More and more employees are demanding flexibility in their work.
•Published: Sep 30, 2022
According to research by Microsoft, over 53% of people are currently considering switching to a hybrid or remote job.
However, this push for remote work brings up new challenges that in-person managers have never faced: How do you communicate effectively with employees when you're not face-to-face? And how can you make sure that remote employees stay on top of their tasks?
Since remote work is here to stay, companies need an effective remote team management strategy to keep employees engaged and productive. It requires a combination of giving remote employees all the tools they need for success and creating a sense of community (even if they're thousands of miles away from each other).
In this article, we've identified the four most common challenges that come with remote team management, along with solutions for managers to overcome them:
Dealing with Different Time Zones
Relationship Building Is Different
More Difficult to Track Employee Progress
Hard to Find the Right Balance in Communication
Challenge: Dealing with Different Time Zones
Remote work allows you to hire employees from all over the world, which creates a more diverse workforce. The issue is that collaboration can become challenging with such a diverse team in different time zones. Here's what you can do to effectively communicate with remote employees who are all over the world:
Solution #1: Use Online Workplace Communication Tools
Online workplace communication tools allow you to keep your employees in the loop with essential updates, regardless of where they live.
When Viktor Holas decided to go fully remote with his company Wise Barber, finding ways to communicate effectively with his team was his biggest challenge. Workplace communication technology tools such as Slack and Zoom are what solved his problem:
"Slack was perfect for us because it has easy drag-and-drop file sharing for quick collaboration, an instant message app with notifications that facilitates our communication, and a neat calendar app for scheduling hours and making them visible for everyone," says Holas. "We also heavily used Zoom for meetings."
Solution #2: Make Time Zone Boundaries Clear
Different time zones impact the availability of your remote employees. Make sure to respect the communication boundaries with your team, so they don't feel pressured to say yes to every meeting even if it doesn't fit their schedule or message back immediately.
If you're hosting an important meeting that employees can't join due to time zone differences, you can always record the session and send it to them later. That way, remote employees can access the information even if they can't show up.
Challenge: Relationship Building Is Different
According to a The Next Web survey of 1,000 remote workers across 55 countries, over half of the respondents often feel lonely during their workday. Another 68% of these remote workers also believe that social connection is vital during the workday.
"Remote work can make people feel alienated from their colleagues and managers," says Nina Krol, outreach manager at Tidio. "Going from spending most of your days together to never seeing each other can take a toll on how you perceive your teamwork and all your interactions."
While relationship building is different for remote teams, it doesn't mean you can't recreate that same social connection you'd find in a traditional work environment. Here's what you can do to make remote employees feel connected:
Solution #1: Host Remote Team-Building Exercises
Virtual team-building activities help create a sense of community within your company, even if employees are thousands of miles away from each other. Different types of remote team-building exercises you can host include:
Virtual Breakout Rooms
Virtual breakout rooms allow remote employees to join virtual spaces during their breaks where they can connect with other team members.
Just like coffee breaks in a traditional work environment, it's a way for remote team members to talk to one another and engage in small talk. Having daily Zoom meetings where remote team members can talk about whatever they want is also a good idea:
"It's hard to create a congenial environment when your team doesn't get the same face-to-face interaction that in-office employees do," says Rachel Seid, CEO of Subtl Beauty. "We've combatted this by having daily Zoom meetings to keep each other connected and by encouraging off-topic discussions to try and recreate the watercooler effect."
Virtual Talent Shows
Virtual talent shows allow your team members to express themselves and show off any cool skills they have to others. You can organize the virtual talent show by first running a survey on who on your team wants to participate and then asking them to record themselves performing their skill on camera.
Next, you can host a meeting via Zoom where the whole remote team can watch the videos of each person's talent. You can then end the session with a survey the team can complete to vote for the talent show's winner.
Online Game Sessions
You can encourage remote team members to play online games together as a way to connect. Recommendations of games you can play with your team include Skribbl.io, Weavr, Words With Friends, and PlayingCards.io.
Virtual Meditation Sessions
According to Gallup's State of the Global Workplace: 2022 Report, 44% of employees reported experiencing high-stress levels the previous day. Online meditation sessions help support your remote team's mental health, enable them to better manage their stress, and create a sense of community so they can be more productive at their jobs.
Solution #2: Listen to Remote Employees' Feedback
When you actively listen to remote employees and follow up with them, you can identify any concerns or ways to support them at their jobs.
Active listening also improves employee engagement: 92% of highly engaged employees say they feel like they're being listening to in their work compared to 30% of unengaged employees. However, balanced communication is critical when it comes to following up with remote employees:
"There's a careful balance to strike between making yourself available and being overbearing, and there's little room for trial and error if it risks unsettling the team," says Andrew Gonzales, president of BusinessLoans.com.
To determine how often he should reach out to remote employees, Gonzales "asked questions about how [remote employees] liked to receive feedback, which formats they preferred, and at which intervals felt most appropriate."
Challenge: More Difficult to Track Employee Progress
Another challenge managers run into with remote work is finding ways to monitor their employees' work. How can you know that the remote employee is actually working and not wasting time without being too overbearing?
"In an in-person office, it's so much easier and takes less time to simply tap someone on the shoulder and check in in a very casual way," says Anthony Martin, founder of Choice Mutual. "In the remote workplace, constantly checking in with someone through messages, phone calls, or texts is much more intrusive and can make you become a micromanager of your employees."
Here's what you can do to monitor your remote employees' tasks and help them advance in their careers without taking up their space:
Solution #1: Support Your Remote Employees' Growth
According to research by LinkedIn, 94% of employees believe they're more likely to stay at a company that invests in their professional growth. Here's what you can do to support your remote employees at your company and ensure they continue to improve their skills:
Encourage Remote Employees to Sign Up for Courses on Udemy
Udemy offers courses across different topics to help remote employees improve their skills and learn new processes at their jobs. The platform also often runs promotions that allow you to purchase courses at just $15 each.
Host Virtual Skillshare Sessions
Once in a while, you can ask someone on your team to host a video conferencing session where they explain a specific skill that's important to your remote employees.
Set Up One-on-One Meetings with Remote Employees to Discuss Career Growth
Just as in a traditional work environment, you want to support your remote employees' career trajectory so they can grow. Set aside time to get in touch with your remote employees, ask them about their career goals, and discuss what you can do to help them.
Solution #2: Focus on Tasks Completed --- Not Hours Logged In
Working more hours doesn't necessarily mean more productivity. Instead of focusing on how many hours your remote employees are working, focus on what they're getting done. It creates a better, more productive remote environment that allows employees to work at their own preferred pace.
Challenge: Hard to Find the Right Balance in Communication
Finding a good balance in remote communication is a challenge. Sometimes, managers don't want to get in the way of their remote employees' productivity, so they don't communicate that often and lose track of what their employees are working on.
Other times, remote work can lead to too much communication, as some companies go over the top with meetings, Slack channels, and other tools to compensate. Here's how to find the right balance:
Solution #1: Optimize Remote Employee Onboarding
Onboarding is essential to the hiring process because you only get one chance to make a good first impression on your remote employees. A wrong first impression can leave a new employee wondering if they made the wrong choice. Here are ways you can deliver the best remote employee onboarding process:
Provide the Remote Hire with an Onboarding Buddy
To make your remote employee feel welcome, assign them an onboarding buddy to help them get used to their new working environment. The remote hire will also be able to ask their onboarding buddy questions about their new job or your company culture.
Help Remote Hires Connect with Others on Your Team
To make them feel part of the team as soon as possible, get your new hire to meet other people on your team. For example, you can set up water cooler talks to get your new employee to meet other team members.
A checklist provides new hires with a clear list of tasks they must complete during their onboarding and helps them stay focused. It gives the employee a clear idea of what they can expect from the first month in your company and what they have to do during onboarding.
Frequently Check in with the New Hire
If a new remote hire is experiencing issues during their onboarding process, it's essential to address them head-on. Always listen to your new remote hire's feedback during onboarding to address any concerns they may have with tools such as Lattice.
Solution #2: Establish a Clear Video Meeting Protocol
Online video meetings are an integral part of remote work. However, having too many meetings that drag on too long can hurt productivity and create "Zoom fatigue," which is why you need to establish a clear video meeting protocol. Here's how:
Define a goal for each meeting and prepare an agenda: Make sure you have a plan ready so that every team member knows what the meeting will be about.
Don't invite too many people: A common mistake managers make in remote meetings is inviting everyone on their team. To make the conversation as productive as possible, only invite participants who genuinely need to be there.
Only hold meetings when necessary to respect your employees' time: You don't want to fill up your remote employees' schedules with too many video conferences at once. Only hold meetings when they're essential to respect your employees' time and allow them to focus on their other tasks.
Remote Work Is Here to Stay
According to The Future of Work Report by Zapier, 64% of employees agree that remote work improves their productivity. So now that you've got a grip on managing remote workers, you're on your way to a rosy future for your company.
Effective remote team management doesn't just maximize your team's productivity. It also improves employee retention by providing remote workers with an environment where they can feel valued and do their best work.