The 3 Key Challenges of Managing Remote Employees and How to Overcome Them
Just a decade ago, only 9.5% of American employees worked from home. Before the pandemic, that number had risen to 17%—a modest rise, although expected given digital advances. But after the coronavirus became a national concern, full-time remote work in the U.S. rose to 44%.
Naturally, businesses have been forced to adjust to this new normal. For supervisors tasked with managing employees—many of whom are now working from home—it has been a difficult transition. But one they must adapt to in order to succeed.
Now, remote-working is likely here to stay in some shape or form. Knowing this, if you are currently managing remote employees, there are three key challenges you should focus on to retain loyalty, foster productivity, and support their mental health:
Challenge #1: Communication
Communication fuels a successful workplace. But it becomes a much greater challenge to effectively distribute information and manage teams when you can no longer talk face-to-face. According to Buffer’s 2020 State of Remote Work survey, communication and collaboration were the number one hurdle reported by both employees and management.
Effective communication is essential for workers to thrive in their remote roles, particularly if you want your teams to operate smoothly and efficiently. Put simply, it is the key to battling social isolation, home distractions, and a lack of in-person supervision.
So, how can you support your teams even when work is decentralized? You can overcome this challenge by:
- Using collaborative work management tools – Digital project management tools offer an easy way to centralize your communication, ensure visibility on projects, and collaborate remotely. SaaS products like Asana or Trello are powerful platforms that can keep everyone in the loop and on the same page.
- Selecting the best communication channel – With interpersonal communication temporarily unavailable, many businesses have naturally turned to digital communication platforms to fill the gap. Whether it is video conferencing, Slack messaging, email, or phone calls, there are various tools at your disposal. What matters most is choosing the right tool for the right moment.
- Schedule regular team meetings, check-ins, and updates – It is important to maintain regular meetings so that everyone in your organization is informed and aligned. By scheduling frequent check-ins, you can help build a company culture of communication while providing employees with a virtual way to collaborate.
Challenge #2: Tracking Employee Productivity
It is easy to keep tabs on what each employee is working on in a standard office environment. There is less guesswork about whether someone is excelling or slacking off.
But when everyone is out of office, accountability starts to slip. Some employees may work too much, and others not enough. As a result, many business leaders are scrambling to find ways to ensure that their teams are staying efficient and productive.
As someone tasked with managing employees from home, burnout is a genuine factor that you must also keep in mind. A common pandemic work joke goes: “We’re not working from home; we’re living at work.” Without establishing clear boundaries between work and home, it becomes easy for the workday to feel “never-ending.” But it is essential that those boundaries are set, or else worker exhaustion and frustration will be inevitable.
So how can you keep your teams accountable without invading their privacy? Consider these tips:
- Create goals and then gauge progress – People work at different paces, and that is absolutely natural. But you should have a general idea of how long certain tasks will take. By setting individual goals and tasks on both a daily and weekly basis, it becomes much simpler to gauge an employee’s productivity.
- Create support structures – Team managers must be paying attention to their employees to prevent burnout. Encourage and support your employees to find a work/life balance. This means checking out when the day is done, taking vacation days, and finding time to relax. It also means modeling these behaviors in your own life since employees will likely follow your example.
- Set regular one-on-one check-ins – Similarly, routine check-ins are among the best ways managers can keep track of and support their employees as both workers and individuals. This is not just about keeping them accountable; it also gives you a chance to gauge their workload and identify whether they require support.
Challenge #3: Maintaining Company Culture and Trust
Trust is the fundamental bedrock to any relationship. For a business to succeed, employees must trust and believe in the company, and vice versa. It is only through this shared culture and vision that employees will continue to strive for excellence. When that happens, your employees will be more engaged and excited to collaborate.
But building and establishing these virtues takes time. It requires a combination of concentrated effort, the right employees, and continuous communication. Creating company culture starts from the top down. Management must model this ethos, or employees probably will likely not follow.
That said, you can help foster a spirit of trust and positive work culture by taking the following steps:
- Create a mission statement – Employees, especially younger generations, want to be a part of a value mission-driven organization. According to a Korn Ferry study, organizations that define their core purpose—and integrate those values throughout their operations—will not only improve their bottom line but also transform their organization across the board.
- Provide encouragement and emotional support – Employees need to know that they are seen and heard. Effective managers acknowledge the stress employees are under and then support them in their journey, whether verbally or through their actions. This gives employees a sense of belonging and shared purpose.
- Make opportunities for social interaction (remotely) – Employees must know one another as individuals outside of their work role. According to Harvard Business Review: “One of the most essential steps a manager can take is to structure ways for employees to interact socially (that is, have informal conversations about non-work topics) while working remotely.” Whether it’s a happy hour, game time, or a general chit-chat, there are plenty of virtual events that can help people bond outside of classic work structures.
Outsourcing: Your Ultimate Remote Work Solution
Managing employees can be a challenge even when the entire world isn’t in the throes of a pandemic. But when the workplace is decentralized, you must go out of your way to improve communication, keep employees accountable, and build a common company culture.
But what if you don’t have the time, energy, or resources to make these fixes?
One solution—the ultimate solution for a remote workforce—involves outsourcing certain departments, such as your accounting or finance teams. By hiring external teams of professionals, you can eliminate many of the internal issues involved with remote work. This empowers your core team to focus on what it does best.
Here at CFO Hub, we provide outsourced professionals that are tailored to your financial and operational needs. Whether you need an outsourced CFO, a controller, or an entire accounting department, we can provide the support your organization needs to thrive in a time of remote work.
With an increased bandwidth, your venture will have more time to allocate to its remote employees, increasing productivity across the board and improving your bottom line.