The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic had a massive effect on our economy as well as disrupting the way in which we work. We no longer travel to our workplaces as much as we used to and it seems that this new way of working might be here to stay.
Studies show that 64 percent of organizations say that the shift to virtual teamwork will likely be a permanent one because of COVID-19. Getting on a train or hopping in your car to drive to work isn’t necessary anymore. Remote work is now considered to be a normal way of getting things done, rather than a lengthy office commute and a team who meet face to face. This new remote workplace has its own set of challenges that can create problems when you are getting tasks done using team members who are in different locations.
The stresses and pressure on a team leader or manager are different from the one's leaders would have had a few years ago. 75 percent of virtual teams worldwide say that remote collaboration allowed them to be more effective in their jobs.
Challenges of managing offsite employees
Challenges crop up in any workplace. As a team leader, it is how you rise to the occasion and solve the problems presented to you while maintaining a strong sense of teamwork that counts. Remote teams require a lot of scheduling and communication needs to be especially effective in this scenario. In 2020 another study found that 20 percent of remote teams struggle to collaborate with their fellow remote team members.
There are a few challenges that crop up repeatedly when it comes to remote team management. Being aware of some of the main pitfalls that lie before you means you can mentally prepare for when you have to solve the problems at hand swiftly and effectively. No matter what your team has to accomplish you have to be there for them, through thick and thin. You are no longer a single individual, you have to think as a team. Once you do that you will experience a different reality. A survey found that one of the top challenges faced by virtual teams is managing conflict.
Conflict is a normal part of the way that humans work together, unfortunately, and it can create stress but it can also resolve deeper issues that translate to better productivity. Conflict is inevitable when it comes to running teams of any sort. Sadly, remote working has its own sets of challenges. Working remotely can lead to very stressful situations due to a number of factors. A study found that 31 percent of companies struggle with conflict management and resolution. These conflicts may seem insurmountable if you don’t understand the landscape you are now dealing with, rather than supposing previous methods will suffice.
Luckily these types of worries can be easily eliminated if you stay on your toes. In a normal work environment, you would have been able to call a meeting and sort out the issues at hand in-person but when remote workers come into play you have to now consider a few more factors than you had to previously. As a leader, remote team management is part of your responsibility -- to help your remote team members through difficult situations and resolve any issues that arise.
If team members are involved in a conflict, get all the information you can and then find the time to set up a video conference and get to the bottom of the issue fast. Don’t leave anyone behind. If you let it fester it will create a toxic environment that makes getting tasks completed almost impossible. You have to get an equilibrium back to your team and get moving.
Common conflicts for remote teams
Skills: If a person on the team that is working remotely doesn’t have the required skills to get the work done on time and within budget, it is going to have a knock-on effect on the rest of the team and your clients or customers will suffer. Working with them to get their skill set up to speed as a coach will help the team and everyone involved get ahead without conflict. According to research, 32 percent of companies have training issues when it comes to managing remote teams.
Culture and language: A simple misunderstanding can mess up your best-laid plans. A survey discovered that 86 percent of companies find difficulty in communication and 80 percent have a hard time understanding different accents. It isn’t just language and accents that can create a misunderstanding, though. Not knowing that there is a religious holiday or observation that a team member has to attend could result in irreparable miscommunication or upsets.
Similarly, some religions fast over certain times. Empathy goes a long way, here. Understanding your team members personally means you have better emotional access to them. This helps you get the best out of your remote team workers.
Difficulty in communication: 86 percent of companies have communication difficulties. Some of that is due to time zone differences (88 percent struggle with different time zones). Being unable to connect with a fellow remote team member when you need them can be frustrating and can even lead to arguments and blame being projected at various levels of the team. If you need a fast change or turnaround on a project having to wait half a day until your remote team comes online could be a straw that breaks the camel's back when it comes to working well together seamlessly.
Running remote teams means you have to work virtually. Technology is used to get everyone on the team working well together. Humans are all social creatures and teams need support even when you are all in the same place. As a remote team manager, you are the leader and need to lead by setting a great example. Supporting your team properly needs a new approach compared to the 20th-century techniques managers have used before. Expanding your understanding of the challenges you will face with your team will enable you to become a 21st-century coach that is there for the team and makes sure that each and every team member achieves their best.