Letting employees work remotely has many benefits. When you need to hire, you can attract more candidates by opening up your job search across the U.S. Telecommuting is among low-cost employee benefits that can improve employee happiness. And, the option to work remote can increase employee retention as employees move or grow their families.
But, having remote employees can be challenging. It can be difficult to communicate important info, set up times for everyone to meet, and keep everyone accountable.
Despite the challenges of managing remote teams, you can lead an effective staff.
The challenges of managing remote teams
If you experience any of the virtual workplace challenges below, check out the solutions to improve your team.
1. Different time zones
The challenges of managing a remote workforce can become more problematic if you have employees across multiple time zones. They might start and end work at different times. This can make it difficult for employees to connect and work on projects together. And, scheduling team meetings can be cumbersome if there are multiple time zones involved.
To help employees have more time together, you might schedule work times that require all employees to be online at the same time. For example, you might require an employee in the eastern time zone to work from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. An employee in the central time zone is required to work from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. This way, both employees are working at the same time.
You might also create blocks of time when employees must work, but they can do the rest of their work at any time outside of the block. For example, you might require all employees to be online from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. PST.
You can schedule regularly recurring meetings that employees must attend. These meetings are always at the same time and day. Because these meetings are always at the same time, employees know when they need to be working so they can attend the meetings.
2. Poor communication
Among the challenges of telecommuting is communication. Employees might not know what other workers are doing. Information might not be shared with everyone it should be. For example, an employee might only share information with in-house employees and exclude remote employees.
When managing remote workers, make sure they have the proper tools to communicate. This includes email, instant messaging, phones, and video conferencing tools.
Also, as a manager, you should stay in touch with remote workers. Get frequent feedback to make sure they have everything they need to do their jobs well. Find out if they have communication problems and how to improve them.
3. Lack of accountability
When workers aren’t in-house, it can be difficult to tell when they are working. Some employees might take advantage of the fact that they don’t have a boss looking over their shoulders. They might try to cut their work time without you noticing. Without some sort of tracking system, you are left to trust that employees are being honest.
Managing remote teams is easier with time and attendance software. Employees must clock in and clock out or record their total time worked each workday. This ensures you know exactly how long employees are working.
You might also use project management software. This can help you and employees see what tasks need to be completed. Everyone can see projects progress. And, you can see how long employees work on each task.
4. Unclear roles
When employees aren’t working directly together, roles can become muddled. Employees might not be sure who is doing what or who to go to when a task needs to be done.
Remote employees might also get left out of tasks. When workers are “out of sight, out of mind,” their talents and established roles might be overlooked. Because of this, they might not be given an equal distribution of work.
As the leader of your business, make sure everyone understands employee roles. You should establish a clear structure of who people report to and which employees must be included in certain tasks. You might type up a list of all employees and their roles. You might also send out gentle reminders when you start seeing employees not being properly utilized.
5. Limited advancement
Remote employees might experience fewer opportunities for job advancement. Simply because they aren’t as visible, remote employees might be forgotten or passed over for special projects and promotions. Overall, it might be more difficult for remote employees to see their career paths.
Good communication will keep all employees in the loop. Conducting performance reviews is good for all your employees, especially remote employees. The reviews can help you better gauge who is most worthy of advancement. You can tell employees about their projected career paths to give them direction. Reviews are also a time when you can give feedback to help employees further advance.