“I’ve found that working remotely has given me more space for long-term thinking and helped me spend more time with my family, which has made me happier and more productive at work.”Mark Zuckerberg, Co-founder and CEO of Meta Platforms
Distributed teams are becoming popular, especially among startups and growing businesses. And the coronavirus pandemic has only accelerated the widespread adoption of remote working. The ability to hire globally has made distributed teams more common than ever before.
Employers can now hire talent worldwide without worrying about geographic boundaries. Also, by working virtually, companies can expect lower costs. They don’t need to invest in renting or furnishing an office space for their employees.
However, just like any other thing, remote working also comes with a set of difficulties. This guide looks at 11 common drawbacks and ways to overcome them.
11 challenges of managing remote teams
Here is a list of 11 challenges and tips for remote teams to overcome these problems.
- Communication issues among teams: Since the distance between managers and employees is longer, it becomes critical to keep open communication. Unfortunately, this is often easier said than done. Some challenges that distributed teams face are a lack of face-to-face interactions, which can be pivotal in building better relationships. Furthermore, not knowing who is working hard and who might be slacking off is another concern. Without face-to-face interactions, relying on other measures such as email communication or phone conversations can prove insufficient for some tasks. One of the best ways to solve these problems is by using video conferencing and other collaborative tools. When used right, such tools help maintain open lines of communication and allow real-time interactions that can be critical for distributed teams.
- Not having a single source of truth: Employees want their employers to have a single source of truth. They don’t want them looking at multiple sources to get the information they need. For example, if an employee needs to know about company holidays or days off, they should find that information in one place without needing to search for it extensively. The same goes for managers who are responsible for managing the work of their team members. They should have access to critical information in a single place. It will help everyone save time and experience better productivity.
- Employees not having the right set of tools for collaboration: In a distributed team, every employee must have the right set of tools to do their job. One such tool is a shared workspace that can ensure everyone has access to all necessary information and files they need to get their job done. It also helps employers to manage things well. They know where the location of files is and what action employees are taking on them. Next is about having real-time updates of everyone involved in a project. It ensures ream members remain aware of changes made or actions taken on specific projects. Teams can avoid confusion and ensure they meet deadlines without delay.
- Tracking team’s productivity: Managers and employees working in a distributed team often face problems like a lack of face-to-face interactions. They miss out on critical information that might help them build better relationships. Managers don’t know who is working hard and who is not. In the absence of face-to-face interactions, managers rely on other measures such as email communication or phone conversations that may often prove insufficient. In addition to these challenges, managers working within a virtual organization need to manage people across different cultures and time zones. They need solid organizational skills, analytical expertise, and problem-solving abilities.
- Lack of good company culture: Businesses often tries to make up for the lack of interaction among teams using various means. Emails or phone conversations often stand in as substitutes, but these can only go so far. Companies need to encourage employees working in different departments or units to interact with each other. It helps build relationships and contributes to the overall company culture. Employees who work together even when they are not under the same roof can build better relationships based on the trust and understanding of others within the company.
- Hiring new members for the remote team: If you are thinking about hiring someone remotely, make sure the culture fits first. Otherwise, things might start getting out of hand. It could also be hard to keep everyone on track with their work responsibilities as well. To ensure that the new remote team member does not disrupt everyone’s output and flow, you need to consider whether your hiring process is suited for this environment. First off, ask yourself, “Does my culture fit?” Be clear about who will work well in your organization by including these details when posting jobs. Also, ensure there are no communication issues during onboarding because those can cause chaos pretty quickly.
- Monitoring the daily work of employees: Companies adopt different tools to facilitate communication between team members. The key issues are how do you know that your employees are making real progress? Who is working hard among them? Who is delivering quality results? What’s more, who needs help and support from their manager and when? These questions lead to another problem that managers often face when they have to manage a distributed team. They don’t know their employees well and usually perceive this issue as a disadvantage. Managers can fix this by organising more meetings, calls and activities for team members. Having all the team members gathered often helps build relationships and know each other better. Doing so would also reduce the problems associated with language barriers, time zone differences etc.
- Working across time zones: When teams work in different time zones, there is no guarantee they will be online together. Managers in remote teams need to manage everyone’s time zones well. Teams need to communicate in real-time, but the problem is they may not be up at all times of the day and week. They might not always be available to take calls at 8 AM, the way it is with everyone when you’re in an office. Managers need to be more flexible in terms of time. Flexibility is essential for managers who are managing remote teams. Communicating across cultures can also be challenging. People have different ideas about communication, which means certain things can get lost in translation. Perhaps one person may perceive something as rude or inappropriate, whereas the other might not understand the same thing that way at all. It is crucial to keep these factors in mind when communicating with team members globally, so nothing gets lost in translation, and you know what you meant.
- Helping employees manage their work-life balance: It is challenging for managers of any team. It becomes more difficult for managers to help their teams achieve a healthy work-life balance in a distributed setup. They don’t have the opportunity to walk around the office and notice employees staying late or working on weekends without urgency. Managers also find it challenging to build trust with their remote employees. A lack of face-to-face interactions makes it hard for them to build relationships with their employees and understand if they perform well in their roles. And because communication takes place primarily through email, phone calls, video chats and other digital channels, managers often miss out on vital information about what’s happening on ground level. The results? Employees feel dissatisfied with their managers or don’t trust them as they do not have sufficient information to make informed decisions. In addition, employees working in a distributed team often feel isolated from the rest of the organization and network. It may lead to a sense of disconnect that can affect employees’ productivity and satisfaction with their work. They might start feeling like a cog in a wheel rather than a part of a whole. On the other hand, some employees working on distributed teams describe themselves productive as they are free from distractions at work or office politics that eat up time better spent being productive instead.
- Scheduling time for one-on-ones: It is essential to stay in contact with team members no matter the circumstances. When managing remote workers, it can be tough if you do not have regular face-to-face meetings. However, that doesn’t mean there’s something wrong! It just means you need to arrange for 1:1s through video conferencing. You will remain aware of what you need to do without constantly reminding yourself about it. A remote working environment demands more attention than typical office environments do.
- Celebrating achievements of individuals and teams: In an office environment, it is easy to celebrate achievements and successes. However, when some of your team members work remotely, there can be challenges in doing this effectively for them and other people on the same project who may not have access like those physically working together do. It is best to take a dual approach. Celebrate at events with everyone wherever they are while also individualizing mini-celebrations by either having face time calls or sending messages at different times during each week, depending on if one person has done something special that deserves recognition.
The decision to have employees work remotely was not a recent one. It is happening for decades now, as companies are switching to remote teams due to the benefits over regular office environments. These include cost savings or increased productivity, thanks to being able to communicate easily between coworkers anywhere at any time without having someone sitting next to them breathing down their neck asking what’s taking so long?
Maintaining employee morale during these times can be challenging for management. They might want business as usual while still ensuring everyone works to achieve common goals. These 11 tips should give you good clarity on how you can manage your remote successfully.
huminos is a comprehensive performance conversations platform that helps your employees to achieve impactful outcomes, even if they are working remotely. Features like OKRs, 1:1 conversations, feedbacks, reflections, and pulse allow you to plan and measure work that really matters to your company.