Remote work has become the new norm over the past year as a way for the business world to cope with a worldwide pandemic, and it undoubtedly will remain at elevated levels long after the COVID-19 outbreak is over. Yet leading a remote team isn’t always easy. That’s why we wanted to share with you some of the common issues that crop up in remote teams — and some of the solutions that can help address them.
Too little communication
It’s easy to feel isolated working at home alone, especially if you’re used to working with other people in an office setting. Research published in Harvard Business Review before the pandemic found that remote employees are more likely to feel disconnected or even alienated than those who work on-site. That is due in great part to the tendency to check in with remote workers less frequently and consistently. The demands of the COVID-19 outbreak have only aggravated the problem. As a leader, you’ll want to check in with each member of your team regularly — and not just via e-mail, Slack or the occasional phone call. Regular, face-to-face communication via video conferencing with your team and individual employees who report to you is important to help maintain good communication. Keep in mind that employees have different needs. Some employees will want more frequent check-ins than others.
Remote workers need a break from work, too. Without time away from work-related e-mail, phone calls and texts, anyone working from home can reach burnout quickly. Gallup data shows that fully remote workers are now experiencing more burnout than on-site workers. Help your team establish boundaries so they can unwind and disconnect when they aren’t ‘at work’.
Too much oversight
Perhaps you don’t demand constant connectivity from your remote employees, but you still struggle with micromanaging their efforts. There’s a fine line between frequent communication with members of your team and micromanaging their efforts from afar. If you haven’t managed a remote team before, you may think that employees are more apt to waste time when they work at home, are prone to lose focus and need more management guidance. Studies show the opposite is true. Some studies have shown that remote workers actually work harder and are more efficient than their on-site counterparts. Why? Fewer distractions and interruptions, less socializing and an appreciation of the benefits of remote work, such as no commute, could be reasons. Gallup research, for example, found that remote work not only improves outcomes but is an arrangement that the most talented employees seek.
No sense of community
It’s difficult to feel close and connected to your colleagues when you don’t see their faces or hear their voices regularly. Create opportunities for them to bond from afar. This might include fun end-of-week emails with inspirational quotes, recaps of notable achievements from the past week, and words of encouragement. Encouraging your remote employees to share and interact with each other also can pay big dividends. So can getting everyone together when it’s safe and economically possible to do so. Gallup research shows that spending some time together, in person, can only strengthen remote teams.