Thinking of Offering Remote Work? Here are 5 Challenges to Overcome

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These days many businesses rely on a remote workforce telecommuting. However, this arrangement brings along as many challenges as it brings advantages, often causing frustration and discontent both in employers and employees. Those who aim to establish effective communication with their remote team should be aware of the challenges its members may face.  If your business is considering offering remote work to a virtual team then here are 5 challenges you will have to overcome to manage and communicate well with your remote employees and contractors:


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Challenge 1: Overcoming the isolation of remote team members

The current level of technological development makes it feasible for at least 50 percent of the workforce to work at home, without wasting time on the daily commute. There are many good reasons to do so – well-reputed studies prove that people working at home are more productive, less stressed and, of course, far cheaper to employ.

However, there is one thing that can have a significant negative influence on the way remote employees work – namely, their isolation from the rest of the team. No matter how often they get in touch using Skype and email, their not-being-present physically often causes them to feel separated. They don’t have direct contact with other team members outside of obligatory work-related questions. They miss the buzz of the workplace they can share with their colleagues.

This is the main problem of remote workers – how do you maintain team unity and cohesion among people who never see each other? The answer is obvious – make it so that they do see each other, at least occasionally.

According to Forbes, the most efficient remote teams are the ones that meet in person from time to time. These meetings don’t even have to be work-related – they can be for recreational purposes once every few weeks.

Challenge 2: Fostering a culture in global teams

Occasional get-togethers may be feasible for the teams whose members live not far away from each other – for example, in the same city. But what about the teams that have members spread across several countries? How do they build rapport?

The answer comes through the same technology that allows their telecommuting in the first place. Do not limit your company communication channels to only business-related subjects. Make sure your team members have an opportunity to talk to each other on other topics, share general information, post interesting videos and so on. In other words, create a digital imitation of water-cooler conversations to add that much-needed personal touch to interactions between your employees. They should feel comfortable talking to each other and building up not just business but friendly relationships among themselves.

Slack is one of the tools that help to succeed in this task. In addition to being one of the best examples of internal messaging software by itself, it integrates seamlessly with a number of apps and easily allows for separating communication into purely business-related to more general-themed.

Recommended reading: 7 Ways To Improve Team Efficiency And Productivity

Challenge 3: Keeping remote workers efficient

One of the most common issues cited as the problems of remote workers is that they are easily distracted due to working in the relaxed environment of their own homes. To a considerable degree, the burden of solving this problem lies with the worker himself, because the amount of control that can be exercised over him by the employer is limited. However, there are ways to maintain discipline even if you never get to see your employee in person.

This is done with the help of time tracking software. Make sure it is the part of your company’s culture to use tools that track the amount of time each employee (not just remote ones) dedicates to each task and manage all the projects your team is working on in real time. When you know how much your employee is supposed to be working, you can compare the actual output with the expected one. This will help you spot the so-called time theft and figure out which employees don’t work enough (or work inefficiently).

Challenge 4: Managing multiple time zones

If your employees come from a number of wildly different time zones, it doesn’t just make efficient communication somewhat problematic but also makes a mess of all your deadlines and status updates. As a result, if you have employees coming from more than one time zone, you absolutely must establish the company time zone used in all your internal documentation and communication. Which one is it to be?

Try working with your team to figure that out. Don’t start with setting it in stone. Poll your team members and try out different variants for a few weeks before settling down with something that everyone will be comfortable about. Make sure nobody (even a single team member) is completely dissatisfied with your decision, lest it becomes a reason for further disillusionment, poor work, and eventual resignation.

Challenge 5: Managing workflow

Managing workflow can be difficult even for tightly-knit companies whose members work in a single office, let alone for remote teams. Maybe somewhat counter-intuitively, but the solution lies with making the entire thing a lot more structured and formalized than is probably associated with such a seemingly relaxed arrangement as a remote workplace.

Build your work around regular periods (agile management usually recommends using one- or two-week periods), organize a process to account for each project, break work down into small tasks, make sure somebody is responsible for each of them ––­ and track, track, track all this stuff. Finish each work period with a meeting attended by every employee where you discuss the results, set goals for the next period, listen to reports and so on.

Yes, working with a remote team may be challenging at times, and many of the issues you will have to deal with are unusual for business owners who are used to more traditional models. However, if you take into account the number of resources you can free up this way, it becomes obvious that the advantages far outweigh the problems - and we hope that these tips will help you overcome these challenges.

Over to you now. How do you manage remote work for your business? Tell us in the comments below



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