Remote work definitely comes with a set of challenges. How to effectively manage a team from a distance?
Remote work definitely comes with a set of challenges, especially for managers. The questions that pop into every manager’s mind include things like, maintaining productivity, making everyone feel engaged, and most importantly, how to keep a flow of communication necessary to complete projects accurately and within a certain time frame.
Table of contents:
- How is remote work shifting in 2022?
- What are the major obstacles of remote work?
- What solutions can you apply as a manager?
How is remote work shifting in 2022?
Of course, working remotely caught everyone by surprise at the beginning of the pandemic. However, nowadays, it became more of a standard option and many people are loving this change. Also, statistics show that remote work does not equal distraction and lack of productivity, it is in fact quite the opposite.
Work-from-home productivity was shown to be superior to in-office productivity (even before the pandemic) in this study done by the University of Chicago and the Mexico Autonomous Institute of Technology. The survey included 30,000 people aged 20 to 64 who earned at least $20,000 each year in 2019.
40% of research participants considered their work-from-home productivity to be greater than their in-person productivity. Only 15% of respondents thought the contrary.
Looking at the future of remote work, Ladders' data scientists believe the writing is on the wall. Working from home is here to stay. According to their forecasts, by the end of 2022, 25% of all professional positions in North America would be remote, and remote possibilities will continue to grow through 2023.
What are the major obstacles of remote work?
1. Decreased Team Cohesion
Due to everyone working on their parts individually, and with a decreased number of team meetings, one of the biggest challenges that can occur during working remotely is team cohesion. Generally, individual work can be a lot more productive and effective, unless it relied on a smooth flow of back and forth communication. The need for interdepartmental communication and approvals, might be a challenge when working completely separately.
2. The challenge of direct supervision
Another downside to working remotely is the lack of direct supervision and the difficulties in establishing trust. Of course, as a manager, you cannot always supervise everyone. As a result, you may need to alter your management style and adopt a more personal approach, which allows the employee to take on the responsibility of completing their tasks in time.
3. Unexpected Distractions
Unexpected distractions are another obstacle that is beyond your control as a manager. Since everyone is working from their personal space, there might be other people and noises present, which prevent your employee from giving work their full attention. Additionally, they may not have a space available, that is fully appropriate and well-equipped for a working environment.
What solutions can you apply as a manager?
1. Individual, personal approach is the key to increased motivation!
Every person likes to receive feedback differently. Some people prefer a more direct approach, while others need a detailed explanation supported by examples. When you manage a team remotely, it can be quite challenging to figure out how to approach different working styles and personality types. As a manager, take the time to get to know your team on a personal level and get to know their strong sides. Using everyone’s biggest strengths is key in assigning tasks and making teamwork more pleasant and effective.
This can be accomplished in many fun and interactive ways. For example, virtual coffee dates, team building activities to get to know each other in person, and one-on-one calls with team members, discussing their role in a specific project.
Those types of activities not only increase engagement, but also allow you to discover your team’s talents, strengths, and weaknesses, and use them in a way that will provide the space for your team to reach their full potential.
2. Transparency and open access to information
One of the big aspects of remote communication is receiving approvals and making sure that everyone has equal access to information. Waiting for a response can create a big time lag and discourage a smooth workflow, as you cannot simply walk up to someone at an office.
As a manager, make sure that every department has access to the information that they need in order to proceed with their projects further. How can you do it? Ask questions! Ask every department employee if they need any approvals, tools, or access to documents before they get started on a new project. In addition to that, keep using board-like software, where employees can communicate freely and easily create group chats for a particular assignment.
Also, remember to stay accessible (of course, within reason) and do not let your team wait for a long time to approve an essential element of their project. You can do that by scheduling ‘windows’ throughout the week when you will be available for questions from others. Make it known, that in case anyone needs you, this is going to be the time to do it.
3. Regular check-ins
It's not easy for everyone to have a sympathetic, sensitive dialogue, especially through video. That is why, before connecting with one of your team members, you should first check in with yourself. Ask yourself the following questions to assess your mood: Are you all right? Are you in good enough physical and mental health to hold a discussion right now? If not, it might be a better option to reschedule and be at your best, especially for conversations involving important decision-making.
When working remotely, it might be a challenge to assess how much work it actually takes for your employee to complete a task. For example, to you, it might look like something simple, but in reality it can be a lot more logistically complex than you think. As a manager, you should avoid assigning too many tasks or imposing strict deadlines when it comes to individual tasks. Be willing to talk with your distant team. If they feel overburdened, be prepared to alter their workload to make things easier for them and adjust to their timeline.
To conclude, the major obstacle that remote managers need to face nowadays is communication! Making sure that everyone is involved, well-informed and has access to all the information that they need in order to succeed with their tasks. Remaining close to your team, having a personal approach and encouraging an open communication, is something that will drive the team’s motivation and effectiveness in the long run.