The world has been going increasingly remote for more than a decade. This decade is proving to be a culmination of this phenomenon.
It’s become completely clear than ever that remote work isn’t a passing fad – it’s an evolution in the way many brands function. Employees like it, and companies save a substantial amount of money on office space, equipment, and other necessities.
An increasing number of companies are “going remote” – for a variety of reasons.
Plus, we’ve recently realised how valuable flexibility is when national crises occur. The capability to work from anywhere, at any time, is hugely beneficial for all kinds of teams.
Despite the benefits, transitioning to a remote work environment isn’t without its challenges. Especially during the early days of working from home, your company will likely encounter a number of setbacks.
Here are five of the most common challenges teams repeatedly encounter when running remotely – as well as some ways to combat these frequent issues.
Clinging to the old ways of doing things
Upwork recently predicted at least 73 percent of all business departments will have remote workers by 2028. Based on today’s situation, the statistic seems more than believable. In fact, there are plenty of remote-based careers that are in more demand than ever before. Some of the big ones include:
- Data collectors
- Contact tracers
- Healthcare administration workers
- E-commerce experts
Now, a mass shift in remote demand does not come without growing pains.
The first problem we often see with managing remote employees is a reluctance to truly adapt. Work life in the office is vastly different than work life at home. As you transition to a remote work environment, your team’s methods, communication strategies, and even your software or equipment will likely need to change.
Many companies run into serious problems when they try to fit their old, comfortable game plans into this new box. Rather than adapting to more agile, innovative tactics, they try to conform their previous workflows and tools into their work-from-home setup. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always work.
For instance, let’s say you’re used to an old system with lots of workarounds and problems. You might have made do in the office, but when people are working from their own devices at different locations, this complication could drive people up a wall.
Another example (and arguably the most prevalent) is day-to-day communication. In the office, it’s super easy to ask questions, work together on projects, resolve issues, etc. when you’re sitting right next to each other. At home, everything is different.
Success in work-from-home setups comes down to the system you have in place. If your team hasn’t been using project management software, now is most definitely the time to start.
In order to succeed with a remote team, you need to have an open mind when it comes to adopting new practices, protocols, and technologies. This might include video conferencing tools, expanded cloud storage, time management software, and more. The more you’re willing to modernise, the higher your productivity will be in work-from-home environments.
Company culture lacks trust
Another common problem is a lack of trust and understanding between remote colleagues. When your team is out of sight, it’s easy to assume they’re slacking, misusing time, or under-performing.
Plain and simple, it’s impossible to successfully run a remote team if you can’t trust each other. Many team leaders know, so they turn to surveillance systems to monitor remote employee activity.
The problem with the strategy? It doesn’t actually build trust.
Tracking software makes many remote employees feel mistrusted and unappreciated, and doesn’t contribute to team camaraderie.
“It really destroyed morale for everyone,” said a woman in an NPR interview after her job installed remote work surveillance software. “Everyone [in the company] has since kind of taken a step back and said, ‘All right, if this is how they’re going to treat us, why go the extra mile?’ Because clearly it doesn’t matter to them.”
The reality of remote work is that micromanaging is not a viable option. For many company cultures, this mass shift to work-from-home setups requires an equal shift in mindset.
Instead of micromanaging your employees 24/7, find other ways to build confidence and sustain your company culture. Schedule calls as often as needed. Come up with time-tracking solutions of which aren’t intrusive. Ask employees what they need to do their jobs well each and every day.
Training isn’t impactful
Another all-too-common mistake is poor remote work training. People are going to be adopting new skills and different technology when they transition to a WFH environment – and requires proper education.
It’s important to understand remote training and in-person training are two different beasts. In-person, people are free to ask questions in real time and get full clarification. In other words, in-person training is easier, interactive, and more communicative.
At home, the environment is much less controlled. Companies need a solution that keeps people engaged and answers questions as soon as they come up. A PowerPoint might have sufficed in your office setting, but now, people need hands-on training sessions they can do while alone in their own homes. Sending out a flyer or slideshow isn’t going to have the impact you want it to.
Instead, try out some different delivery models. There are tons of great tools out there, from conference platforms to webinar services, which will help you train effectively from wherever you are. Some of the most popular tools include:
- iSpring Learn MS
- Zoho Showtime
You should also make sure information is readily available for any remote worker who has questions. It’s a good idea to compile an easily accessible library of resources, from help documents to training manuals and more. You can also create an online video library with content organised under courses; something like your own internal Coursera.
Training in the age of remote work is no simple task – and we are still very much in the infancy stage of it. Prior to the pandemic, remote training was simply an option. Now, it’s a requirement.
One of the biggest challenges of working from home? Network connections. In the office, there is a budget for high speed internet and an IT team on call to fix any issues. This is simply not the case at home.
All too often, at-home workers are plagued by glitchy phone calls, emails failing to send, and WiFi going in and out. These are problems which can significantly drive down productivity levels, as well as lead to immense frustration for your team if they are using cloud services.
Wondering what you can do to improve connectivity when you’re all working at different places?
Look into what kinds of internet connections are best for different areas and living situations. Ask your team members to check their ping rates, and if they aren’t adequate, come up with strategies to improve their connection before anyone rips their hair out.
Research from Nielsen/NetRatings indicates fewer than six percent of Americans with internet service have high-speed access at home. As more and more workers start their days at home, we’ll need to place a much bigger emphasis on fixing connectivity issues if productivity is to stay stable.
General uncertainty and confusion
Last but not least, consider the emotional toll a transition to remote work can render.
There are lots of benefits attached to running teams remotely, but during the initial stages, there can also be lots of hiccups. Frustration, confusion, uncertainty, and anxiety often accompany those first few months as everyone adjusts.
Whether your remote situation is temporary or permanent, there’s no room for grey areas. Your team needs to understand exactly what their responsibilities are, and leaders need to explain expectations thoroughly from the get-go.
The true key to handling uncertain emotions is improving communication and being 100 percent transparent. Everyone on your team will need to voice their concerns and questions to ensure work flows smoothly. A lack of open communication leads to more anxiety, gossip, and general unrest – none of which contribute to a strong remote team.
Give your team time to adjust (and fail) a few times, but also push forward with a continuous stream of open dialogue. Over time, people will begin to feel more settled in their work-from-home routine and have confidence in their new methods.
Regardless of what the rest of this decade brings, we know remote work is becoming increasingly popular. Now’s the time to determine how your company would (or will) handle common WFH challenges like the ones presented above.
The more effort you put into tackling these hurdles, the smoother the transition to remote work will be for you and your team. Build your plan now to save yourself a world of headaches when some, or all, of your team members begin working from home.
About the Author
Aakanksha Shukla is a brand strategist at E2M. She works on strategising deliverables so as to bridge the gap between marketing and the potential customers. When she is not working, she is either dancing or reading scientific innovations and business magazines to understand the world and its dynamics. She can be reached on Twitter and Facebook.