For the most part, working remotely is a positive experience. The vast majority of employees agree that the lack of a commute and flexible schedules are the best parts of working from home. Furthermore, 97% of remote employees say that they would recommend others to try it as well!
But, as with most things, there are some downsides to this type of employment. Many remote workers struggle with collaboration and communication with their team members.
Further, employees who work outside of a normal office situation often have trouble unplugging, since they can virtually work anytime, anywhere. According to a survey from Airtasker, remote employees were often more productive than their office-bound counterparts – but were also more stressed. Fifty-four percent of remote workers reported feeling overly stressed during the workday and twenty-six percent even left work early because they felt overwhelmed.
Unfortunately, a lot of this stress boils down to bad management. This same study reports that 22% of remote workers said their managers often distracted them from work whereas only 15% of office workers said the same.
Now, managing remote teams is certainly not an easy task – particularly if your employees are recently working from home due to COVID-19 precautions. This could be the first time that many of your employees and managers have ever had to work under these circumstances.
However, there is still no excuse for poor remote team management. So, ask yourself:
Are you making any of these common mistakes that could be hurting your remote team productivity?
1. Hosting Too Many Zoom Calls
The use of virtual videoconferencing tools like Zoom, Skype, and Microsoft Teams has skyrocketed recently as this is one of the only ways for remote teams to talk face-to-face with each other.
While hosting these video meetings is certainly necessary in some cases (not to mention it can help to keep remote workers from feeling isolated and disconnected), having too many calls is a huge mistake that many managers make.
According to a study from Wundamail, 56% of remote workers wished their managers would either host less video calls or spend less time in meetings. Forty-two percent also stated that they were more productive when they were not interrupted with messages and calls throughout the day.
Unfortunately, video-conferencing tools can be quite counter-productive to communication. The same study found that 73% of remote workers had experienced technical issues while 59% complained that people constantly talked over each other, making it hard to effectively communicate. Furthermore, 33% found it incredibly hard to focus while on a video call.
Hosting company-wide morning meetings along with multiple team video calls throughout the day could actually be a major waste of time for most people. While the occasional call is required, it is best for managers to limit the number of calls and also whittle down their talking points to let their employees get back to work.
2. Over Or Under-Communicating
It is certainly no surprise that communication issues are a major frustration for both in-house and remote employees. But when it comes to remote working situations, too much or too little communication can be quite disastrous.
According to a survey from BAMBU (reported by Nextiva), 35% of employees said that over-communication was actually the leading issue – as important information got lost in other unimportant data.
Twenty-three percent felt that they could not trust the information they received from management and 23.5% of remote workers said they often were left out of important conversations.
Many managers struggle to communicate effectively face-to-face with employees – trying to stay in touch with remote workers is an even greater challenge.
Instead of sending countless emails back and forth (or setting up yet another Zoom call), try these remote team communication tips:
- Set up different communication channels for different purposes (Slack for instant communication, emails for sharing files, team management software for project assignments, video conferences for more important team meetings)
- Set guidelines and expectations for communicating (what hours do people need to be “reachable”)
- Ensure that information is accessible to everyone through secure filesharing tools
- Record important team meetings so people can refer back if needed
The key here is to find the balance – which is often easier said than done. It may be useful to ask your employees directly about how they think communication processes could improve (but more on that later).
3. Expecting The Same Output As In-Office Employees
Although remote workers tend to be more productive than in-office employees, remote team productivity can fluctuate. In the beginning, THE output may below if this is the first time that employees are working from home.
Productivity issues are unfortunately even more prevalent because of the global pandemic. A recent survey found that while people are enjoying the ability to work from home, they are feeling anxious due to COVID-19.
Fifty-six percent stated that they felt quite anxious and isolated because of WFH (work from home) policies – and 53% are even experiencing mental health issues like anxiety and depression.
Further, many employees may be in less-than-ideal working situations. Most children are now at home all the time, which could cause further distractions for parents. Some may not have much privacy to get their work done while dealing with more distractions than normal.
Now, this is certainly not an excuse for productivity to plummet. However, managers need to be understanding and set realistic expectations for employees. The traditional 9-to-5 hours may not be optimal anymore and some employees could get more work done early in the morning or in the late evenings instead. Managers and employees should work together to find any flexibility that could help to improve output.
4. Forgetting About Engagement
Remote employees often feel isolated and disconnected from co-workers. And as people are separated from friends and loved ones because of the quarantine, they may feel even more alone. Over time, this can lead to disengagement, lowered morale, and productivity, and it could even cause employees to leave your company in search of something else.
Therefore, keeping remote workers engaged and connected is crucial – even while they are socially distanced. Team building for remote employees is going to look a bit different since it is not as easy as bringing doughnuts to the office or hosting a holiday party.
Some companies have gotten quite creative on this front. The communication agency Praytell has employees take turns to create “episodes” sharing stories – such as showing off their record collection or teaching fellow co-workers a new skill.
Havas, a creative agency based in New York, hosts daily virtual meditations to help remote workers destress and clear their minds after a long day at work. London-based agency Know Group offers parents a little break as people take turns reading bedtime stories over Zoom and letting kids host a virtual show and tells.
VCCP’s accounting department holds coffee meetings every day and encourages participants to chat about anything other than work – just like they would at the office.
While these may seem rather silly or inconsequential, they can mean a lot to people who are feeling more isolated than normal.
Another option would be to utilize other team communication tools – like Workplace from Facebook – to keep everyone connected.
This creates a social media feed for all employees, so they can easily share posts, participate in polls, and chat with other team members in a more casual setting.
5. Failing To Collect Feedback
Employee feedback is incredibly important for managers – even when you are not closely working with people face to face. Chances are that your employees are chock full of suggestions and ideas of ways to make their jobs easier.
Furthermore, asking employees to share their honest opinions and suggestions can actually keep them more engaged.
This is especially important to do during times of change. Opening up the opportunity for workers to share their feedback with the business shows that leaders truly care about their opinions and experiences. This can lead to greater engagement and loyalty in the long run.
Using online programs can make it a bit easier to gather honest feedback. Employees may not feel comfortable sharing their frustrations with a manager through an email or over a Skype call – but they would likely be more willing to answer survey questions or even submit anonymous feedback.
15Five, Culture Amp, and Weekdone are great options since they allow users to customize surveys. Each of these tools offers report summaries so that managers can track engagement changes and get a feel for how employees are feeling overall regarding leadership.
Things are tough for everyone right now – and no one can say when we will be able to return to “normal” and be in the office together again. So, in the meantime, managers should be doing all that they can to successfully lead remote workers and keep everyone on track during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Reaching out to other digital service agencies to help your business remotely can also be a great way to keep your business growing even while you are working from home.
If you need any assistance with digital marketing services, web design, or SEO, please reach out to our knowledgeable team at E2M Solutions. We would love to answer your questions and see how we can help you!