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Managing Remote Work Teams: Challenges And Opportunities

  • Managing remote work teams provides unique challenges, potentially affecting productivity.
  • Remote workers can suffer from problems due to being disconnected from the manager, coworkers, and the physical workplace setting.
  • Managers can implement techniques to successful manage productive remote work teams.

With video conferencing platforms, file sharing sites, project management software and messaging apps, businesses can take advantage of remote work by teams. Workers are situated comfortably at home with the tools they need, not requiring onsite workspace or making long commutes to the office.

With workers spread out yet being counted on to be as productive at home as they would in a work environment, remote team management presents challenges to management. Successful remote team managers pay attention to the unique needs, potential problems and special opportunities presented by remote work, applying sound techniques that you can implement.

Remote Work Woes

Addressing the needs of your remote work team begins with identifying and understanding those needs and how they can lead to productivity and team unity problems. Remote employees can feel lonely, isolated and disconnected from their coworkers. They may have difficulty avoiding distractions and staying motivated enough to be highly productive.

At-home workers can suffer from not being able to walk away from work or not enjoying their lives outside work hours. Remote teams have practical issues with communicating and collaborating through technology, especially if it’s not reliable or if internet service isn’t good enough. Meaningful communication is made more difficult when workers are located in different time zones or speak different languages.

Communication becomes critical for remote workers who want to stay in the know. Being distanced from coworkers can make it more challenging to obtain information and answers. This communications difficulty applies in employee to manager communications as well.

When the manager, supervisor or team leader can’t be met with in person, employees might experience a perceived lack of support, while managers might wonder if employees are being focused and productive.

Manager Techniques For Team Success

  1. Communicate direction. It’s important that your team members know the vision and goals of the company and how they translate to department and team goals. Traditional annual state of the company meetings can easily be held on Zoom or another video conference platform. Informed remote team members will buy in more readily than those that feel left out of the inner circle.
  2. Communicate information for the work to be done. Provide easy access to whatever workers need to know to complete their work and make it clear to all parties that remote team member requests for information are high priority.
  3. Communicate effectively. Communications technology should be used effectively but it doesn’t equal effective communications. Respond when team members need your time and don’t be in a rush to finish the conversation. Take time to understand team members’ issues and respond to their needs. Speak openly, and don’t forget to touch on some personalized small talk to set a remote worker at ease. Remember that your tone, in speech and writing, and your body language on video can mean more than your words.
  4. Work out schedule differences, information disparity, and technological issues. When something blocks the path of employee productivity, help to work it free. If two employees’ day and night schedules are flipped, find overlapping hours that work mutually. If software isn’t working, place a fire under IT to resolve it. Solving problems like these get your employees working again and build trust.
  5. Develop excellent work processes. While this technique is always important, remote employees can’t turn to each other or walk to the next department over to figure out what went wrong. Communicate any changes or new process development.
  6. Use tools to enhance teamwork. There are dozens of software tools to keep the teamwork flowing, including tools for video conferencing, productivity, messaging, file sharing and project management. Select the right tools for your team environment and get everyone on board for using them regularly and appropriately.
  7. Take the time to value and appreciate your remote workers. Many methods exist to achieve this goal. Coaching and career development activities promote long term improvement. Activities with interpersonal and team communications, such as team celebrations, fun activities, and intentional one on one conversations provide social interaction to combat isolation, build relationships, and refresh remote workers for the days ahead.

As a manager, you’re there to make sure your remote team has everything they need to succeed. Remote team management presents an opportunity for you to have the best and brightest workers no matter where they’re located. With your support, you’ll all succeed together, even if you’re far apart.


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