Fifteen months ago, the pandemic had all but pushed the entire corporate industry into adopting the remote work model. While not many businesses were happy with the scenario, the benefits of working remotely soon became evident.
Since then, several studies have proven that remote teams are healthier, more productive, and have an excellent work-life balance. Remote work has been a boon for both businesses and employees. In the post-pandemic world, giants like Twitter and Upwork lead the remote workforce revolution by adopting a 100 percent remote work model.
However, while remote work has its own benefits, it has downsides that we can't simply ignore.
In this blog, we'll talk about seven remote team challenges and discuss strategies that you can implement to overcome these issues.
Common Remote team challenges (and how to overcome them)
Remote Team Challenges: Collaboration
Working on a single project can get challenging when a team is distributed all over the world. When a team is collaborating physically, it's effortlessly easy to brainstorm ideas and share documents in real-time.
Communication between human beings is not just about listening to what's being said. Humans rely heavily on nonverbal cues like body language and posture, facial expressions, gestures, eye contact, and more.
This is primarily why virtual collaboration is a massive challenge.
How to overcome this challenge:
There are several collaboration tools available in the market that are specifically designed to help teams work together on all kinds of tasks.
Using an effective communication channel is the most crucial aspect of remote collaboration.
If you're not already using it, we recommend Slack.
It has proven to be an excellent communication platform for remote teams. It has a wide range of features and functionalities that you can take advantage of.
Other than Slack, you can use Google Drive for basic documentation collaboration. It's easy-to-use and highly effective.
Another collaboration tool you should consider is Spark (team version).
Spark allows your remote team to share their inbox and draft emails together in real-time (like how you work together on Google Docs)
Remote Team Challenges: Security risks
When working with a remote team with members from all over the world, security is one of the silent challenges you face.
Even if your employees are doing everything right, there is a security risk through external forces with malicious intent.
Remote workers don't always work from their kitchen table. They may prefer to work from a cafe or choose to adopt a digital nomad lifestyle and travel from one destination to another while managing their job.
However, this increases the likelihood of your remote workers' chances to connect to an insecure network.
How to overcome this challenge:
Here are a few strategies that you and your team can employ to reduce security risks:
- Antivirus. Creating and injecting malware is the most common method cybercriminals use to gain sensitive information. With antivirus software installed across all devices, you can effectively prevent malware from infecting them.
- Virtual Private Network (VPN). VPNs are excellent at hiding your location, shadowing your IP address, and encrypting all your data. Like a firewall that products the data on your device, VPN safeguards the information on the web.
- Device trackers. We've all had our electronic devices either lost or stolen at some point in our lives. To handle data security in this situation, you can install device trackers to locate and block the use of these particular devices.
These practices can help mitigate the security risks of working with a global remote workforce.
Remote Team Challenges: Communication issues
When you're in an office setting, it's second nature to walk up to your colleague's desk to gain clarification about a task or a second opinion.
However, if your team relies on emails, it may take hours to receive a reply just for a yes or no question.
Furthermore, remote work needs over communication.
Jason Fried and David Heinemeier, founders of Basecamp, explain why communication is crucial for remote teams and why it's such a challenge in their book— REMOTE: Office Not Required.
When most of your communication happens via email and the like, it doesn't take a lot for bad blood to develop unless everyone is making their best effort to the contrary. Minor misunderstandings that could have been nipped in the bud with the wink of an eye can quickly snowball into drama.
Communication becomes more difficult if you work in a hybrid environment where half the team works remotely, and the other half works together from the office.
Remote workers may start feeling paranoid that impromptu meetings are being conducted and important decisions are being made without them— and more often than not, they're right.
Therefore, it's your responsibility to encourage open dialogue and clarify anything you feel could cause a misunderstanding.
Determine which channels are fit for what kind of communication. For example, all official documents should e shared via email; however, communication channels like Slack are an excellent choice for quick clarifications.
Additionally, it's essential to set clear communication guidelines for your team to follow. This ensures there's no ambiguity and gives your remote workers the confidence to reach out. For example, employees should stick to Slack messaging and only provide a phone call when it's an emergency. Another guideline could be limiting work-related messages only during office hours.
Regular daily and weekly syncs will help your team members stay on track and know what others are currently working on. Additionally, these scheduled meetings will also help clear any roadblocks that are stopping your team from finishing their tasks.
Remote Team Challenges: Staying motivated
Another challenge that most remote workers struggle with is staying motivated.
They don't have their boss present to supervise them while they work. While this may be a positive aspect for some, many tend to procrastinate since they don't feel as much pressure to finish their tasks.
Additionally, hitting their targets as a team doesn't incite the same level of euphoria as it would if the team is present together physically.
Another reason remote workers lose motivation is the lack of human interaction that may cause them to feel lonely. This feeling of loneliness doesn't help with their productivity or performance.
Add the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic to this scenario, and it's pretty apparent why remote teams are finding it challenging to stay motivated.
How to overcome this challenge:
Ask your remote team to write down their long-term goals. This could include plans about their finances, personal life, and career. Now, get them to post this list at a place where they will see it regularly, such as their work desk or maybe their cupboard.
This will help them keep their goals at the forefront of their minds and boost their motivation to work harder to achieve them.
You can even ask them to share their career goals with the team. This will inculcate a shared sense of accountability and motivate them to push each other to achieve their goals.
Language barriers and cultural differences
Managing a global remote team means diverse individuals with a rich mix of cultures and languages. This means your team members would have varying levels of fluency with English or any other language. Additionally, you would also need to understand their cultural background to know the most efficient way to work with them.
For example, in some countries in Asia, it's not polite to contradict seniors, be it someone older or someone at a higher position.
Unless you can understand your team's cultural differences, you may not be able to help overcome social convention aspects that they may find challenging. Furthermore, working with coworkers from different cultures may be difficult without any guidance.
Additionally, this knowledge is also crucial to ensure you don't offend them or their culture unintentionally.
Remote Team Challenges: Managing projects
Remote workers have the freedom to create their own schedules and work during their own time. This independence to decide when they get their tasks done is excellent, but it does become difficult to manage projects with a team spread across multiple locations working at their own time and in different time zones.
Additionally, with this added freedom comes added responsibility.
Nobody likes their manager breathing down their neck to get their work done. Therefore, it's essential to establish a system to set clear deadlines for deliverables and hold the team accountable.
Communication gets even more complicated, and keeping track of tasks becomes more problematic with large teams and complex projects.
How to overcome this challenge:
The best way to tackle this situation efficiently is using project management tools like Allo to assign tasks, set deadlines, and stay updated about the progress each step of the way.
Allo's intuitive user interface utilizes cards to move tasks from one stage of a project to the next.
The 'activity' feature allows everyone in the team to have a clear view of precisely what task each member is working on at a particular time. This helps promote transparency within the group.
Allo's personal view feature lets you gain a more comprehensive view of all the tasks an individual is working on and who they're working with.
From locking certain elements on a board to sharing your canvas with anyone to view or work on your canvas without the need to login, Allo offers a range of project management features that you can take advantage of.
Remote Team Challenges: Unplugging after work
Not being able to unplug after work is the worst challenge when it comes to remote work. Living and working in the same space can blur the lines between your personal and professional life.
The way you wrap up your day in a remote setting is different from simply getting up from your desk and physically leaving the office. Working in a remote environment makes it difficult to create strict boundaries to start and end your workday, mainly because there aren't any physical indicators.
It is challenging to switch off and truly relax after your work is done, which makes maintaining a healthy work-life balance tricky.
This, in turn, makes it nearly impossible to maintain your level of productivity since it feels like you may never be able to catch a real break.
How to overcome this challenge:
Create a dedicated workspace in your home. Better yet, you can go out of the house and work in a cafe or check for any co-working spaces near you. This distinction will help create hard boundaries between your work and private life.
Set appointments for the end of your work day.
Scheduling personal appointments in your calendar, whether going grocery shopping or attending a Zumba class, will give you a reason to get out of your home office at the end of your day.
These appointments will help you set precise end times and allow you to unplug after work.
Schedule your break times.
More often than not, remote workers tend to forget that they need to take breaks.
Taking unscheduled 20-minute breaks when you feel like it may as well turn into an entire afternoon with you having to catch up with your tasks late at night, missing your sleep.
Schedule your breaks as a recurring task in your calendar at a specific time. Be it going for a walk or reading the next chapter, block your break time in your calendar.
Let your team know your work-time.
While you may feel like having a strict schedule that you follow every single day is the only way to go about things, that's simply not the case.
You can create your schedule the night before and share an update with your team about what time you'll be available. The best way to do this is by updating your Slack's Hero status and dropping a message at the end of the day when you log off.
Also, be sure to log out when you specified instead of sticking around for another hour or two.
Turn off notifications.
When you're off work, don't check your slack or email. This will simply pull you back into work which is the very thing we're trying to stop.
Now that you understand the different remote team challenges and how you can overcome them, it's time for you to implement these strategies and enjoy all the benefits that remote work has to offer.
Before we conclude this blog, here are a handful of visual collaboration tools that you can use for your remote teams.
Best virtual collaboration tools
There are several software applications available that remote workers can take advantage of to help tackle the challenges of working from home.
Here are our favorite virtual collaboration tools for remote workers.
When it comes to choosing an effective communication tool for a remote workforce, Slack is the undisputed king. If you're a remote worker, chances are your organization is already on board with this platform.
It's effortless to set up, has a wide range of features and functionalities, and best of all, it's free to use!
General business email addresses like info@ or sales@ require multiple people to access the email inbox. This can lead to the inbox becoming extremely disorganized and confusing since, with a shared inbox, it's difficult to keep track of who replied to which email, categorize which emails are urgent and if all the questions have been answered.
Spark is a software solution that allows multiple workers to collaborate within a shared inbox efficiently.
One excellent feature about Spark is that you can ensure that there are no more collisions with two members replying to the same email with different replies since members will be able to see who is addressing which email in real-time.
While there are several video-conferencing tools available in the market, Zoom is undoubtedly the best. It dominates the market because it is easier to navigate than other traditional options that require users to jump through hoops to figure out how to work with them.
You can efficiently schedule meetings and share your screens. Currently, there are over 300 million people worldwide that use Zoom on a daily basis.
If you're looking for a team collaboration platform that offers more than what's available in the market, Allo is the one for you.
Along with project management, Allo offers visual collaboration and video chat features on a single platform.
It's a collaboration, documentation, and communication software solution that is designed to tackle the drawbacks of other rigid project management platforms like Trello and Asana.
It has an intuitive visual dashboard that makes it effortless for beginners to navigate through the platform.
You can check out Allo for free and build your own canvas from scratch or take advantage of the pre-designed templates!