3 Biggest Challenges in Managing Remote Teams in 2021

Managing remote teams is new to most executives and managers. The transition from managing an in-office team to managing a remote team came almost overnight for many.

Having a remote component for your workforce is now a norm, before or not. And from here there is no turning back. We’ll never again work full time in the office five days a week. The best we can get is working in a hybrid model, with a few days in the office and a few days working remotely.

The truth is, remote working will always be part of the way we work from now on. This presents you with unique challenges when you are a business leader and / or manager. We’re used to working in the office, and leadership and management styles have evolved from it. They are also largely suitable for in-office workers and may not work on a remote team to the same extent.

Now that we are working remotely, there are sure to be some new challenges that you may not have expected or even know are possible.

Let’s take a look at some of the key remote team business challenges and how you can address them.

Challenge # 1: You’re not really sure of your teams’ productivity.

Are my teams working the way they should be?

Are they slacking off?

Are we losing productivity because we work from home?

These are questions you need to ask. In fact, these are probably the most obvious questions most managers will ask. It’s just instinctive, isn’t it? Regardless of leadership style, physical adherence to work has always been an indicator of getting the job done. The absence of this leaves a void in the way we measure productivity.

It is natural. We understand. But if this is the only way you can measure how well the job is being done, then we have problems. A big part of working with a team is being able to trust your teammates.

As a manager, it is important that your team can rest assured that the work will be done without any loss of productivity. This is even more true when your entire team works remotely. Trust is an important factor when working remotely. Without this trust in your teams, you can never really get the best out of them.

How can you fix that? Well obviously you are your team by building trust between you. Here’s how you can do it:

  • Effectively let your team know that you have great faith in them and value them as employees. Just trusting them will automatically make them feel more accountable if they haven’t already.
  • Have regular reviews and walkthroughs performed. This is a routine for the team and they know what work to do between each such meeting. This also gives you the opportunity to correct the course if something is wrong or not working as it should.
  • Use technology to your advantage. Make sure employees are aware of the work to be done and can use a project management tool to keep track of tasks. By progressing the task list and meeting the deadlines, you will automatically learn whether or not productivity is being maintained.

Challenge # 2: You are concerned about active communication and turnaround times

Working remotely, keeping track of your communications, can be a little tricky. It’s a lot easier to go up to your team and talk to anyone or everyone in the office about something. If you are working remotely, you cannot just do this.

And because you and the members of your team are not all working in the same place, chances are things are not being communicated properly. Sometimes things even fall through the gap.

However, in a world that is always connected, it shouldn’t be all that difficult to create a workplace communication protocol that works for your team and your company. Here are some ways to ensure that you and your team are communicating effectively with each other:

  • Find out which tools can be used to enable communication. There’s email, video calling, IMing, and more. Provide the specific tools you want to use and ask your team to familiarize themselves with each tool. You may already be using many tools to communicate even if you’ve worked from a physical office. You can just use these or add new ones that work better for the remote control.
  • Set guidelines for replying to messages and emails. Let your team know the expected turnaround time for replies during working hours. And when to respond to messages received outside of the working day. Encourage your team to acknowledge each message they receive and to take notes of the various calls they will participate in.
  • Schedule regular team calls and one-on-one meetings with your teammates. Talking and seeing regularly will help maintain an open communication practice. These calls could be updates, brainstorming, or just catching up. However, consistent interaction ensures that everyone is on the same page. And that no information remains undisclosed.

Challenge # 3: You are concerned about resolving conflict

Every workplace has conflicts – be it with a certain work schedule, with a colleague, with a boss or maybe with something completely different. Often times, when you work from an office, the conflict is immediately noticeable. If you’re working remotely, not so much.

It’s easier to fix the conflicting problem when it’s in the same room. If we move this online things will get a little opaque. And building conflict and tension is a surefire way to see work grind to a halt. It also increases toxicity within the team and that’s the last thing you would want when working in a remote environment.

Then how do you avoid that? Here’s how:

  • Notice the way people talk to you and each other. Are there any significant changes in the way they communicate or address someone? There are subtle clues when there is an ongoing conflict that has not been resolved. If you spot it in time, you can nip it in the bud. If not, it becomes an issue that affects the work of everyone on the team.
  • Regularly ask your team explicitly if there is anything they would like to discuss. Ask about the conflicts they think are at work. This will inevitably lead to someone opening up to the issues they are facing, either with you, a coworker, or with work in general. People don’t talk about these things unless someone specifically asks them to. As a leader, you should be.
  • If there is a conflict, call all affected parties. Have everyone involved express their points. Find out the underlying cause of a conflict. It can range from behavior, competence, expectations, or something else. It’s always best to fix the problem as soon as it occurs. This minimizes the damage and the negative impact on work and productivity.

Like any other business challenge, these can be met. What makes a great team are people who are good at what they do. Your job as a leader and manager is to find ways to empower them and create an environment in which they can and do their best.

Identify problem areas before they cause real damage. Look out for things that can get in the way of your team’s work and move them out of the way. You set the tone for everyone in the company. So it’s great to lead by example as you address and overcome these workplace challenges.

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