A Comprehensive Guide to Overcoming Remote Team Management Obstacles

remote worker conversation
Cecilia Gorman
October 2 2023

Across a broad spectrum of industries, the trend of remote work is gaining traction for both organizations and their workforce. Evidence has shown that when employees have the liberty to operate from a setting of their choice, they typically demonstrate enhanced productivity, greater job satisfaction, and improved overall happiness.

However, navigating the waters of remote team leadership introduces a unique set of complexities for managers. When a team is not working together in the same physical space, its leader must be able to provide guidance and manage performance without being present.

To fully capitalize on the benefits of a remote team, organizations and their managers must learn how to overcome potential challenges that can arise.

Absence of Direct Interpersonal Interaction or Supervision

The common concern among leaders is that remote workers may not display the same level of dedication as those working from the office. On the other hand, employees grapple with the absence of adequate managerial support and communication, often leaving them feeling overlooked and unsupported in their task execution.

A highly effective strategy for managers is to set up regular, daily or weekly touchpoints. These scheduled interactions provide a platform for employees and managers to voice any concerns, discuss potential roadblocks, or share feedback, all while maintaining a sense of connection to the workplace culture.

Managers should also establish clear project milestones accompanied by firm deadlines. This approach keeps everyone on track and builds a sense of accomplishment and forward momentum for teams.

Reduced Productivity

Many who opt for remote work often cite an increase in productivity. However, it’s worth noting that this isn’t a universal experience for everyone. Some employees flourish within the interactive environment of a physical office and may find it difficult to adapt to working remotely without immediate oversight.

Maintaining steady productivity in any work setting hinges on routine and structure. It’s crucial for everyone to have well-defined roles and responsibilities, adhere to set schedules, and have clear communication about team tasks. This ensures everyone understands how goals and deadlines are met, rather than feeling they carry a heavier workload than their remote colleagues.

Ineffective Communication

When teams are not in the same physical space, it’s easy to be out of sync about progress and updates. To avoid miscommunication and errors, remote managers should set expectations for communication within the team. They should clearly define how employees should share tasks and collaborate with each other to ensure everyone is on the same page.

Regular check-ins and meetings between team members are also essential. These can be used to review updates, discuss successes and failures, and provide feedback. Video conference calls should be leveraged to lend a sense of emotion and connection, while using project management tools helps everyone keep track of tasks and timelines.

Lack of Accountability

Working in an office environment provides employees with a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities. However, transitioning to a remote work setup may often lead to confusion as the direct translation of these responsibilities in a virtual setting might not be apparent.

Establishing expectations at the outset and continuing to reinforce them regularly is crucial, particularly concerning performance objectives and key milestones. Your procedures should be well-defined and documented to eliminate any uncertainty or ambiguity. This not only helps to streamline the workflow but also aids in maintaining transparency and accountability among the team.

Setting boundaries is another essential aspect of managing remote employees. While ensuring that tasks are completed and goals are met, respecting your employees’ personal time is equally important. Encourage them to attend meetings and respond to communications during their working hours. A realistic approach to this can prevent employees from feeling overwhelmed or overworked.

Poor Teamwork

Effective communication is vital in any workplace, but in a remote setting, it can pose a unique set of challenges. One of these challenges involves maintaining team cohesiveness without the benefit of spontaneous interactions that naturally occur in an office environment.

This issue can be further exacerbated when managers oversee teams operating in different settings – on-site, remotely, or a combination of both.

As a manager, your role is to ensure fairness across all teams, regardless of their work settings. One way to achieve this is by actively eliminating biases that may favor one group over another.
For instance, if you’re accustomed to treating your on-site team to lunches or dinners during project work, extending similar gestures of appreciation to your remote employees would be prudent. This could be done by providing gift cards, allowing them to enjoy a meal while showing that their efforts are equally valued.

On the same note, if your remote team enjoys the perk of flexible working hours, it would be beneficial to consider offering the same advantage to your on-site employees. This not only evens the playing field but also promotes a sense of unity and inclusivity among all team members, regardless of their geographical location or work arrangement.

Negative Company Culture

Building a vibrant company culture within a remote team calls for a strategic plan, much like any other project. While it may naturally evolve in a physical office environment, it requires deliberate cultivation when dealing with remote or hybrid teams. This process should initiate from the leadership and management levels, eventually permeating to the employees.

For instance, if your goal is to promote a culture that supports an open-door policy, it’s essential for remote team members to understand that this extends to a virtual “open door.” This means they should feel comfortable contacting their superiors or colleagues with concerns or ideas.

If your organizational culture leans towards a casual and fun atmosphere, you can institute perks that mirror this ethos. One way to do this could be by hosting virtual events or allowing your remote team to participate in activities such as corporate retreats in physical or online spaces.
Equally important is providing employees with the right tools and resources to help them work effectively. These could include access to effective communication platforms, cloud-based file-sharing software, and vetted project management tools for security and compliance measures.

Manage Your Remote Team Effectively

Overseeing remote and hybrid teams presents a different set of challenges than conventional management, yet many fundamental principles remain the same. By staying mindful of the needs of your employees and instituting effective procedures, you can create a successful remote work environment that meets both the needs of your team and the organization as a whole. 

Wildly addicted to all things leadership, Cecilia Gorman is a veteran of the advertising industry and the owner of Creative Talent Partners, a training consultancy that specializes in the development of rising managers and their teams. Whether it’s a team offsite, a manager workshop or through her online Manager Boot Camp course, Cecilia’s sole pursuit is adding value to growth-focused employees.

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