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Top 9 Challenges of Managing Remote Employees

By Preethi Jathanna

Senior Writer for HR and Remote Work

Top 9 Challenges of Managing Remote Employees

Do you think your traditional leadership practices will help you achieve efficiency when you are managing a remote team? I think we have all figured out the answer to that by now. Ever since the government has enforced remote work for industries of all types, leaders have been put under testing waters. Their creativity to supervise a remote team, their soft skills to support the team and help them grow have all been put to the test. Amidst this process, leaders are met with several challenges of managing remote employees.

Often we are able to combat them with minimum modifications to the strategy. However, when the list of challenges outweighs the solutions, you know you have something to worry about. There are multiple signs to indicate that you need help with remote team management. We have focused this article on the same front and have also entailed some skills needed to tackle them head-on.

Let’s start this by listing out the challenges (or the so-called ‘signs’) we face -

1. Challenges of Managing Remote Employees

1.1. Your Team is Not Collaborating

This one is not new. We all have faced the ordeal of ineffective communication and collaboration within teams. This is one of the major challenges of managing remote employees. Lowered productivity, restricted progress, inefficiency is tasks, disengagement, and lower morale are the end products of this problem. But if communication falters and the problem persists for a long time, it is a potential wake-up call for the managers.

How does this challenge affect efficiency?

Every project has tasks that are interdependent. If your team members are not working in sync and are not aware of what’s going on at the other end, it will lead to errors and cause multiple project bottlenecks. Eventually, it will bring productivity and performance to a grinding halt.

Why do you need help?

Communication is the cornerstone of successful remote work, and if that’s not going right even after multiple attempts of synchronizing the team, remote team managers need help. The help can be an intervention of the higher-up to find out the real cause of the problem or anything like a tool if your company does not have the right one already.

1.2. When Tasks do not Meet your Expectations

Let’s consider a situation here. You have conveyed the goals and allocated tasks to your employees, but you did not specify your expectations of each task, assuming your team ‘knows it all.’ Do you think they will be able to do justice to the project?

No, certainly not! When you see that most of the tasks are not meeting your expectation, you need to go backward and recall if you ever specified your expectations clearly?

If not, you know where the problem lies.

How does this challenge affect efficiency?

I don’t think this one needs a lot of explanation here. Of course, if the project tasks are not up to the mark, the project will suffer, and your client will be dissatisfied. Eventually, it will affect your bottom line.

Why do you need help?

If the clients are not happy with their products, it will bring down your company’s reputation. Thus, to beat this challenge and sustain your firm in the future, managers should reach out to experts or take up a course or read books related to remote management or simply convey their expectations with clarity going forward.

1.3. Not Able to Track Productivity

I always found it easy to walk over to my employees’ cubicles and check in on them, what is their work rate, and so on. This practice gave me an insight into their productivity. However, when we transitioned to remote work, I had a difficult time doing the same.

Not able to track your employees’ productivity will not help you know what your employees are up to. This can sometimes lead to delays in deadlines, or more so even mistaken prioritization of work.

How does this challenge affect efficiency?

If your employees are taking 4 days for a 1-day task, then it will impact the overall project timeline, reduce billability, and decline the efficiency and progress. Moreover, if you don’t do regular check-ins, you won’t know if your employees are facing any difficulties in accomplishing a given task. The overall productivity, employees’ morale will suffer in this case.

Why do you need help?

You can’t be present everywhere and check-in on everyone when the workforce is dispersed across boundaries. So, to track productivity without actually disturbing your employees during a busy day, you can use advanced time-tracking or project management tools. Examples of these tools are Avaza, Fleep, and so on.

1.4. Team Feels Alienated

Nudging your colleagues on their desks, having those small talks in offices, or even social interactions during coffee breaks keep you connected in office. This social bonding is missing when you are working remotely.

That feeling of isolation when you are not kept in the loop leads to alienation and disengagement. If your team members do not feel that they belong here, how will they be able to stay motivated or engaged to work?

In fact, a study suggests that more than half of remote employees say they feel disconnected from in-office employees. It is evident how this is one of the dreary challenges of managing remote employees.

How does this challenge affect efficiency?

Employee engagement is one of the major driving factors of increased productivity and efficiency. If your employees feel disengaged, they lose the motivation to work towards the company’s shared goal. This, in turn, will affect their professional growth and your firms’ project success.

Why do you need help?

The onus lies on the leaders to keep their team connected. If you are finding it difficult to do so, it indicates that you need help to bring the team on the same page.

1.5. Employee Burnout

Unplugging after working hours is a common challenge faced by almost every remote work employee. This is an unhealthy practice and can lead to burnout amongst employees causing mental distress.

And we are not unknown of the fact that employee well-being (both mental and physical) is vital to keep them going. Otherwise, chances are they might start looking for better opportunities elsewhere.

How does this challenge affect efficiency?

If your employees are exhausted and do not feel fit to continue working, needless to say, it will affect the quality of deliverables. Employees’ burnout, dissatisfaction, and attrition go hand in hand. If you are losing your valued talent, it will certainly impact your operational efficiency and reputation.

Why do you need help?

Employees look up to their managers for constant support and optimum workload. If they are burned out and unable to take charge of this problem, you need help to ensure that you don’t face the issue going forward.

1.6. Company Culture is Fading

Company culture is the essence of your organization. It reflects your firms’ core values and works ethics. Work culture inspires your employees to work with all their might to fulfill its vision and mission.

Often during the transition to remote work, you experience your company culture is fading away. When your employees lose the framework of values that help you function together, it can cause discrepancies.

How does this challenge affect efficiency?

Remote work has you working alone in your closed confined workspace. When you are not connected with your team, there’s a chance of missing out on your company’s culture. If your workforce is not following the set standards and values, it can reflect their work practices, affect the results, and pose another one of the challenges of managing remote employees

Why do you need help?

Leaders are the living example of the organization’s core culture and values. If you experience their absence in your employees’ work and results, you need to look back and find ways to make it a part of your remote work setup.

1.7. Increase in Team Conflicts

Back when I started managing a remote team, team conflicts kept rising. Resolving them to help them work coherently was daunting. More so even time-consuming. I mean, it’s so easy to call them in a conference room, sit together, and come to a conclusion after listening out to everyone.

But, in remote work, not so much. Managers face this challenge to get through to everyone when they all have a different thought process leading to discrepancies. In my opinion, this is one of the major hurdles of successful remote work.

How does this challenge affect efficiency?

Can we expect the team to work efficiently when they don’t work in a coalition? Or disagree with other team member’s approaches or solutions? Can they do justice to the interdependent tasks that are assigned to them?

It’s a rhetorical question. When your virtual team is not in sync, it will bring down the efficiency.

Why do you need help?

To bring back your team in sync and enable them to work in harmony, you might need the help of the collaboration tools and majorly your team members to ensure that work isn’t affected. After all, what good is a team without effective coordination?

1.8. Not Using the Right Tools

Technology and advanced tools are part and parcel of remote work. Can we even imagine the world of remote work without the right tools? How will we connect and collaborate? Or even manage projects remotely? It’s far from being a successful setup in the absence of tools.

When managers do not provide the right toolkit to employees, their efficiency and productivity will automatically decline, given the absence of a suitable means to work—leaders who are just making their way through remote work face this challenge.

How does this challenge affect efficiency?

Well, if your resource pool does not have the right tool to collaborate or the right tool to plan their tasks in advance or track their progress, then it will certainly reflect in their work rate and efficiency.

The right technology is imperative for seamless remote teamwork.

Why do you need help?

With the abundance of tools and tech present today, choosing the right tool is like picking a needle from the haystack. Leaders might need external help to get the right one for their team. You see, a wrong tool can do more damage than having no tool at all.

1.9. Meetings Lack an Agenda

The number of meetings soars higher when you are working remotely. However, if your meetings lack intent and agenda, will they be fruitful? Or is it just a waste of time? It’s just blocking your calendars and is becoming another cause for distraction.

Remote team managers know the number of hours they spend on meetings. You always expect these meetings to be concise and on-point. If that’s not the case, you might miss out on important and end up diverging from the goals.

How does this challenge affect efficiency?

A well-documented agenda sets the course of the meeting and helps managers plan and allocate work accordingly. Everyone is on the same page and they know the reason why their calendar is blocked.

If the meeting is conducted without a goal, everyone will be distracted and talk without even aligning with the underlying cause of the meeting. This will just waste time, cause distraction, leave the task incomplete, lower productivity, and eventually lead to inefficiency.

Why do you need help?

Managers are responsible for setting the course of meetings and provide an agenda before heading to the team to ensure everyone is in the loop. If they are navigating through this journey for the first time, they might need help to learn and understand how to conduct goal-centric meetings.

These are the challenges that eventually become the signs indicating that you need help with remote team management. When I step foot in this realm, I learned a great deal from my seniors, from some colleagues, from online courses, my team members, and most importantly, from my mistakes and experiences. I genuinely believe Experience is the best teacher.

Now that you are aware of the signs, let’s look at the skills you need to tackle them,

2. Remote Management Skills

2.1. Communication Skills

I am sure you know the role of clear communication in successful remote team management by now. Leaders must have exemplary communication skills to convey every message, conduct precise meetings, and connect with their employees on a personal level.

2.2. Stay Proactive

Leaders should be proactive to resolve issues that they see coming. If you can take charge of your problems and resolve them before they do further damage, the remote team management will become a piece of cake for you.

2.3. Time & Task Management

Efficient time management is the holy grail of successfully managing a virtual-work set up. When leaders know how to manage them and prioritize their tasks, they will see fewer delays in submissions, employees will have a uniform workload, scheduling will become easy, and planning will be sound and sane.

These 3 skills, out of many more, are the most crucial to have the right skill set to lead your teams to succeed.

3. Challenges of Managing Remote Employees: Conclusion

Remote team management is not a rosy journey. As mentioned above, you will face a myriad of challenges while doing your job. However, how you face these challenges, the skills and tactics you use to lead the team will make a difference. Honestly, there is no one way to lead a remote team. You gradually learn from your mistakes and experiences and adapt the best way that suits your team.

Every set-up, every team structure is unique. Remote team management practices are personalized to make sure your team is knit together and working in harmony. Thus make sure you use your leadership skills to their full potential and face these challenges head-on.

4. FAQs

4.1. How do you manage a remote team effectively?

You can manage remote team effectively by setting clear expectations, providing the right communication tools, and allowing for work flexibility.

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