Remote working is the new normal for many businesses and workers across the globe.
Gartner estimates remote workers account for at least 53% of the workforce in the U.S. and 52% across Europe and the U.K. this year. This is after accounting for variations in remote adaptation based on digital sophistication, type of industry, and prevailing culture.
Advanced economies like the Netherlands are on the brink of legalising citizens’ right to work from home, making a large-scale shift to remote work a global trend. One that other nations and companies are bound to follow sooner rather than later.
It’s time to define a new work culture after the pandemic accelerated a global shift to remote work.
In customer service, too, consumers look for virtual solutions over in-person service. As digital communication outpaces the telephone, businesses must prepare a smooth transition towards online support by embracing virtual team management.
As remote working gains ground over traditional office roles, it’s crucial to be aware of the challenges of managing a remote team and how to overcome them.
Armed with this guide, you can confidently lead your remote workforce into the latest era of work.
Challenges of managing remote employees: #1 Communication hurdles
One of the biggest challenges of managing a remote team is communication. It can take some getting used to employees not being around in the office for quick face-to-face interactions. Rounding people up for an impromptu discussion or brainstorm session takes more planning than walking into their workspace.
There’s also the danger of over or under-communicating with your team. Too much communication and you err on the side of unhealthy micromanagement or Zoom fatigue that leads to a less than ideal performance. Too little and there’s the possibility of lack of clarity and goals not being met. So how do you get past that?
✅ Solution: Asynchronous communication with digital tools
Managing remote teams is based on asynchronous communication: not occurring in real time. So to schedule work processes efficiently, plan forward. Leave nothing to immediacy. Team goals cannot suffer from messages not being read on time.
Use the latest communication tools to collaborate with your team seamlessly over email, chat, video calls, or messaging boards. Apps like Outlook, Teams, Zoom and Slack are all remote working’s new best friends.
Keep your check-ins regular so everything that needs to be said is said — but stop there. Just because you have the tools, don’t overuse them. Be especially wary of over-communicating.
Remote team members have much more screen exposure than ever before, so the threat of digital fatigue is ever-present. Get rid of unnecessary video conferencing meetings that drain energy and reduce productivity.
Challenges of managing remote employees: #2 Supervision
For most managers used to working from brick-and-mortar offices, one of the biggest challenges of managing a remote team is the lack of traditional supervisory methods.
When employees aren’t physically in the office anymore, how do you know work is getting done? Can virtual meetings help you supervise how your remote team works?
✅ Solution: Set clear goals and lead with trust
Healthy remote team management isn’t about overzealous time-tracking or overloading employees with work out of fear they’re slacking off. On the contrary, set clear expectations and healthy goals regularly, and then just let your team get on with it.
Forcing outdated supervisory methods or unrealistic workflows won’t go far in a remote set-up. It could negatively impact employee confidence and leave people feeling under surveillance or overburdened.
Instead, pay attention to the calibre of your virtual team’s performance. As long as the work is high quality, it shouldn’t matter to you what employees do every minute of the day. Give remote team members flexibility over their work hours and days and trust them to do their jobs.
Remember, even in an office environment; people take time to gossip at the water cooler, step out for lunch, leave work early, or space out alone.
Challenges of managing remote employees: #3 Team unity
Many modern offices might function in hybrid work setups to accommodate remote working, as not all jobs can be done from home (though a fairly large percentage can.)
When a percentage of your employees work from a home office halfway around the world while others report onsite, it’s essential that everyone on a hybrid team feels treated equally.
But how do you ensure that happens?
✅ Solution: Focus on equality and don’t leave anyone out
Treat everyone the same, whether they’re working remotely or non-remotely; this requires deliberate thought and effort.
For example, it’s easy to neglect remote workers who can’t attend employee engagement activities and office events in person due to geographical limitations. But feeling excluded is an isolating and demoralising experience for anyone, and more so for remote employees.
To avoid seeming neglectful, give them time off or alternative activities sponsored by the office for the duration of the event they’re missing. That way, everyone in the team feels included and valued, even if they aren’t physically present.
It’s easy to let ‘out of sight, out of mind’ become a working norm, but it can leave virtual employees feeling cut off from office culture. This has detrimental effects on mental health and negatively affects motivation and productivity.
Challenges of managing remote employees #4: Company culture
One of the common challenges of managing a remote team is sustaining a strong company culture. But culture is something humans build together through social interaction, shared beliefs, and mutual practice. So how can employees connect with your company and each other in a remote environment? And with that in mind, how do you sustain strong company culture?
✅ Solution: Create opportunities for virtual activities
Reinforce a vibrant work culture through virtual team-building activities. Trust circle exercises, inspirational programs, motivational speaker sessions, and learning events — explore them all and come up with your own ideas.
Think outside the box, from Funny Hat Fridays and Trivia Thursdays to mental health initiatives and meetings to discuss people’s personal experiences or share their culture and lives. As upper management, it’s on you to foster a sense of belonging within your remote team.
Challenges of managing remote employees #5: Remote collaboration
Distance hiring opens up recruitment opportunities globally, so your employees can technically work for you from anywhere. As a result, you might hire some internationally whilst others may relocate to places more suitable to their budget or taste.
But how can you ensure that everyone collaborates smoothly with remote team members working across different time zones, irregular shift hours, and work schedules?
✅ Solution: Regular team meetings and collaborative tools
Healthy remote collaboration is crucial for managing a diverse and globally spread-out team. Luckily there are handy digital tools and processes to help connect remote employees, so they function well as a team.
From Asana and Miro boards to Zoom and Microsoft Teams, there are many options to ensure your team works smoothly together at every project level.
Challenges of managing remote employees #6: Mentoring
In a traditional office, mentoring your juniors so they can grow professionally and take on higher roles of responsibility is easy. However, when your proteges are physically around you, they can learn how you get things done by observing.
But how can you replicate this natural advancement of skills in a remote team?
✅ Solution: One-on-ones and growth focused sessions
Brainstorm ways in which you can help remote workers gain additional skills by taking an active role in helping them advance their careers. This works just as well virtually as in a physical office.
Consider regular online check-ins, one-on-one mentoring sessions, training video calls, and focus-driven conversations. Design in-depth training initiatives so they develop the right skills. Schedule shadowing sessions so juniors can observe and learn while you’re on the job.
Be with them every step of the way to help them grow professionally and advance their careers within your organisation.
Challenges of managing remote employees #7: Legal considerations
While remote hiring opens the gates of access to talent worldwide, there are specific legal and admin implications to consider.
Lengthy contracts and paperwork are often involved in remote hiring, with due diligence to international labour laws. So how can you be sure you’re contracting and payrolling your new remote employees with full legal compliance?
✅ Solution: Hire experts or third-party services
If your organisation lacks the bandwidth to look after all the necessary paperwork, consider outsourcing to a trusted Employer of Record or a third-party payment provider.
You need your legal game on point while you grapple with the new challenges of managing a remote team. So it’s worth your while to enlist professionals who can do this for you instead of taking it all on yourself.
From payroll to contracting international hires, reliable and experienced organisations can ensure your hiring paperwork and legal considerations are in order.
Challenges of managing remote employees #8: Data Security
The last challenges of managing a remote team are online security and data privacy. With a lot of confidential business data online, how can you make sure it stays secure?
✅ Solution: Introduce rigorous security protocols
As remote working steadily gains ground, businesses worldwide are constantly strengthening their IT security. Multinational software developers are refining online data security protocols to safeguard business operations online.
Give your remote employees secure login access to a cloud office with the latest cyber safety protocols. Additionally, consider enabling remote desktop access, two-factor authentication, secure VPNs, and state-of-the-art antipiracy software. You can also integrate all of it into a secure project management system so everything runs smoothly, safely, and in sync.
The perks of managing remote teams
Feeling prepped on how to overcome the challenges of managing a remote team? Then why not unlock the power of distance hiring and go fully remote with your customer service?
Remote support broadens your recruitment possibilities by letting you access a limitless pool of global talent. And your customers benefit from top-class in-house service — digital, omnichannel, language-specialised, and culturally inclusive.
The Cocoroco platform offers you the creme-de-la-creme of ready-to-hire agents at your fingertips. Onboarding skilled, vetted, and qualified talent has never been easier.