Managing a Remote Team – The Challenges and How to Overcome Them
According to a Stanford University study, 42 percent of the U.S. labor force is working full-time from home. Many of those employees are facing additional or new challenges while trying to manage not only their work responsibilities but also their personal lives from the same space. As employers or HR professionals, you need to stay vigilant to these challenges and take active steps to address them to ensure continued engagement and production while managing your remote team.
Challenges Remote Workers Face
With a steep decrease in supervision and the additional demands of remote work, employees can experience a decline in productivity and interest in their work, among other challenges. Lack of expectations may also cause employees to experience some of the problems below that range from concerns in emotional health to communication.
When asked to name the biggest struggle with remote work, 21 percent of employees said loneliness. As employees are being forced to work from home, their normal communication and connection are being severed. They face long hours of isolation. Employees are not only missing out on a personal connection, but they also feel their achievements are being ignored. They often can’t get the information or materials needed to complete their jobs according to a study.
Another major challenge that remote workers are facing is an increase in distractions. While the office environment held its temptations of time-wasters, from early morning chit-chat to watercooler time sinks, employees’ new workplace may hold more tempting distractions. Workers have cited everything from child care to television as distractions, which are pulling them away from their work responsibilities. While some are avoidable with discipline, others may not be.
With no separation between home and work, employees feel more pressure to perform with a lessened ability to decompress. According to Monster, a global employment website, 69 percent of workers are experiencing burnout symptoms while working from home during COVID-19. The study also reports that 59 percent are taking less time off to relax. This constant pressure and reduced vacation time result in lowered productivity and increased disengagement from the company.
The challenge of reduced communication and information sharing is a major concern for many employees and employers. Not only does it now take more time to get information since normal face-to-face communication is gone, but many times employees can’t get the answers they need to complete their assignments or complete them well.
In addition, the limited communication via email or chat messages is often misread or interpreted differently with no facial expressions or tone inflection to help ease demands. This may cause some unnecessary hostilities in your workplace.
Tips to Better Manage Your Remote Team
The challenges remote workers face are real and affect their performance and happiness. It is vital to address these challenges in your workplace with your team to ensure capable and willing employees who will produce top-quality work. Follow the tips below to help curb the challenges that your employees are facing on a daily basis.
- Daily Check-Ins with Video
A way to reduce loneliness and isolation is to set daily meetings with your team members with video access. This interaction is as close to face-to-face communication as you can get in a remote workplace that still provides a connection. Employees can interact more normally with voice and facial expressions and enjoy more instant communication than through text or email. This should help employees fill personal connection gaps while also allowing them to get the information they need to do their work.
- Set Expectations
Setting expectations on many aspects of work can help eliminate many of the challenges, from distractions to burnout. Make sure you are crystal clear in what you expect an employee to accomplish on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis so they can meet and exceed those expectations without running ragged.
In addition, set expectations for distractions. Make sure your employees know that when meetings are happening, personal notifications need to be turned off. If you are providing flexible hours, be sure to let them know you expect their full attention when they are at work and that you need them to commit to certain hours or a certain number of hours each day.
- Open Several Communication Channels and Be Responsive
No or little communication is often disguised as miscommunication. While you and managers need to set expectations, you both also need to be available to address problems as they arise. Set up multiple ways for people to get in contact with everyone and be responsive when they reach out to avoid holding up projects and extending deadlines.
- Offer Support and Flexibility
This is a difficult time for everyone who has to manage home and work life from one location. While trying to maximize productivity is important, don’t lose sight of the people behind that productivity. Understand that circumstances are changing, and so are the demands on your employees, so be flexible and accommodating to their work and home life needs.
Keeping production and engagement levels high in your business is a great goal, but not at the expense of your most prized assets – your employees. When it comes to telecommuting and managing your remote team, be aware of the challenges employees face, and take steps to prevent and address them.