Remote work has become an intrinsic part of modern business culture; this shift from traditional office environments to remote workspaces has presented a unique set of challenges for managers tasked with maintaining productivity, communication, and team cohesion. Managing a remote team is a different ball game compared to managing an in-person team, requiring new skills and practices to be developed.
Mistakes in managing remote teams are common, particularly for managers without prior experience in handling remote workforces. Here are some of the most common pitfalls to avoid:
- Micromanagement: Managers often fear that without constant supervision, their teams will not be productive. However, over-monitoring, constant emails, and incessant Zoom meetings can result in a lack of trust and contribute to a toxic remote work culture.
- Requiring “Proof” of Work: Demanding a list of daily accomplishments from your team can contribute to remote work burnout. Some of the most critical tasks can take days or weeks and might not show up as multiple items on a to-do list.
- Neglecting to Communicate the Vision: It is essential to share the company’s overall vision and not just assign tasks. Lack of vision can lead to confusion, lack of team cohesion, and extended project durations.
- Overemphasis on Building Culture: While a strong remote work culture is important, forced ice-breaker activities and artificial vulnerability can be awkward and counterproductive. Culture should evolve naturally among team members.
- Ignoring Employee Concerns: The physical distance in remote work can lead managers to overlook serious issues, taking their team’s concerns lightly. It’s crucial to pay close attention and respond to team concerns seriously.
- Poor Onboarding Practices: Comprehensive onboarding is necessary for a remote job, especially for new hires who aren’t familiar with your software, programs, or remote work.
To effectively manage a remote team, a different approach is required. The following are some of the best practices for remote work management:
- Provide a Unified Workspace: Utilize a single tool for emailing, messaging, file sharing, and task management, making it easier for everyone to access their work and communicate with each other.
- Educate Yourself on Remote Work: Understand the unique challenges of remote work, such as communication breakdowns, dehumanization, rising work expectations, unnecessary status meetings, and siloed departments.
- Build a Communication Culture: Encourage open communication without demanding constant updates. Be proactive in reaching out to your team and solving their challenges.
- Promote Flexibility: Dismantle the 9-5 mentality and allow your team to work hours that best suit their work style and preferences.
- Trust Your Team: Avoid micromanaging and trust that your team will complete their tasks in a reasonable timeframe.
- Lead by Action: Practice what you preach. If you want certain actions from your team, embody them yourself.
Remote Work: A Powerful Productivity Booster
Remarkably, the shift to remote work isn’t just about employee convenience and pandemic safety measures. It’s also a matter of productivity. A Stanford University study found that remote work resulted in a 13% performance boost. Employees working remotely took fewer sick days and shorter breaks, contributing to this surge in productivity.
How Remote Work Improves Employee Retention
There’s also a strong correlation between remote work and employee retention. Companies that permit remote work witnessed a 25% lower employee turnover rate compared to those insisting on in-person presence (Owl Labs). By fostering a culture of trust and autonomy, remote work arrangements can significantly boost employee satisfaction and loyalty.
The Economic Advantage of Remote Work
The financial incentives for organizations to support remote work are potent. Companies can save approximately $11,000 per year for every part-time remote worker, stemming from reduced expenditures on office space, utilities, office supplies, and a decrease in absenteeism (Global Workplace Analytics).
Time Is Money: The Commute Factor
Before the rise of remote work, the average daily commute in the United States stood at about 27.1 minutes each way. Remote work not only eliminates this time-consuming travel but also reduces the stress and fatigue associated with it.
The High Demand for Remote Work
The enthusiasm for remote work isn’t limited to employers. A staggering 98% of respondents in a 2020 Buffer survey expressed a desire to work remotely at least part-time for the rest of their careers.
Environmentally Friendly Workplaces
Adopting remote work isn’t just good for businesses and employees; it’s also good for the planet. If employees with telecommuting-compatible jobs worked from home just half the time, the greenhouse gas reduction would equate to removing the entire New York State workforce off the roads (Global Workplace Analytics).
The Tools Powering Remote Work
Popular tools facilitating remote work include communication platforms like Slack and Microsoft Teams, video conferencing tools such as Zoom and Google Meet, and project management apps like TeamWave and Asana. These digital solutions have made collaboration and coordination possible from any corner of the globe.
The Challenges of Remote Work
Despite its many advantages, remote work isn’t without its challenges. The blurring line between professional and personal life is a significant issue, with 27% of remote workers struggling to unplug after work (Buffer, 2020).
Communication and collaboration difficulties are also common, reported by 20% of remote workers. Despite the presence of many digital tools, effective communication and coordination can be a challenge, particularly across different time zones.
Feelings of isolation and loneliness are other potential pitfalls of remote work. In the 2020 Buffer report, 20% of remote workers identified these as significant challenges.
Lastly, the availability of a conducive workspace at home is a concern. Distractions, noise, and unsuitable setups can potentially lead to decreased productivity and health issues.