It's no secret that remote work comes with many challenges. But, when done well, working remotely can be a great way to boost employee productivity and motivation.
This article will describe the challenges posed by remote work, and lay out ways to overcome these challenges in order to build effective, happy teams that thrive in a remote working environment.
Key Remote Work Challenges
The Remote Communication Challenge
Remote work is complicated, and working remotely requires a different set of skills than traditional office work.
The first major challenge posed by remote work is the lack of effective communication that comes with not being in close physical proximity to your team members or clients. Without easy access to informal conversations between coworkers, it's more difficult to build camaraderie and rapport. Without easy access to your clients, it's more difficult to build trust and establish open lines of communication that allow for problem-solving.
Even when employees are working from home or a co-working space rather than an office, they still often end up going through the same social conditioning as those who work in offices: quiet spaces make people feel as if they should keep their voices down, and often employees will work from home in isolation rather than engaging with a co-working community.
The Remote Work Scheduling Challenge
In traditional office workplaces, there are set hours for workdays and breaks in between them that establish a clear schedule of when employees should be working or taking time off. In remote workplaces where employees aren't sitting just a few feet away from each other, it's difficult to establish a similar schedule.
This makes it hard for employees who are working remotely to ensure they're being productive during their work hours or taking the time off that they need in order to recharge and come back ready to be effective at work.
Without clear boundaries around when work is supposed to happen, remote workers can sometimes struggle to stay on task and focused on what they need to get done.
The Remote Management Challenge
Remote work means that managers don't have as much control over their employees' behaviors or environment, which can make it difficult for managers who are used to having a more hands-on role in managing their teams.
For example, remote managers often have a hard time knowing when to step in and provide guidance or discipline, because they can't see their employees' body language. They also often don't get the firsthand experience of working side-by-side with their team members that makes it easier for managers to build trust within teams.
In order to be effective at remote management, managers may need to adjust their management style and become more hands-off, or else invest in effective remote communication tools that allow them to be just as present for their teams despite not being with them.
The Remote Motivation Challenge
Remote work means employees are no longer under the watchful eyes of managers. While this means less scrutiny, it also means their manages aren't there to give positive feedback on how they're doing throughout the day.
This lack of feedback can make it harder for remote employees to stay motivated and engaged with their work, which leads to lower productivity and a less rewarding experience overall.
The Remote Expertise Challenge
Remote work means that an organization's most talented people aren't always where they need them. Instead, the best talent is spread throughout different teams and in different locations, which can make it difficult to capitalize on the expertise of top performers.
Furthermore, people may not know about the skills and talents of their peers, because they aren't able to glean that information in the same way you can in an office setting. You don't know what you don't know.
The Remote Meeting Challenge
One of the biggest challenges in remote work is making meetings effective when not everyone can be physically present. It's easy to think that virtual meeting technology has come far enough so that it doesn't matter if people are sitting together at a conference room table or working remotely, but actually, most virtual meetings fall flat because they don't take into account what remote workers need to stay productive.
Virtual meetings are often long, unstructured events that don't provide enough structure for remote participants in order to be effective. They also don't allow remote participants to engage with the conversation in a way that enables them to remain engaged and focused throughout.
In order for virtual meetings to be effective, you need a set agenda, have clear goals going into the meeting and provide remote participants with the tools they need to be effective.
The bottom line is that if you want your team members to perform at their best, you need to structure the meeting environment in a way that supports them and enables them to participate. If not, then people's motivation will wane and their productivity will likely suffer as well.
Fixing Remote Work: How To Make Remote Working Effective
In order to be effective, remote work must enable employees to remain as connected and engaged as if they were working in person. They must embrace new remote habits and tools that allow for better remote communication. Team processes and expectations need to be adapted to become asynchronous by default, with more autonomy and responsibility given to the employees.
- Embrace Asynchronous Communication
- Run Remote Meetings That Work
- Use Video Messages Instead of Remote Meetings
- Use Chat Platforms Instead of Remote Meetings
Embrace Asynchronous Communication
One of the biggest changes in remote work is that it forces people to adapt their communication style into asynchronous modes.
We're no longer just sending email messages back and forth for quick questions, but instead, we need to embrace tools like chat platforms, screen sharing software, video messaging, and online document collaboration suites in order to communicate with our teammates.
These new tools force remote employees to slow down their communications and be more thoughtful with what they say. After all, you can't make a quick off-the-cuff remark in an online chat if it could offend someone or derail the topic at hand.
Run Remote Meetings That Work
Remote meetings are sometimes key for effective collaboration, but all too often teams will default to the meeting as the only way to solve a problem or make a decision.
First, to have an effective meeting, it should have a clearly stated purpose and an agenda should exist for the meeting. This way, everyone knows why they're attending and what the focus of the meeting is.
The remote format should be chosen based on which will create a productive environment for all participants. If you need people to engage with each other around certain topics, video chat might work best so that everyone can see each other's body language and facial expressions as well as hear their voices. If the focus of a meeting is going to be more informational, then screen-sharing software or live video feeds would work well.
In lieu of having a meeting, there are a number of asynchronous communication methods that are often a better choice.
Use Video Messages Instead of Remote Meetings
Platforms like Loom offer a video messaging service that can be used in lieu of a virtual meeting. This way, you don't have to set up an appointment and coordinate with multiple participants just to relay information or ask for input on a project.
You simply send out your message when it's convenient for you and then people watch it later when they're free, rather than trying to coordinate a time for everyone to meet at the same place and time.
Use Chat Platforms Instead of Remote Meetings
An even more asynchronous alternative is using chat platforms like Slack, Microsoft Teams, or Telegram instead of organizing formal meetings. With these tools, you can send short text messages back and forth with your teammates when it's convenient for you without having to set a specific time for everyone to meet.
You may be able to replace in-person meetings with async meetings on chat platforms, especially if the meeting format consisted primarily of updates.
Everyday Productivity Tools For Remote Teams
In addition to communication tools, remote teams require certain everyday productivity tools in order to remain effective and efficient when working from home or another remote location.
Remote employees need the right tech setup in order to be productive at work, just like they would if they were in an office.
- Good Internet and a Comfortable Desk
- Video Conferencing Tools
- Team Collaboration Tools like Trello, ClickUp, and Hugo
Remote Employees Need a Good Internet Connection and a Comfortable Desk Setup
Just as employees need to have comfortable chairs, ergonomic keyboards, and adjustable desks when they're working from the office, remote workers also require these things if they want to be effective at their job. They can't be distracted by poor internet speeds or a desk that's uncomfortable to work from.
This is why it's worth investing in the right technology for remote employees, whether that means purchasing equipment like laptops and headsets for your telecommuters or making sure they have access to reliable internet service.
Using Video Conferencing Tools To Collaborate Across Teams
Remote employees can't just take the tech they're given and use it when they feel like it. They need to be able to rely on their tech tools in order for them to do effective work.
This is why it's important to collaborate with remote teams using video conferencing tools like Zoom that offer clear video call connections and allow for effective communication no matter where your employees are located. This way everyone can work together seamlessly as a team without any barriers between them.
If your video conferencing solution has problems with audio or video, make resolving them a top priority.
Unite Your Remote Employees with Team Collaboration Tools
Remote employees often work in isolation, which makes it harder for them to get into a regular workflow and be productive. This is why effective collaboration tools are essential to any remote team - they help bring all of your workers together so that everyone can share their ideas without having to go through multiple layers of management.
For setting meeting agendas, saving notes, and tracking tasks, a meeting management solution like Hugo does wonders.
With the right technology setup in place for your telecommuters, combined with daily tools for organization and management, it's much easier to manage a remote team effectively. By doing this, you can ensure that your remote employees are happy, productive, and motivated to do good work.