The past few weeks have been a tough test to our work structure and processes. With the threat of COVID-19 showing no signs of dying out, a lot of the workforce across the globe.
Offices are abandoned, companies are encouraging employees to work from home and take all the necessary precautions to prevent the pandemic. Masses, for the lack of a better word, are working from home. That means a lot more people trying to come together and make work happen online – calls, meetings, discussions, ideation, everything that we previously thought was too difficult to manage without being in the same office are now being run remotely.
In the last few weeks, Corona has thoroughly disrupted the way we work.
Are we ready to shape it for the better, is the question that remains.
- Are we ready to make our work processes more efficient?
- Are we ready to redefine expectations we clung to from the centuries?
- Are we ready to make respect each others’ commitment to work as well as personal lives.
- Do we trust that we can work without it being enforced?
It’s possible. It’s happening. Are you adapting and succeeding in this? It’s highly likely that your teams are misaligned, confused and not able to get much done. We’ve all been caught off guard and it’s okay. It can be fixed easily enough. Here are how you can counter the common challenges that you face working with or managing remote teams.
Challenge 1: Communication
Effective communication is one of the biggest challenges for distributed teams. When communication is through virtual channels like emails, chats, and video calls, chances of miscommunication are high. Remote employees will need to take more effort to collaborate than traditional, onsite employees.
Solution: People, expectations and tools
People are central to communication. Working from remote locations needs good communication skills. Take a few minutes to make sure your team is on the page with the tasks to be done.
With the advent of the remote workforce, several tools for remote collaboration has come up. For example, Slack or Twist for collaborations, Zoom for video calls, Trello or Jira for project management, and Calendly or Doodle for scheduling. Embracing tools of remote communication is crucial. If you have relied on face-to-face communications, it’s time to pick a tool that can do that for you.
Remote teams need to cultivate a special culture that will help the remote workforce to stay productive. Many companies have virtual meetups and chat sessions and strong mentorship programs. It’s important to make sure that the remote employees don’t turn into silos.
Challenge 2: Employee morale and trust
Another challenge that remote-first companies face is to maintain the morale of the remote workers.
With no face-to-face interaction among the employees, it’s difficult to foster rapport between the team members. In a digital workspace report published in 2019 by Igloo – a Canada based software company- 70% of the remote employees feel left out in the workplace.
Trust is another major concern. In a fully remote environment, it’s difficult to effectively communicate the mission, vision, and goals to the entire workforce. Remote employees find it difficult to sync with the shared goal. They might find it difficult to trust the vision and goals of the management. s
Solution: Problem statement, collaboration and team bonding
As a team new to a remote setting, make sure you clearly convey your problem statement to remote workers.
It’s not sufficient just to state your problem statement. In every decision you make and tasks you delegate ingrain your statement so that employees can clearly see them. Your team needs to know what they’re working on, to give the task at hand their best and collaborate to make it happen.
You may be taking your meals with your coworkers or catching up during coffee breaks. Keep those interactions going remotely. Team bonding activities and collaboration between the teams will help in engaging and improving the morale of your employees. Even though everyone works in distributed virtual environments, there should be a clear definition of teams.
In a remote-first company, it’s easy to blur the lines between teams, but sometimes it might be necessary to maintain well-defined teams to enhance collaboration. Encourage teams to bond together by video chats and shared activities. It will help to develop a better relationship among the remote employees and boost employee morale.
Challenge 3: Employee productivity
When employees work from their home or a remote location, their productivity may be low. People who are working remotely for the first time may feel especially lost. It might be difficult to separate out home from the office environment, working from home might feel like too many distractions.
Without a team to support and motivate, the remote employees could feel a lack of motivation, which may diminish their productivity.
On the bright side, remote has the advantage of cutting down the commute time. You are still getting work done, though it may take a few days to get streamlined. Be patient, your employees need extra discipline and dedication to work efficiently from a remote location. Give them that.
Solutions: Tools for tracking, processes and recognition
As we saw earlier, tools are very important for the success of a remote work. Tracking tools are definitely one of them.
Remote teams should give more emphasis to work-tracking tools, so that remote employees feel accountable. You can easily set up systems to monitor the daily progress of each employee and team. This needs to be done with caution as it can easily result in micromanagement. Just because you don’t see your employees and colleagues, don’t breathe down their necks constantly.
In addition to tracking, recognize the employees and teams that exceed expectations. Acknowledging and recognizing efforts are a sure way to increase productivity. At the same time, you should make sure your employees are not overworking and burning themselves. Create well-defined processes for how things should be done. Have clear office hours if needed. Support your employees with regular one-on-ones to understand their issues. There might be plenty.
Do you have any challenges or tips and tricks in mind to share with us? Feel free to leave a comment or drop a mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to know your insights and thoughts!