There are plenty of studies on the benefits of remote work. Often remote workers request time off and need fewer sick days. They stay motivated... and because of that, they stay with their jobs longer.
That said, not everything is roses and peaches. Remote working — like everything else — has its own set of challenges.
The challenges of remote working
Despite all the benefits of remote work, you're still going to run into challenges working outside of the office. According to Buffer’s 2019 State of Remote Work report, the most common problem is relaxing after work. The simple act of leaving work behind becomes nearly impossible.
The second-most common problem is feeling lonely according to 19 percent of survey respondents. Seventeen percent say collaboration issues are the problem and 10 percent attribute it to issues at home. Another eight percent say time zones and staying motivated.
Another study from Hubstaff shows that the biggest challenge for remote teams is communication, scheduling and tracking performance.
Enable knowledge sharing
While there are plenty of perks going on for remote work, there’s also a problem with information sharing.
A physical space encourages open communication. Sharing experiences or real-time conversations with customers reveals new ideas and opens up new channels. With remote work, these opportunities tend to vanish.
Imagine a regular meeting between colleagues. In the real-world office setup, you have plenty of freedom to ask the person next to you questions or tell them about your problems. During online meetings, this isn’t very effective or straightforward. However, as a manager, you can ensure that people have a chance of asking these questions through video chats or chats outside meetings.
Such conversations not only help bring back the sense of camaraderie but also fuels real-time collaboration. Having several remote collaboration tools certainly multiplies the ease with which people can communicate but that’s no excuse for poor communication.
Information sharing is tricky to replicate remotely. The first thing to do is make sure to do away with the notion that informal conversations are inessential to an organization’s goals.
Team members should have information — whether it directly impacts them or is just nice to know.
Teams can get insights from virtual gatherings or informal conversations that have no agenda. These conversations can reveal ideas that would have otherwise remained hidden.
This helps team members connect personally. That's why it's important to automate business communication and help your remote employees overcome communication challenges.
Staying connected with remote work
Quality communication may be hard to fix problems in remote work. However, you need the right approach. As members operate from all around the world, in different time zones, there’s plenty of room for feeling disconnected.
Organization leaders should lead with a distinct approach. While there’s no in-person interaction, there's plenty of opportunity for video calls, chat, recordings or taking advantage of other remote-centric tools. These encourage communication outside meetings, help imbue the essence of informational check-ins and improve team collaboration. Further, communication tools like Discord can bridge the gap between colleagues and friends.
Working with language and cultural differences
When you’re managing a remote team of workers from across the world, you'll likely have people from diverse language and cultural backgrounds working together. They have varying levels of expertise in English or other languages. There's also potential for stark cultural differences.
Each region may have different unspoken rules in regard to company culture. Take the time to get to know your teams and these potential differences in order to understand them better. This opens the lines of communication and ensures you respect customs outside of your region, such as giving time off for various religious holidays.
For instance, Designhill has its team spread all over the world and they made it easy to work with others by recognizing cultural nuances and catering to those nuances.
How do you support cultural differences? Let’s start with language.
Respect is vital. Native language speakers need to be aware of potential misunderstandings and take steps to ensure everyone is on the same page. Written communication, such as chat or email, can serve as a reference to be revisited should there be a mix-up.
Send details to team members via email
Sending out all of your information via email is an effective strategy for decreasing the margin of error. Employees can reference instructions as needed and have the opportunity to respond with questions in private.
Use these communications to foster an atmosphere where they can ask about anything they’re not clear about. Remember:
- Cultural differences can impact how teams perform or interact.
- These can lead to misunderstandings or disagreements.
By taking the time to understand cultural variances across regions and practice empathy with others, you can create a positive and cohesive environment.
Building and maintaining trust
Trust issues can crop up when working remotely. Team members in a remote setting often haven’t met with each other in person. That makes it harder to develop camaraderie and trust. But don't worry — there are a number of tools that can help you develop your team's relationships and several steps you can take toward building and maintaining trust across the entire company.
Working remotely is a relatively new concept in the field of work. Two elements — patience and compassion — are critical to creating a workspace that fosters trust.
One way you can help employees is by educating them on the different benefits that you can offer as a company, such as PTO for attending a course, and giving them more ways to cope. Be aware of the different leave types and help employees find workplace accommodation. Employees that navigate remote work rely on their leadership to show empathy and be adaptable.
The second thing to do is to steer clear of micro-management. When working remotely, clear and to-the-point communication is important to understand project status and get prepared for new events. However, monitoring employees every step of the way is too much and breeds distrust. Trust your employees to do their jobs well, and give them plenty of opportunities to connect with you should they need support.
As you can see, building trust, offering benefits and opening up new lines of communication while understanding that employees may struggle with verbal instructions is the key to successful remote work collaboration. What do you think? Connect with your team and start making a difference today.
About the Author
George is a writer and blogger at Kamayobloggers, a site he started to share cutting-edge marketing advice.