In 2019, more than 26 million Americans, or 16% of the labor force, worked remotely at least part of the time. However, the coronavirus pandemic has forced many companies to adopt flexible working arrangements. So, we can expect a bigger percentage of the workforce working remotely. A recent study conducted by GitLab noted that nearly 9 out of 10 workers believe that remote work is the future.
Indeed, remote work is driving a workplace revolution – and this is beneficial for both the companies and the workers. Studies show that remote workers tend to be healthier, more productive, and enjoy a more positive work-life balance. Remote work benefits employers in terms of increased productivity and efficiency, improved employee satisfaction and retention, access to talent, and improved communication.
But while working out of the office offers a long list of benefits, it also has its challenges that businesses need to avoid or overcome. A specialist at remote staffing agency Allshore reminds businesses that transitioning to a virtual work setup does not happen overnight. In fact, even with the best plans in place, businesses can still encounter organizational troubles. Fortunately, there are tools and strategies to help businesses avoid or overcome these issues.
Transitioning to a purely remote setup does not happen overnight. It requires careful planning to ensure seamless operations. Without careful planning, organizational issues and problems can crop up. Here we take a look at the top 5 organizational challenges of remote work and how to avoid them.
Difficulty managing projects
Managing projects is one of the top organizational challenges. When your team is working from remote locations, it can be difficult to track and monitor each team member. Managers play a crucial role in ensuring that everyone is on the same page. This guarantees that deadlines are met, targets achieved, and quality maintained.
If you’re having a hard time managing on-site workers, consider managing virtual workers doubly challenging. Communication tends to be more difficult and tracking individual tasks can be troublesome, especially if you have large teams and complex projects.
To address this organizational problem, you need to equip your team with the right tools. There are project management solutions designed to streamline work assignment and tracking. With these software solutions, you can assign/reassign tasks, set deadlines, and update progress statuses. There are plenty of options available that can suit your requirements and budget.
As mentioned above, communication can be a significant challenge in a virtual work arrangement. In traditional work set up, team members, managers, and supervisors can easily talk about operational concerns. In case there are urgent issues, you can set a meeting or send a memorandum for everyone to be aware of. There are also plenty of opportunities to talk to team members and discuss projects lengthily.
With remote work, communication can be limited. If you have a global team, time zone differences, and language barriers can further complicate communication issues.
So, aside from emails, virtual teams should leverage technology, such as Slack, Skype, Zoom, and GoToMeeting, to ensure seamless communication.
If your project requires a daily meeting, set a daily meeting time that is feasible for everyone. Managers should set a weekly meeting with each team member, wherein you can talk about the tasks’ progress, provide an update on plans, and thresh out other work-related issues. Allot time where your team members can openly communicate with each other. Encourage your team to talk about their problems and keep your lines open to them. Communication, even virtually, can help build rapport among team members and develop a positive company culture.
If you’re managing workers across different time zones, scheduling can be a challenge, especially if tasks and projects require synchronous work. Coordinating work time can be stressful. You might find yourself staying up night and day waiting for updates and outputs from each employee. Without proper tools and strategies, the time difference can lead to unnecessary downtime, costly delays, and lost productivity.
Be creative with your staff schedule. When setting meetings, find a time that falls within every team member’s workday. For some, it can be the start of the workday while for others it can be at the end.
Assign tasks depending on worker availability and operational processes. For instance, tasks that need to be completed first should be assigned to team members with an advanced time zone. Scheduling software can make it easier for team members to stay updated and keep track of work progress. There are also time-tracking solutions that allow managers to monitor work continuously. Ask your employees about their availability and be open to feedback. This can help you further improve scheduling and avoid operational issues.
Language and cultural barriers
Language and cultural differences can be a major challenge in a globally diverse team. As discussed above, the language barrier can lead to communication problems. Likewise, cultural differences can result in misunderstanding and friction within the workforce.
Diversity can have a profound impact on the team’s interaction and productivity. For instance, employee attitudes can be related to their culture. Americans tend to be straightforward while Asians tend to be timid, which can lead to cultural clashes. Managers must be trained on how to handle and overcome diverse cultural differences to ensure that the global team works as one.
Remote teams should invest in virtual team-building exercises. Allow team members to share insights about their culture. One way of appreciating different cultures is by knowing their customs and celebrating their holidays. Encourage warm relationships and respect to everyone in the team. By addressing cultural differences and barriers, you can ensure a satisfied and productive virtual workforce.
If the issues discussed above are not fully addressed, it can lead to poor productivity. Remote workers can also encounter personal challenges such as dealing with distractions, technology issues, and work-life balance. These can make them unproductive. Some team members might realize that remote work arrangement is just not for them.
There are various tools designed to help individuals, teams, and businesses to improve the productivity of remote employees. For example, you should encourage workers to avoid multitasking and assign them single tasks only. Require remote employees to dedicate a space that is clear of distractions. Equip your team members with productivity tools. Lastly, regularly assess their output and give feedback. Occasional rewards (or even just a show of appreciation) for great work can also encourage productivity.
These are just a few of the organizational challenges of remote work. It is important to pay attention to these issues to ensure success and enjoy the full benefits of virtual teams.