There are two types of remote work managers: Those who’ve been forced to adapt to the remote work environment and geographically dispersed teams in the past few months because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and those who’ve been working with dispersed teams for years.
Whichever group you fall into, there’s one common link between the two: Managing a dispersed workforce creates lots of challenges.
That’s not to say that an entire company working out of the same office is perfect. Far from it. Working in close quarters eight hours a day, five days a week can create all kinds of distractions. Employees can begin to feel like everyone’s right on top of everyone else, leading to a stressful environment for many.
Still, there’s a certain amount of comfort that comes with seeing the same people every day. People make friends they can confide in, and forge the kinds of meaningful relationships that daily close proximity can often foster.
So when your employees work from home, they may find it difficult to forge those bonds. Worse, if they’ve suddenly been pushed out of the office and into remote work because of COVID-19, they could experience a shock to the system and end up struggling in multiple ways.
To address those challenges as a boss, it’s important to be proactive. With that in mind, I’ve compiled a list of the five most common challenges of managing a dispersed workforce, with suggestions for how to handle each of them. At the end of reading this, hopefully you’ll even grow to appreciate the advantages of geographically dispersed teams.
Let’s take a look:
Challenge #1 – Social Isolation
Being away from the rest of their co-workers can cause all kinds of strain on employees mental and emotional wellbeing. Employees can experience loneliness being isolated at home by themselves, or cooped up being stuck at home with kids and responsibilities piling up and limited ability to separate work time from after-work time.
Solution: Team-building activities can help curb remote workers feelings of isolation and loneliness. Consider instituting fun activities such as happy hours or game night via Zoom or any of your other favorite video conferencing platforms as a way to boost team building for dispersed teams.
Challenge #2 – “I can’t hear you!”
There are few moments more frustrating for remote managers and workers alike than when you can’t hear each other talk. After a while, you might start to dread that call or video chat, anticipating garbled voices on both ends every few seconds.
Solution: Invest in high-quality audiovisual equipment for both yourself and your employees. You can find a quality microphone and top-notch earphones for fairly reasonable prices. If the expense of buying these pieces of equipment for all your employees seems high, keep in mind that without proper communication, your company’s growth and progress could grind to a halt.
Challenge #3 – Lousy Workstations
Offices are set up specifically to boost productivity and take care of employee comfort. Companies will invest in chairs with better lumbar support, or even standing desks in the case of certain progressive work environments. Many remote workers don’t have that luxury. They sit slumped over in lousy chairs, or post up at the kitchen table, and simpy struggle to find a workstation that encourages work in a comfortable environment.
Solution: This depends somewhat on budget, because proper desks and chairs tend to be a lot more expensive than A/V equipment. Still, if your company has a strong quarter, considering applying some profits toward employee bonuses, in the form of upgraded workstations for your remote employees.
Challenge #4 – Meetings Become Even More Boring
Even in the best of times, Monday morning meetings can be a drag. Everyone sits around a big desk in the conference room, struggling to focus. That problem can get even worse for dispersed teams, as paying attention to every word broadcast to you over a 90-minute Zoom meeting can be next to impossible.
Solution: Shorter meetings and fewer meetings are always a good start. Beyond that, consider changing the tenor of your company meetings. If you have the time, assemble smaller groups or even one-on-one time with employees, so they can remain engaged during video chats. As for the Monday morning meeting ritual? At DistantJob we often spend the time simply catching up on how our weekends went. It’s a great way to get to know your colleagues, and one of several effective strategies to motivate dispersed team members in a virtual setting.
Challenge #5 – Work and Non-work Hours Start to Mix
Aside from offering a space conducive to worker productivity, a centralized office also offers a point of separation: Employees clock in for their assigned work hours, then head home once those official work hours are done. Remote work — especially work from home — can result in that point of separation becoming blurred.
Solution: Encourage your employees to treat remote work the same way they would office work. That means avoiding everything from household chores to playing video games while on the clock. But just as importantly, it means putting their work to bed at the end of official work hours. An employee tapping away furiously on her work computer at 11 pm instead of taking the appropriate amount of time after work to properly unwind can increase the risk of burnout. So make sure that you enforce both commitment to work during work hours, and commitment to relaxation and self-care once those work hours are done.
Final Challenge: Hiring the Right People
You could read all the possible strategies to address remote work challenges, read piles of books, and even take courses on this. But one thing is for sure, no matter how much you educate yourself on this subject, if you don’t have the right people on your team, obstacles will be much harder to overcome.
When you hire talented people for your team, you’ll not only have employees capable of achieving desired results, but you also will have people you trust. And trust is one of the most important principles remote leaders should have.
Solution: I’ve been managing a remote company for almost 10 years, and I know how difficult it can be to hire the right talent. If you are looking to scale your team with talented developers, contact us! We are a remote recruitment agency that has helped tons of companies hire their dream employees in less than two weeks.