Even before the quarantine of 2020, remote work had been a growing trend in the U.S. Now that the business sector has shifted to the work-from-home model due to the pandemic, more changes can be expected. For instance, 97.6% of the workforce expressed their desire to work remotely, as revealed by Buffer’s 2021 State of Remote Work report.
Remote Work Is Here to Stay
Indeed, the pandemic catapulted the work-from-home movement to global popularity. Even so, it’s not the only reason for the work-from-home boom: historical trends show that remote work is here to stay, even without COVID-19 as a catalyst. In the graph below, we have combined data from the Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics to display work-from-home trends over the past few decades. We also used the forecast provided by Global Workplace Analytics to get a projection of the share of remote workers by 2029.
CBRE’s The Flexible Revolution Report revealed that 69% of millennials would give up some of their employment benefits just to be allowed to work remotely. It’s worth noting that 75% of the US workforce is estimated to consist of millennials by 2025. So, if you want to ensure that your company is future-proof, you’d better invest in a virtual setup that’s conducive to remote work. Also, you should know the ways to resolve the common challenges of working from home.
What Are the Challenges of Remote Work?
Remote work can be challenging even though it can also be more productive than being physically present in a traditional office setting. Some of the common challenges that are unique to work from home policies include the following:
1. Lack of One-on-one Supervision
Many companies are preparing for managing both a remote team and an in-office team together. Consequently, one primary requirement for recruiting new employees is the candidate’s ability to work well without supervision.
When people have to work from home, employers feel a bit insecure because they think their employees may not work well without supervision. In reality, workers are more productive at home. For instance, the International Workplace Group’s Workplace Survey revealed that 85% of businesses were more productive when they provided flexible working conditions. 37% of executives believed that the boost was a result of their remote work policies.
On the flip side, remote employees may feel out of touch. Sometimes, they may even feel their companies are not supporting them to get their jobs done, and some workers may feel disconnected from in-office employees and the company, according to a report on CoSo Cloud.
2. Lack of Access to Timely Information
Unless a company managing remote employees decide to take advantage of work-from-home communication tools that can make disseminating information to remote workers easier and quicker, it may be a challenge for remote work.
Many employees working from home report that they usually have a hard time getting information as quickly as they want, and that it is even more complicated when co-workers are hard to reach.
Many communication tools have been developed to make things easier. These communication tools enable users to disseminate information quickly and securely. Some of them also have chatrooms to increase interaction between remote workers.
3. Social Isolation
When employees have to work from home, they sometimes feel lonely and want to interact with their colleagues. A remote work stat on Buffer shows that 19% of remote employees say that loneliness is their biggest challenge while they work from home.
Moreover, the lack of social interaction among co-workers can lead to a feeling of being isolated from the entire company or workforce. Remote employees who don’t communicate frequently may burn out quickly and not even feel the urge to be productive while working from home.
4. Home Distractions
Unless an organization has carefully planned and implemented remote work policies before executing it, it may be challenging to maintain a steady work-life balance while working from home. Much more when it’s an impromptu work-from-home policy driven by the coronavirus pandemic.
In this coronavirus period, many children, partners, and relatives are at home and don’t go to school or work. Having pets increases the level of distractions, not to talk of the comfort of your bed, swimming pool, easily accessible kitchen with all the food varieties you love.
Helping your remote team to keep their heads in the game while working from home is challenging. It takes a lot of planning, employee monitoring, and organization.
14 Useful Tips on Managing Remote Employees in 2023
A remote employee productivity stat on CoSo Cloud showed that 77% of remote employees claim to be more productive when working from home. Another report on Buffer showed that companies save costs on paid vacation time of about 43% of remote employees. However, despite the many benefits that this setup brings for both parties, it is not without challenges.
According to a 2020 research featured on Statista, 47% of remote workers from the US, the UK, Canada, and Australia find it hard to manage at-home distractions. Meanwhile, 35% said that it was difficult to collaborate with colleagues and clients. Others reported isolation and the lack of motivation, free time, and opportunities for fostering career growth as their primary issues.
Because of these challenges, businesses handling remote workers must find the right tools and practices to ensure the productivity and health of their employees. Here are 14 tips on how to remotely manage individuals and teams working from home:
1. Be Clear About Your Expectations
At this point, many companies have dipped their toes in large-scale remote operations. Perhaps, early on, you encountered accountability issues. When you’re learning how to manage remote teams, you need to set boundaries, provide guidelines, and review the basics. If your employees have never worked from home, they will have questions. So, as a manager, you must make yourself available to provide clarity on milestones, priorities, and targets.
Even if employees are not physically present in the office, they should still be updated about staffing and policy changes. What’s more, you should keep them informed about what’s happening with the company and share tips on working from home. Keep in mind that business-related messages and requests should only be sent around office hours.
Paul Pellman, CEO of Kazoo, an Austin-based software company, said that avoiding after-hours work texts and emails can help employees have a healthy lifestyle. He added that it “prevents them from burning out—which, without the physical separation between home and the office, can be more common when working from home.”
2. Trust Your Remote Workers
As a manager, the best thing you can do during the process is to place your confidence and trust in your employees. Make sure that they have your full support and your faith that they will do the right thing. The setup may be new to you, and you may find the lack of constant visibility so frustrating. However, micromanaging is not the best response in this situation. That will only result in stressed, fatigued, and disengaged remote workers.
3. Create a Daily Check-in Plan
Your workers can develop a sense of responsibility when they have to check in every morning at a specific time while working from home. The three benefits of doing that are listed below:
- Checking in at a particular time every morning will compel your remote employees to start to work early.
- It will make them feel like they are in the work environment even though they are at home.
- They will feel like the company is monitoring them, and that will make them give their best to the jobs assigned to them.
Check-ins at a specific time will get most remote employees into work mode, and they’ll be more productive this way. You can use platforms that support voice calls or video calls to confirm that each employee has checked in.
4. Focus on Their Results, Not What They’re Doing
You won’t be able to manage every little thing that your remote team does. As we’ve mentioned, micromanaging is not an excellent form of leadership. So, don’t try to handle every aspect of your team’s work, especially since they’re scattered in different places. Instead of concentrating on what they’re doing and how many hours they put in, focus on the results when measuring their productivity.
Find ways to help your employees get things done. For instance, you might want to forgo the lengthy approval processes you used in the office. Moreover, some meetings may not have to be held in the traditional manner—they could be arranged through quick email threads. Find a mutually agreeable time for a scheduled collaboration session, and take advantage of virtual tools.
5. Encourage Dialog
You must make your employees feel that two-way communication is encouraged. Ensuring communication between remote workers and managers will facilitate engagement. Employees must understand the decisions made in the organization. They might value this even more than initiatives for change.
When there’s two-way communication, employees gain the perspective and information they need. What’s more, they will have the feeling of freedom, which enables them to efficiently express and process negative emotions. As a manager, you should create opportunities for two-way communication, allowing employees to share their struggles amidst the pandemic.
6. Provide State-of-the-Art Communication Tools
Providing modern communication tools is one of the best strategies to manage your newly remote employees if you want to see your remote team performing at their best.
Communication between you and your remote team, as well as among themselves, must be steady and uninterrupted. It must also be such that you can communicate urgent messages if you need your employees to attend to something immediately.
It would help if you also accommodated non-work-related communication among your remote employees because it makes them feel like they’re part of the company. Moreover, it helps them to understand one another better, so they don’t mix up work and interpersonal issues.
Some of the best communication tools for your remote team are Slack, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Skype. These tools have features including chat support, HD audio and video call support, and so on.
7. Set Company Rules
Some humans tend to take things seriously only when there are rules attached to them. Setting and enforcing workplace rules, such as what platform will be used for communication, how meetings should be scheduled and held, and what penalties are applied if employees break the rules at work, will keep your remote team on their toes. Indeed, you need to learn how to discipline employees.
Some of the rules may even deal with things that look insignificant at first glance but that are, in fact, extremely important for the proper function of your organization, such as invoice formats and submission dates. However, that makes your employees know that all details are attended to in the most professional manner.
8. Use Employee Monitoring Tools
Even after setting things in place for your remote team, your employees may be tempted to rest when it is unnecessary or spend too much time talking with family, friends, and neighbors. That’s why using the right tools to monitor your employees will help go a long way.
With features such as screen sharing, real-time activity logging, and so on, quality monitoring tools like Traqq will help you to know what your remote team members are doing. This way, you can track their progress and even make corrections if necessary.
9. Encourage Social Interaction Among Team Members
As vital as it is for you to establish discipline and work patterns for your remote team, you should also give room for social interaction. However, to ensure that your employees remain focused on work, you can set rules that will guide how they interact with one another.
It will help if there are days dedicated mainly to social interaction. To make it more fun, you can ask your employees to wear dresses appropriate for a social gathering and organize a video call for all of them to participate.
10. Watch Out for Signs of Distress
Get to know the plights and concerns of your remote employees by using indirect observations and direct conversations. Make it clear to them that you care for and support them. Moreover, introduce the best approaches for discussing sensitive topics related to the pandemic. This way, you can facilitate healthy conversations between supervisors and employees. There should be clear information about job security, alternative work models, workplace tension, and the impact of the changes on personnel management.
11. Provide Emotional and Financial Support
It will help if you remember that your remote team members are humans, not robots. People get into trouble or other emotional issues in their personal lives, and it may affect their work. For example, the US Navy caters to war-wounded soldiers by providing all forms of therapy.
VitalSmarts training designer and researcher Justin Hale said:
“The most successful managers are good listeners, communicate trust and respect, inquire about workload and progress without micromanaging, and err on the side of over-communicating.”
Talking to a remote employee whose productivity has declined will help you know what is going on in their personal life. If there is an emotional problem, fix things up for them. If the issue is financial, you can offer them company loans to resolve the problem. That way, they’ll trust you and be willing to give more to the company.
Often, internal surveys are underrated in companies. However, occasional pulse surveys will give you an insight into the sentiments of your employees. Of course, when you’re asking for feedback from your workers, you need to do something about what they say.
12. Have an Appraisal Program
When recognition and praise are properly given, they motivate the recipient. What’s more, they serve as a strong model for what behaviors other employees should emulate. While many employees prefer monetary rewards, you don’t have to stick to cash all the time. Sometimes, tokens of appreciation, public acknowledgment, and training opportunities can go a long way.
13. Promote Mentorship Programs
According to a 2019 survey from the Olivet Nazarene University, 76% of employees consider having a mentor important. When you give your remote workers the proper resources and guidance for career development, they are more likely to stay with the company. What’s great about having a mentorship program is that the benefits go both ways: an employee who joins a mentor-mentee program, whether as a mentor or a mentee, finds more meaning in their job and reduces their anxiety level.
14. Hire a Professional Personal Assistant
Handling a remote team may become tiresome with time, especially if you lack the necessary managerial skills. Hiring an experienced personal assistant can take remote workforce management to a whole new level.
You don’t have to assign all administrative tasks to a personal assistant if you still wish to engage with the remote team. However, delegating certain tasks to someone who can handle them well will create enough time for you to rest and brainstorm business ideas.
The 7 tips for successfully managing remote workers that we have shared with you in this guide will help you eliminate all the remote work challenges. Using them will help you make the most of your remote team so that your business will always be productive.