Though the remote work phenomenon may have been jump-started by the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown restrictions, more and more workers are choosing to work remotely—and more businesses are choosing to hire remotely.
In a pre-pandemic world, only 6% of those employed worked exclusively from home with over 25% working remotely some of the time. That means approximately 75% of workers had never worked remotely. By 2021, those numbers had shifted significantly with 38% of employees working remotely at least part-time spending an average of 5.61 hours per week outside the office.
Today, those numbers continue to rise. Of those with jobs that can be done remotely, 59% work from home all the time while 18% work remotely some of the time. 61% of those working remotely choose not to work at the company office or work for an all-remote organization.
Home offices have increasingly become the desired workplace as workers continue to demand location flexibility and flexible work schedules. For many, remote work or remote management is new and unfamiliar territory. The expectations and realities of remote work differ from in-office work. What makes a good manager in the office may not work when managing remote teams.
Challenges of Working Remotely
Though the number of workers that prefer remote work is growing, there are still challenges of working remotely to deal with. These challenges can be difficult to address and overcome, but those in remote management should be aware of how working remotely can impact their teams.
- Loss of face-to-face supervision. Some workers thrive when they have direct supervision and a manager or supervisor they can turn to when they have questions or concerns. While remote workers do still have this, the loss of face-to-face time with management can be difficult for some.
- Limited access to necessary information. One of the challenges of working remotely is siloed information. Many organizations don’t have free access to the information employees need to complete their tasks. They may be locked out of certain applications or not know where to find something. This can be particularly difficult for remote workers as they cannot simply walk into someone’s office and ask.
- Distractions and interruptions at home. There are certainly distractions at the office. And, while studies have shown remote and hybrid workers increase productivity, the distractions at home are an altogether different beast than those in the office.
- Difficulty communicating and collaborating. Remote workers aren’t just losing face-to-face time with management. They’re losing it with coworkers as well. Remote work can impede communication and make collaboration more difficult.
- Lack of clear boundaries and expectations. This problem can occur for in-office workers as well. But remote workers don’t always feel confident reaching out to establish the boundaries and expectations that are lacking.
- Social isolation. Most remote workers work from home. That time they would have spent in the office or out for lunch is now spent in the house. It can be extremely isolating socially.
- Burnout when they can’t turn off. An inability to turn off and unplug is something 25% of remote workers struggle with. Without clear boundaries of office vs home, it can be difficult to stop working even after you’re done for the day.
- Lack of connection to coworkers. A lack of “mutual knowledge” is a “central problem of geographically dispersed collaboration” and “lowers willingness to give coworkers the benefit of the doubt in difficult situations” according to this study.
Tips for Managing Remote Workers
Managing remote teams can be a challenge. It isn’t just the workers that struggle with the challenges of working remotely. Whether you’re managing a couple of remote employees, remote contractors, or a fully distributed workforce, it can be difficult to facilitate effective remote management.
1. Communication is Key
Communication when working in the office is much simpler than when you’re managing a remote workforce. This is an important part of any working relationship, but it becomes even more critical when managing remote teams. Losing that face-to-face interaction can impede communication by cutting many of the previously relied-on lines of communication.
Nearly a quarter of remote workers struggle with communication and collaboration. Don’t let this impact your team’s productivity and deliverables. Take action. You can improve communication when you:
- Establish structured check-ins, preferably daily or every other but at least weekly.
- Offer virtual office hours or a dedicated time that you’re available to your employees and contractors.
- Establish communication guidelines or “rules of engagement.”
- Engage through several communication channels such as email, instant chat, and video conferencing.
- Maintain constant, accessible communication so workers know they can come to you at any time for anything.
- Focus on one-on-one time to help promote your workers to openly communicate where they’re struggling.
- Communicate clearly and often so they know the expectations and boundaries.
2. Combat Operational and Affinity Distance
We are finding that geographical distance is not the only type of distance remote workers struggle with. Affinity distance, which refers to the connection between coworkers, is also impacted. An alarming number of remote workers feel disconnected from their coworkers, up to 60%.
Operational distance refers to the processes and procedures. This type of distance prevents workers from properly collaborating or accessing the information they need to complete their daily tasks. This can be simpler to reduce as it only requires easier access and better organization. Create structures and well-documented processes/procedures and make them readily available and accessible.
You can help to reduce affinity distance when you:
- Provide opportunities for remote teams to interact socially.
- Virtual happy hours like trivia or group games and a virtual water cooler for interaction during work hours are great options.
- Instant chat options like Slack are also excellent for social interaction and communication.
- Offer and encourage emotional support for remote employees.
- Pay attention and listen during one-on-ones and flag those dealing with isolation and burnout/inability to unplug.
Adjust Your Expectations
Remember that managing remote teams will not be the same as managing teams in the office. Expectations need to be adjusted in terms of output and availability.
- Don’t prioritize schedules and universal working hours.
- Asynchronous schedules accommodate multiple time zones easily and can increase efficiency and promote inclusion.
- Set clear expectations and deadlines.
- Establish expectations and deadlines from the beginning
- Check-in regularly
- Communicate clearly
- Focus less on time spent at the desk and more on outputs.
If your team is fully distributed or you have many remote employees and contractors, then onboarding becomes an even more important piece of the puzzle. Improper onboarding or unclear procedures will only add to the operational distance your workers are feeling.
Best Practices for Remote Management
What makes a good in-office manager is not the same as what makes a good remote manager. The list of soft skills—and sometimes hard skills—that remote management needs will overlap some, but the priorities may be different.
- Good remote management means being:
- Good remote managers will:
- Avoid micromanagement
- If they are actively communicating and not missing deadlines, trust they’re being productive
- Celebrate successes
- Don’t just focus on failures
Remote management can become even more efficient when you partner with an established global EOR/AOR. People2.0 is the largest global employer of record (EOR) and agent of record (AOR) services platform. We can help you onboard remote employees, handle the complexities of payroll for your distributed workforce, and ensure you are always hiring compliantly. Contact People2.0 today to learn more.