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Managing a Remote Team – Top Challenges and Solutions

Managing remote teams has a unique set of challenges that require equally unique solutions. Hybrid teams, comprised of both remote workers and those physically present in the workplace, can help businesses lower costs, increase productivity, and become more agile during times of adversity. But with this new system comes a new set of challenges for managers who have been trained within the parameters of the traditional workplace. 

Keep reading for Top Challenges of Managing a Remote Team, or head directly to the ViewSonic workplace solutions page for more valuable insights into the modern workplace. 

Managing remote teams has become part of work everywhere. During the pandemic lockdown, talent literally left the building. And for many organizations, it’s simply not coming back. Remote teams – with all their advantages and challenges – are here to stay in a big way.

As companies reassess their current and future working environments, some form of hybrid or remote workforce is likely here to stay. For leaders, that means remote teams could be a permanent reality.

However, managing a remote team isn’t always easy.

According to one report from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 70% of employers found it difficult after the lockdown to adapt to remote work as a way of doing business. Part of the challenge was learning to manage their remote workforce. Many of those same challenges still exist.

6 best practices when leading remote teams

Six Challenges with Managing Remote Teams

Remote work is quite different from traditional (on-site) work in a few big ways. Working from home means that employees—and their managers—are separated from each other. While working remotely offers many compelling benefits, it also presents certain challenges:

Lack of Face-to-face Supervision

Managers may worry that employees won’t work as hard or as efficiently (even though research indicates otherwise). Employees, on the other hand, may struggle with having less access to managerial support and communication. This can make remote workers feel like remote managers are out of touch with their needs, and therefore, not supportive in getting their work done.

Manager best practices: Establish structured daily or weekly check-ins. Create project milestones that have precise deadlines, and use your time to discuss ongoing progress and potential obstacles.

Lack of Clear Expectations

Just because employees were clear on their job responsibilities while at the office, doesn’t mean they automatically know what’s expected of them when working remotely. They may need more guidance and clear directives to know how to accomplish an objective, when to respond to communication, or when they should attend virtual meetings.

Manager best practices: Set expectations early and often, especially around priorities, milestones, and performance goals. Create well-documented procedures. It’s also smart to establish boundaries and set realistic expectations around attending meetings and responding to after-hours work emails and texts.

Low Productivity

While most remote workers cite an increase in productivity while working at home, some employees were just never created for remote work. Such employees may find it difficult to work without direct (in-person) supervision. They may need additional support or innovative ways to track time and progress so they can stay on track.

In other cases, low productivity may be perceived (but isn’t necessarily true). For example, in hybrid situations (where some workers are in the office and some are at home), those in the office can perceive that their remote colleagues aren’t working as hard because they can’t see them.

Manager best practices: Productivity in any workplace depends on predictability and structure. Create that structure by defining clear roles and responsibilities, setting clear timetables, and keeping everyone advised on who is doing what.

Want to know more? Check out How to Optimize Productivity with Remote Work

Lack of Communication

When employees come to the office every morning, it’s easy to stay up to date and discuss ideas—whether before meetings or by the water cooler. But in remote work environments, that spontaneous face-to-face engagement disappears. Any communication and engagement must be intentional and planned.

Manager best practices: Do your best to ensure that communication happens regularly. Block certain times of the day when you’re available for short sessions with remote employees—and share your calendar so that remote workers know when you’re free.

Lack of Team Cohesiveness

In today’s hybrid work environment, some managers may find they are managing groups of on-site and remote employees at the same time. In these situations, it’s easy to end up with one group receiving more benefits than the other.

Manager best practices: Try to make everything as fair as possible. For example, if you provide meals during meetings to your on-site teams, find a way to extend that same benefit to your remote workers. Or if your remote workers have flexible work hours, find a way to extend that same benefit to on-site employees. Make a conscious effort to eliminate unconscious bias—by ensuring remote employees are treated the same as those in the office.

Social Isolation

Regular human interaction can be easy to take for granted until workers don’t have an office full of people to be around every day. For that reason, loneliness is one of the most common complaints from remote workers. Being isolated from others can impact people’s mental and physical well-being, plus a feeling of “unbelonging” to their organization. In extreme cases, prolonged social isolation can even lead to things like anxiety and depression—not to mention unproductivity at work, or even an increased desire to leave the company. 

Manager best practices: Build social connections however you can. Plan remote interactions, open a fun chat channel, or “grab coffee” together (albeit virtually)—whatever helps maintain a sense of normality. While you’re together, be sure to listen, but also offer encouragement and emotional support.

6 common challenges with managing remote teams

Final Thoughts

Managing hybrid teams may differ from traditional management, but many of the same principles still apply. Good communication has always been a part of effective management, the only difference in hybrid teams is that communication has moved online.

Just be sure to always follow up with team members to see what challenges they face, optimize systems and operations where necessary, and lead from the front to set an example for your team.

For more useful management tips, read Remote Team Management: 15 Best Practices for Leading Effective Teams. You can also visit the ViewSonic workplace page for a range of innovative solutions that support the full spectrum of modern business.