Remote work can be beneficial for both organizations and employees: while organizations gain access to a limitless hiring pool, employees enjoy greater freedom and flexibility.
In theory, remote work is the perfect setup for both sides, but in practice, remote managers experience many unique challenges when communication with both teams and individual employees
This article will discuss the top seven challenges of managing virtual teams and how to overcome them.
#1 Clear Communication
When it comes to any strong team, clear communication is key. Perhaps the greatest challenge remote teams face is clear, effective communication, which becomes more complex due to physical separation. Face-to-face chats are crystal clear, while Slack messages can easily be missed, just as emails can be misread.
In order to ensure a free flow of accurate information, it is important to do three things:
- Hire well – During the interview process, managers can get a sense of a person’s communication skills by hosting a video conference interview. It also helps to see the candidate’s written communication skills, so emailing back and forth can be useful too.
- Utilize multiple communication channels – Digital tools such as instant chat, video conferencing, white boards, and email can be extremely helpful to keep everyone on your team on the same page.
- Foster a communicative culture – A culture is created by each team member of an organization, so as a manager, it is important to check in with team members on a regular basis.
#2 Face-to-Face Interaction
With a lack of face-to-face interaction, remote staff rely on other forms of communication, such as email, where tone and meaning can easily be misinterpreted. Employees who are otherwise very cooperative with others may suddenly feel negative emotions working remotely from home.
Therefore, it’s extremely important that a remote manager emulates face-to-face interaction virtually.
Videoconferencing can provide visual cues that are important to shared knowledge. With the right virtual office space solution, video conferencing is as easy as digitally walking up to a coworker and asking them to connect, which removes the hassle of scheduling an unproductive meeting.
#3 One-on-One Meetings and Morale
With a lack of face-to-face interaction, employees may have questions and concerns that are not being addressed. If these questions and concerns build up over time, a remote employee is likely to feel disconnected from the organization and disengaged from the work itself.
By establishing structured, daily virtual meeting check-ins with individuals, managers can build trust and open communication. If there are challenges managing remote teams, these daily video call check-ins can work in groups as well. Whether they are for individuals or teams, such meetings must:
- Occur regularly and predictably
- Offer specific time for managers to answer employee questions and concerns
- Be more about mentoring than managing
If the three above criteria are met, then managers will find that one-on-one meetings greatly boost morale and leverage both individual and team strengths. How to build team morale remotely has posed quite the challenge, but with regular check-ins you can keep your employees motivated.
#4 Tracking Work and Productivity
When tracking productivity and work, it’s important to focus on outcomes, not activity, so that employees don’t feel micromanaged. Managers can achieve remote tracking of work and productivity by setting clear expectations for tasks and projects and then gauging progress.
Here, digital tools like white boards come in handy as documenting platforms since they can be used during meetings or brainstorming sessions to take notes and track progress on projects.
#5 Lack of Access to Information
Another large obstacle to remote work is a lack of access to information. Employees may suddenly feel like they don’t know where to turn for the answers to their questions.
One very easy way for managers to connect directly to individuals—and for members of teams to connect—is using an instant chat function. That way, less formal conversations can take place, and time-sensitive questions can be answered instantly.
Managers should set the example for instant chats by using them themselves.
#6 Organizational Culture
Organizational culture can be tricky to create in in-person settings, and with remote work, it's even more challenging. In order to achieve a strong sense of organizational remote work culture, managers must set remote work policies, training and remote onboarding protocols, and Rules of Engagement for their employees.
Rules of Engagement are perhaps the most useful tool for organizational culture because:
- They are a set of practices and procedures that everyone has agreed upon.
- They account for a variety of situations and variables.
- They build trust among employees at various levels of the organization.
#7 Social Isolation
One of the most commonly reported complaints about remote work is loneliness resulting from social isolation. Without the ease of interacting in an in-office setting, employees find themselves with limited opportunities for casual, social conversation, which can make it difficult to feel a sense of belonging.
With the right virtual office space solution, team members can converse in an online environment even more easily than in the office by simply digitally approaching one another and starting to chat. The benefits of this type of conversation at work are two-fold—it encourages relationship-building, and it also provides a space to then segue into work chat.
Other ways to improve a team’s informal social interactions are as follows:
- Host a virtual office party
- Plan a virtual team lunch
- Provide specific virtual social hours
Face Remote Challenges Head-On With Teamflow
The remote work setting also creates unique challenges for managers to manage employees. When managers learn to face those challenges using Teamflow, your organization can become more productive, as your employees connect more deeply to the work and to each other.
Teamflow’s virtual office space software places employees in a shared digital space. There, teams can schedule regular coworking hours, host daily standups, create dedicated workspaces for project teams, and socialize in various ways. On top of that, the Teamflow chat functions are a great space to ask coworkers quick questions by simply digitally walking up to a coworker and beginning to type. Read the ultimate guide for managing remote teams and learn how to vault over potential remote working challenges while making sure your virtual workplace is both productive and fun.
Reviewed by Florent Crivillo, CEO and Founder at TeamFlow
Florent Crivello is the Founder and CEO of Teamflow, a virtual office that helps remote and hybrid teams do their best work in the best way. In a former life, Flo was the Head of Product for Uber Works, where he experienced firsthand the difficulties of managing a distributed and remote workforce. Following that experience, Flo conceived, coded, and launched the first version of Teamflow in early 2020. Since then, he's raised $50m in funding from top-flight venture capitalists including Menlo Ventures, Battery, and Coatue to revolutionize the way we work. In his spare time, Flo is a contributing writer to Forbes magazine.
1. Forbes. 13 Tips For Leading and Managing Remote Teams. https://www.forbes.com/sites/brentgleeson/2020/08/26/13-tips-for-leading-and-managing-remote-teams/?sh=ebf39d3577b6
2. Harvard Business Review. A Guide to Managing Your (Newly) Remote Workers. https://hbr.org/2020/03/a-guide-to-managing-your-newly-remote-workers
3. Harvard Division of Continuing Education. Challenges to Managing Remote Teams and How to Overcome Them. https://professional.dce.harvard.edu/blog/challenges-to-managing-virtual-teams-and-how-to-overcome-them/