Remote Team Management: Challenges and Solutions for Project Managers
We can all see the benefits that remote work is offering to companies and their employees. There have been various studies showing that remote work is the future of work and several ways of how businesses should take advantage of it.
So, how do employees benefit if they choose to go remote? A study by Owl Labs confirmed that remote employees are 22% happier than in-office employees. Remote employees have a better life-work balance offering them the opportunity to be more focused and productive. Therefore remote employees are working longer hours than in-office employees by 43%. A survey by Gallup also found that 51% of employees would quit their job for a more flexible or remote one.
Besides, companies also profit from remote teams. By going remote, they can reach global talent, instead of limiting themselves to local employees. The cost of hiring a remote team equals zero, considering the investments in renting a big workspace and purchasing high-tech equipment. In fact, according to a poll by Global Workplace Analytics, companies that allow their employees to work from home can save an average of $11,000 a year. Isn’t this a fantastic fact to help you stay ahead of your competitors?
Nevertheless, remote work comes with particular challenges that fall under the responsibility of the project managers. Therefore, in this article, we’ll elaborate on all the potential hurdles that can emerge when managing remote teams. We’ll also share some solutions if you face some of the most common challenges.
Communication in Remote Teams
We have to admit that effective communication is the basis of a successful collaboration. Communication is essential for every team and the key to a functional virtual team. Since you don’t see your remote team in-person, there is a lot of space for miscommunication.
To avoid such issues, the project manager should establish a culture for open communication. It can be done by scheduling frequent conference calls for discussions or encouraging transparency and honesty. Whenever miscommunication occurs, reconnecting through chat or direct calls can sort out the issues quickly. This way, every team member will get a chance to speak their mind in informal interaction.
Coordination Between Different Time Zones
Time zone differences can be a real challenge for virtual IT teams, mainly if the team members are on different continents. When the time zone difference is more than 8 hours, there is an obstacle in scheduling meetings. For instance, the meeting would be outside of regular working hours for some team members, intruding on their time.
However, once there is more flexibility on both sides, you’ll fix the issue. For example, the project manager can divide the project into several parts, so the team members from a closer time zone work on the same fraction. It will leave a lot of open space for collaboration between the team members without any problems.
Also, if you are the project manager of employees that don’t have similar time zones, you have to provide them with another type of compensation for the additional time they are going to spend on meetings. Besides, you can always record the sessions for the members who can’t attend.
Culture and Language Barriers
Working with a diverse team will mean a lot of different ideas, backgrounds and mindsets in one place. Getting to work with global talent means that every team member would have a distinct style of work as well as a different personality. While this can be a great advantage, it can also be a challenging task for project managers.
When working with a remote team, the cultural aspect may impact a lot on how employees prioritize the project. Also, it can affect the way team members communicate with each other. In this case, managers should be open-minded and fully accept all the team members, not flavoring anyone.
The solution to this issue is to create more team-building activities where employees can share some aspects of their country and culture. This way, the team members will get to know each other more, surpassing the differences easier.
For example, Intersog offers US businesses dedicated teams and staffing solutions to help US companies support business innovation and implement IT projects within the outlined strategy.
Trust and Cohesion
Getting close to your colleagues to a point when they become your friends is so easy when you are spending 8+ hours next to one another. It’s well-known that face-to-face relationships create trust and friendship between colleagues.
However, when managing a virtual team, there isn’t an opportunity for such bonding moments. It indicates that two things are essential: team-building and trust-establishing exercises.
Also, if you don’t trust your employees, you can’t expect them to trust you or trust each other. To establish trust, try to give your employees honest and frequent feedback.
Productivity and Motivation
Low productivity and motivation can be an issue for remote team members. It is because not every employee is self-motivated or can set clear boundaries.
Measuring the productivity of your virtual employees can be done by viewing the final result. But what happens when the final result takes a year to be delivered? Let’s imagine your remote team is working on a software development project. We all know that these things take time. So, how can you measure the productivity of your team at the end of each day? It can be a tempting chance for employees to either procrastinate or overwork and experience a burnout.
To solve this issue, you can set mini daily or weekly goals and be upfront about the expectations you have of your employees. At the end of each day, you should be aware of how much work they’ve done. It doesn’t mean you should micromanage them but you should have a detailed plan ahead of time.
Now that you are well-aware of all the challenges that come with managing remote teams, you’ll be more prepared if you face them, right?