for a large amount of people. At the same time, there’s a current trend that unhappiness is on the rise amongst distributed workers.
Remote work has several challenges for employers and employees alike. With 16% of companies working entirely remotely and approximately 22% of the American workforce (32.6 million people) going remote by 2025, company leaders must take serious measures to ensure a mutually beneficial work environment.
This article will address the challenges in managing remote employees and the top 5 strategies remote managers can use to overcome them.
Working remotely versus in an office poses separate challenges. It means team leaders and human resource management face different challenges while overseeing remote employees. Some of the top problems include:
While these are the dominant challenges of managing remote employees, other issues exist too:
Addressing the challenges of managing a remote work team isn’t simply about convenience; it can drive sustained organizational success. The impact of these challenges can affect logistics but can also cause deep-rooted productivity issues that may ultimately impact employee well-being.
Leaving such fundamental challenges unattended for too long will act as barriers to team productivity and collaboration, reduce job satisfaction, and lead to poor creativity. Issues such as isolation can even lead to burnout. It impacts your company and its bottom line while also having a long-standing negative influence on the team member in question.
So, to create a nurturing remote environment that acts as the foundation for employees to thrive, you must first understand the remote work issues your company is facing. Only then can you create and employ appropriate strategies to tackle these challenges and create a growth-focused professional ecosystem that increases employee productivity.
Now that you’re aware of the common challenges of managing remote employees and why they matter, let’s understand how you can overcome them:
Remote work means there will be moments of isolation. Even before the COVID pandemic, about 61% of Americans experienced feelings of loneliness.
Moreover, according to the Remote Work Culture Insights study, 70% of respondents stated they could not socialize because of remote work, while 90% agreed that connection needed to be better. Plus, 2 out of 3 employees were even ready to resign because of feeling disconnected.
While you aren’t in a traditional office where employees can hang out by the water cooler, you can still help alleviate feelings of isolation. Start by hosting regular virtual team building activities that foster a sense of community within direct and interdepartmental teams.
Based on your team’s needs, you may implement these quarterly or even monthly. Some fun activities include virtual escape rooms, online trivia, and virtual coffee breaks. If your company uses Slack, there are dedicated team-building apps such as Trivia, Ricotta, and Donut you can integrate into your workspace.
Next, you can also have team meetings at frequent intervals — weekly or biweekly for teams that work closely and monthly for an all-hands-meet session where everyone can share major updates. You can even have a quick team bonding session by ending the call with a fun question for everyone, such as a book or movie recommendation, or ask them about their weekend.
Finally, encourage employees to communicate freely by having dedicated communication channels for non-work-related discussions like pets, hobbies, and other interests.
How to get started 👉 Lessen feelings of isolation with Confetti’s virtual team building activities!
A common remote work challenge is communication. It can seep into your workplace and lead to poor interactions or miscommunication. It can make employees feel disconnected and produce low-quality work. That’s why timely and effective communication becomes paramount for a remote workforce to operate efficiently. Doing so can reduce confusion (especially in new hires) and avoid work-related delays.
The question arises then — how can I manage workplace miscommunication?
Start by defining goals and expectations clearly. You can reiterate them during one-on-one discussions and remote team meetings so there’s no room for confusion. Better still, document significant details and make them easily accessible to all team members.
Remember to encourage conversations between employees that aren’t work-related. If a topic requires a detailed explanation, hop on a video meeting or phone call instead of leaving a text message. This way, the other person can ask their queries, resolve them immediately, and avoid unnecessary back and forth. The secret recipe here is proactive and not reactive communication.
Use video conferencing tools like — Slack, Google Meet, Discord, or Zoom to deal with communication barriers. Alternatively, organize for local team members to work from coffee shops or co-working spaces on days that require more collaboration. It will improve team camaraderie and even reduce feelings of isolation. Finally, remember to set clear expectations about response times to get timely answers.
Working in an office means you have a tech team to support you if an app crashes, your computer freezes, or the WiFi stops working. However, when you work remotely, you deal with these issues yourself.
While this is one of the challenges of managing remote employees, it is an easier issue. Start by placing appropriate policies to tackle technical problems. For example, you can cover WiFi costs to ensure they choose only the best network and the safest browser for privacy. You can ensure your company provides secure and reliable virtual private networks (VPNs) so employees can access sites unavailable in their country without a hiccup.
To mitigate hardware issues, give each remote worker backup equipment so they always have a solution. Better yet, encourage using a cloud-based solution to store critical files. Cloud monitoring will keep your files safe and improve workplace collaboration since it is easier to share access.
If you use any collaboration tools, you must conduct training sessions so your team can use them efficiently. Record the training session or create a presentation so employees can go back and refer to them when they have trouble. Follow the same procedure for new employees, too.
While we discussed looming feelings of isolation earlier, not everyone feels that way. 65% prefer remote work over traditional offices and a hybrid model. This way, they don’t have to waste time making small talk whenever they cross paths with someone and can avoid interruptions like ad-hoc meetings.
However, with remote work, you have many other concerns — home deliveries that require your signature, kids running around, and people visiting unannounced. These interruptions, unfortunately, can happen during meetings, which may leave you red-faced.
But there’s hardly a way you can ask kids, neighbors, and in-laws to give you space without appearing rude. That’s why you need to:
While you may not need a coworking space daily, an on-demand workspace can offer you the benefits of coworking without having to pay for a monthly membership.
Whether it’s once a week to give you a change of scenery and the ability to interact with other professionals, or once in a while for you to host in-person meetings or conferences with locally-based colleagues, on-demand coworking spaces are a viable option for remote workers.
When you work remotely, it’s easier to have a flexible schedule. Yet, not many can detach from work. If you deal with the same issue, try taking timely breaks and talking to friends and family. You may even take a vacation if you feel you’ve been overworking yourself to avoid burnout and fatigue.
On the other hand, your loved ones may view you as constantly available since you work from home. The only solution is to draw clear boundaries to protect your productive hours and complete your tasks.
When you can give your set number of hours (without overworking or underperforming), you free yourself to unwind after work and engage in extracurricular activities that keep you physically and mentally healthy, such as yoga, gym, swimming, and more.
Holger Sindbaek, the owner of WOCG, shares, "As an entrepreneur, balancing the scales between work and life in a remote work environment has been a pivotal challenge. We introduced 'Flexi-Fridays' to tackle this in our team's schedule. This meant shorter work hours on Fridays, allowing everyone to start their weekend earlier or spend time on personal projects. This small shift had a big impact. It boosted morale, and surprisingly, we saw an uptick in productivity and creativity. It's a reminder that giving your team more freedom can sometimes lead to greater dedication and results. For leaders in the remote work era, remember: a little flexibility can go a long way in maintaining a healthy, balanced team."
How to get started 👉 Treat your virtual team to some Health & Wellness activities to bring work-life balance to your team’s day!
From battling isolation during work hours to enhancing communication and navigating technological hurdles, we have equipped you with simple tactics to make your employees’ remote work experience more fulfilling.
But the most crucial step for successful remote team management? Fostering a culture of open feedback and gratitude.
Your team’s experiences and diverse perspectives are invaluable. Encourage them to share insights on what works well and where improvements can be made. This will improve your operations, as well as employee engagement, job satisfaction, and employee well-being.
Fixing your company’s culture to meet employee expectations is an ongoing process that will reinforce a sense of collaboration and empathy. So, ensure continuous employee input so you can steer the company toward even more effective solutions.
Remember, by collecting feedback, you’re not just adapting to change; you’re driving it. So, continue crafting a remote work experience that empowers and enriches your employees.
For more help navigating the distributed workforce, download Confetti's free eBook on Company Culture today!