Following the pandemic, when businesses worldwide started looking at remote working as the next essential part of their evolution, managers and their employees found themselves frantically trying to keep up. Most organizations have never dealt with such an abrupt shift in working culture, and many businesses were equally excited and terrified to see how it would pan out.
Today, fully remote and hybrid working cultures have become the new normal, with many businesses completely embracing the change. However, for managers of remote teams, this new working culture, while initially an exciting opportunity, has brought a whole new set of challenges to overcome.
But while some companies are using these challenges as an excuse to push their employees back to the office without the proper consideration for the new state of the world, others are finding practical strategies to overcome them and building a stronger, more resilient company culture.
Effective Strategies for Overcoming Remote Working Management Struggles
Every struggle that a manager faces presents new opportunities for themselves and their teams to come out stronger. And there is now a shortage of challenges managers face when managing fully remote or hybrid working teams. But rather than writing off remote working altogether, there are some practical strategies you can apply to some of the common challenges below:
Lack of In-Person Interaction
Many managers feel that the challenges of remote work come up due to the absence of face-to-face interactions. While direct personal communication has its benefits, forming strong relationships and connections in a remote setup is entirely achievable.
So what’s the missing link? Well, often, it’s simply a lack of proactive effort when coordinating team collaboration. It’s true that in remote settings, you do need to work harder to encourage spending more time working together and extracting new ideas from one another – but this is far from impossible.
In fact, by not taking for granted the benefit of proximity, you may find that there’s more incentive to organize regular team meet-ups or group activities. Instead of waiting for impromptu conversations in the office kitchen, make a conscious effort to schedule weekly video calls or team round-up sessions.
I tell managers remote requires more – More communication, more connection, more effort, more feedback, essentially more of everything in an effort to close the gap that remote physicality brings.
Lower Productivity Levels
Productivity is defined differently by everyone. When more companies started moving to remote working cultures, “productivity” was always a point of discussion. What happens if employees do less work when at home? How will I know they are using their time wisely?
These questions are valid, but the truth is, that productivity isn’t necessarily tied to physical presence in an office. Still, ensuring your employees know how to organize their time effectively and track their own progress is essential. And since you can’t see them physically clocking in or out, trust and expectations go a long way.
Being in a corporate setting doesn’t necessarily equate to being productive. Productivity depends on motivation and having the right resources, regardless of whether in the office or working from home.
Make sure your teams have the necessary resources and support to stay on track with their tasks. This includes working with them to set realistic goals for scheduling and focusing more performance reviews on results rather than hours worked.
Not Taking Accountability
Teams only function well when each member takes responsibility for their own actions and contributions. This is especially important in a remote working environment where there may be less direct oversight.
However, working remotely doesn’t resonate the same way with everyone. While some naturally stay motivated and accountable, others might struggle with concentration or feel out of touch with their colleagues.
As a leader, addressing challenges directly and setting clear expectations for each member from the outset is essential. When a few team members feel they’re bearing the brunt of the workload, it can rapidly result in strained team relationships and a decline in morale.
Take the time to build a transparent view of all the members of your team and where each of their accountabilities are. Project and task management tools are a great way to do this and help to provide clarity on who’s working on what.
Completely manager training courses can also give you the tools to help address individuals who are feeling like they are the only ones putting in an effort and help to encourage a sense of shared responsibility.
Lack of Teamwork
Every team’s strength is only as strong as its weakest link. This mindset isn’t about creating a pecking order, but understanding that everyone needs to play a part in the team’s success. When working remotely, though, spotting members who aren’t fully engaged can be tricky.
To navigate this, it’s important to understand the potential of each member and measure their current performance against it. Regular check-ins can help identify issues and open up channels for candid discussions.
There might be external factors affecting a member’s contribution or engagement level, and it’s essential to be attuned to such nuances. This doesn’t mean that they are not valuable members of the team, but they may require some additional support or accommodations to help them motivated.
Shifting Company Culture
A great company culture is essential for any business. But as many companies have shifted to remote work in recent years, sustaining this culture has become a significant hurdle.
Remember, company culture isn’t solely dictated by top executives – each member plays a role in its development and evolution. Remote workers play a significant part in molding this culture, and as a leader, your role is important in upholding the organization’s values and steering the team in the right direction.
Actively promote inclusivity and a balanced work-life approach with your team. Always be receptive to feedback and quick to address your team’s concerns. You should also support honesty and transparency and never be afraid to bring your team’s concerns to upper management as needed.
Lead Your Remote Team to Success
Helping your team thrive in a remote work environment requires strong leadership and effective management. By setting a good example, providing support and resources, and implementing strategies learned from leadership coaching, you’ll ensure that you get the most from your team, regardless of whether they’re in the office or not.
Wildly addicted to all things leadership, Cecilia Gorman is a veteran of the advertising industry and the owner of Creative Talent Partners, a training consultancy that specializes in the development of rising managers and their teams. Whether it’s a team offsite, a manager workshop or through her online Manager Boot Camp course, Cecilia’s sole pursuit is adding value to growth-focused employees.