The challenges of managing remote employees and how to overcome them
In this day and age, the probability of managing a remote team is extremely high. Hybrid and remote working have become super popular in the last few years due to the pandemic and are clearly here to stay.
Managing remote employees and teams has a lot of benefits but also presents a fair share of challenges.
As a manager, you may have all the experience in the world working in an office environment with large teams, but not all of it will translate into the remote world. As a remote manager, you must adapt and try to find a way to still make your workers feel that they’re connected to you, their job, and other colleagues.
Fortunately, we’re here to help you! Here’s our list of the 10 biggest challenges of managing remote employees and how to fix them.
The 10 biggest challenges of managing remote employees
It’s not a secret that communication with your employees is a lot harder while working remotely.
When employees come to the office every morning, it’s easy to stay up to date and discuss ideas – whether at your desk, in the hallway, or even having a coffee. But in remote work, the whole spontaneous face-to-face engagement is impossible. Any communication and interaction must be intentional and planned.
A good solution for this is to ensure that communication happens regularly. By time blocking, block certain moments of the day when you’re available for short sessions with remote employees and share your calendar so that they know when you’re free and can call you when needed.
Some tools can be useful for that. Take a look at the best tools to manage remote employees and choose yours!
2. Social isolation and loneliness
This is one of the challenges for those who work remotely, not only for managers.
Human interaction is easy to take for granted when you go to the office. It’s way easier when you’re always full of people around you! When you work remotely, especially from home, that’s a different story.
Loneliness is one of the most common complaints from remote workers. Sadly, social isolation can impact people’s mental and physical health, motivation, and productivity.
As a manager, you should try to build social connections whenever possible. Block some time on the agenda and plan remote interactions between your teams. Schedule an open, fun chat, make everyone grab a coffee together virtually, and discuss non-work-related topics. It can be as simple as playing an online game together.
Make sure you listen to your workers and encourage emotional support when necessary. This is “mandatory” if you want to lead your team to success.
3. Tracking your team’s productivity
Even though much research indicates otherwise, there’s still a huge stigma around remote working and worker efficiency and efficacy.
This is one of the biggest challenges of managing a remote team and one of several reasons why some managers don’t like remote working. Because many managers still worry that their employees won’t work as hard as they used to do when at the office.
On the other hand, many employees may struggle to feel the same kind of support from their managers as they used to in the office.
By not communicating, remote workers can feel like remote managers are out of touch with their needs and not feel supported in getting their job done. But don’t worry!
As a remote manager, you can easily stay on track with everyone by establishing structured daily or weekly check-ins.
Create project milestones with specific and well-detailed deadlines so that your workers have specific goals to work for. Also, try calling your employees periodically to discuss ongoing progress and potential obstacles to their work.
It can also help to introduce a time tracking app to your workflow. With tracking time together, a manager can see what the team is working on and ensure they are focused on the right thing.
4. Hiring new people
Hiring new people can be challenging if you’ve been working with the same team for a while and everything has been running smoothly. Especially people who can self-manage.
It’s undeniable that hiring a new team member remotely can have a big impact on the team and affect everyone’s output and flow. Everyone will probably struggle to collaborate, and for the newbie to start working independently.
The first thing you should do as a manager is to ensure that the person fits within the team’s culture. During the hiring progress, you need to learn if the person you’re interviewing already has any experience with remote working and what the expectations are. You can also bring the rest of the team to a more advanced stage to see if there’s any chemistry!
Also, you need to find a person who can easily self-manage. With remote working, it gets harder for new employees to access their manager than in an office job. Therefore, your hiring process must be different!
You should now look for someone who demonstrates the ability to self-manage. For instance, this person should have previous proven success in a remote environment, a driven attitude, good time management skills, and the ability to work with deadlines and set goals.
5. Working across different time zones
A classic challenge of managing remote employees: time zones.
Remote working allowed many companies to hire abroad. Even though this might be great for the company, it makes your job as the manager much harder. While some time zone differences may be minimal, working with people from the other side of the world can be tricky.
Therefore, you’ll need to put in more effort when coordinating the communication between everyone. For instance, when scheduling meetings, you should try as much as possible to find a time that works for everyone or offer an alternative option, such as asynchronous communication. If everyone knows not to expect an answer immediately, it reduces the pressure to be “on-call” 24/7.
6. Work-life balance
Remote working can be a great way of achieving a better work-life balance, as you can more easily dedicate time to your personal life. No more traffic, waking up super early to catch the bus and spending way too much time commuting from home to the office.
However, sometimes boundaries can be blurred between working time and personal time.
Without having that obvious physical distinction between the office and their home, your team can easily fall into bad and unhealthy habits, such as burnout, loneliness, or even depression. As a good manager, you must be on top of this to prevent it from happening and to have a healthy, happy, and working team!
You can do some research and suggest some of your workers use a time tracking app to stop them from working longer hours than they should. Also, you should schedule regular meetings to check how everyone feels and offer your advice when asked.
If you start realizing that some team member isn’t getting involved as much socially, try to give them a call and check if everything is ok in private. Don’t expect people to come forward with their issues because they won’t.
Some of them probably can’t even realize that there’s a problem. Pay attention to how everyone acts daily and offer support proactively when you find it necessary. Please don’t wait, or it can be too late!
7. Equipping your remote team with the best tools
To work comfortably, remote workers must have the right conditions to do it at home, just like they used to have at the office. Even though working remotely can often be done with a laptop and an internet connection, that’s not enough. Your setup must be optimal!
Therefore, as a manager, it’s important to make sure you give your team an optimal, comfy, and clean workspace. Employees must be supported in creating that ideal space to work when they do it outside the office.
Make sure you define a budget to help people get everything they need: ergonomic office furniture, an extra screen, video call equipment, and so on.
8. Providing new career opportunities
It gets even more difficult to give that team member the raise and new project they hoped for when people work remotely.
It’s crucial that even though people are not physically with you, your relationship doesn’t feel that different. Therefore, you should provide them the same opportunities for career progression as any normal employee; you must adapt your expectations.
It’s extremely difficult for remote workers to progress on a traditional career path as office workers, so you must guide them and allow them to show their strengths in other ways. This brings us to our next point…
9. One-on-one meetings
We’ve already talked about this many times, but the truth is having regular one-on-ones with your team is truly the key to everything. As a remote manager, it’s imperative that you consistently dedicate time to listen to your team, no matter what.
If you were physical with them, you would have many more opportunities to discuss ideas, thoughts, problems, worries, projects, and anything with each other. However, remotely, it’s your responsibility to make time for your team members to get in touch with you and feel at ease to discuss whatever they need.
10. Treating everyone equally
If you work with a hybrid team, meaning that some people work from the office and other people work remotely, you really need to try to treat people equally. You can’t forget that the people working remotely and missing a lot of the office benefits can easily make them feel left out.
For instance, if at the office you all decide to go out for lunch together, make sure you let the remote team member know and maybe give them an extra half hour of a lunch break or provide some budget to grab some food too.
Though, this goes both ways. Remote workers also have some perks, such as having more freedom during the day. Let your office employees leave 10 minutes early to avoid some traffic, for instance. Whatever you decide is best for your team, ensure you’re fair to everyone.
So, here’s our list of the 10 biggest challenges as a remote worker manager.
The key is doing all the research you can and learning as much as possible about improving your hybrid-remote situation. Also, everything depends on your company culture and what works better for your team.
Make sure you create a virtual space for your workers where they can reach their goals, be healthy and happy and make them feel empowered! You’ll see how easily you’ll become the manager everyone wishes to have.
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