Top 4 Challenges of Managing Remote Teams

Avatar by Amy Steinberg Published Oct 8, 2019 Last updated Oct 22, 2019

More and more companies are recognizing the advantages of using remote teams. Remote working allows for greater flexibility and lets you collaborate with people anywhere in the world. When you start leveraging this type of work model, you’re no longer limited to finding qualified individuals in your own area. At the same time, there are certain challenges that can arise when people aren’t sharing the same physical space. The following are some of the most common challenges of remote teams. We’ll also suggest some of the most effective strategies for overcoming these issues. 

1. Effective Communication

Remote workers must be able to communicate with one another as well as with the home office. Fortunately, today’s software and devices are generally designed for maximum compatibility. Nevertheless, you should take certain steps to facilitate communication for remote teams.

  • Ensure all important information is stored on cloud-based applications. Whether you use Google Docs, Dropbox, or other tools, team members should be able to access what they need from any device.
  • Choose the right collaboration tools for your needs. It’s generally best to use a combination of tools for different purposes. When selecting apps and software, consider the features that are essential. You may need, for example, reliable capabilities for file sharing, chatting, and video calls.
  • Create guidelines for different types of communication. Team members most likely use many different methods to connect, which is fine. However, it’s important that they use the right channels at the right time. It doesn’t help if someone is expecting a file via email and it’s waiting for them on Slack. Set clear guidelines for when to use email, chat, and any other tools that you use.
  • Plan meetings strategically. If you have a large team with different responsibilities, everyone probably doesn’t need to attend every meeting. Smaller meetings are easier to plan and tend to be more focused. On the other hand, when an all-hands meeting is needed, plan it far enough in advance so that team members can make arrangements to attend. 

2. Syncing Schedules

Location independence is one of the major benefits of remote teams. At the same times, certain difficulties can arise when your team is scattered around the globe in different time zones. Even if everyone is in the same city, team members may have different lifestyles and responsibilities, making it hard to agree on schedules. This can make it difficult to sync meetings and deadlines. Here are a few ways to deal with this issue:

  • Request feedback from your team. Ask about scheduling preferences, which may change over time. You can’t always accommodate everyone, but you can at least map out the most convenient times for meetings.
  • Make sure everyone is using the same scheduling or calendar app, so no one is left out of the loop regarding meetings, deadlines, or other important events.

3. Creating Trust and Rapport

One of the challenges in a traditional workplace is fostering teamwork and the company culture. When people aren’t inhabiting a common space, this issue is magnified. How can you make people who seldom see each other, or, in some cases, who have never even met in person, trust one another and feel committed to the same team?

  • Provide space for virtual socializing. Encourage team members to chat and get to know one another. You can create a Facebook group, a chat room on Slack or use other communications tools. It’s best to separate work and social channels to prevent people from getting distracted when discussing projects.
  • Arrange to meet in person. Depending on how geographically spread out your team is, it may be difficult to arrange live meetups. However, it’s nice to do this as often as possible to encourage live interaction. This could be as simple as a meal at a restaurant or something more elaborate such as a weekend retreat.
  • Welcome new team members. The way you on-board someone new has a lot to do with how he or she will function on the team. Take the time to introduce the new member to everyone. Don’t just send out a perfunctory message. Set up one-on-one meetings between the new person and existing team members.
  • Plan fun virtual events. Aside from setting up chat spaces, you can encourage virtual bonding by organizing get-togethers. These might be Google Hangouts, virtual happy hours, or perhaps nights when people get together to watch a movie or sports event.

4. Tracking Performance

It’s important, yet sometimes challenging, to track results with a remote team. With people logging in at different times and working on multiple projects, it’s easy to lose track of what’s actually getting done. Keeping everyone accountable and tracking performance depends on the project and the particular responsibilities of each team member. In some cases, it’s simply a matter of tracking whether or not someone turns in a project on time. When it comes to more complex projects, where there may be multiple people working in different areas, it can be a little more complicated.

  • Make sure everyone is accountable. Be clear about what is expected of everyone and arrange to have team members check in regularly with progress updates. It’s best to set deadlines for every project, even for non-urgent tasks. It’s easier for anyone, especially remote workers, to stay focused with a hard deadline. For longer projects, set deadlines for benchmarks.
  • Use productivity tools. Software such as Trello, Slack, and Toggl make it easier to track productivity. You can also use free tools such as Dropbox and Google Calendar.
  • Identify the most efficient method for tracking performance. This might mean tracking hours worked, milestones reached, and/or end product. This may vary from project to project. 

Managing a remote team has its challenges. However, if you consider everyone’s needs and keep the lines of communication open, you’ll find that you can get past all such issues. It’s important to track your results and make changes when appropriate. You may find, for example, that you need to adjust the timing for meetings. You may also have to experiment with different productivity tools to find out which are best for you. Keep in mind that even traditional workplaces have to contend with challenges regarding communication, teamwork, and tracking performance. You simply have to adjust your mindset so that you can overcome such issues as they apply to your remote team. 

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