Remote work offers numerous benefits to both employers and employees. Increased productivity, improved work-life, and enhanced inclusivity are just a few of the many advantages remote work brings to the table.
But, on the flip side, there are many challenges of working remotely.
According to the data from Statista, 47% of remote workers found collaborating with clients or colleagues, the biggest challenge. And 29% of remote employees rated motivation as the biggest roadblock.
That said, you cannot assume your remote workers will be happy and productive just because you have allowed them to work from the locations of their choice. Instead, you should go the extra mile to make remote workers feel connected and address the challenges they face.
Common challenges of remote work
Here are the common issues remote employees face, which often hamper their productivity and personal lives:
- Lack of face-to-face interaction sometimes make some remote workers feel that they don’t have enough access to managerial support and communication
- Newly appointed remote employees may struggle with locating information from coworkers
- In the absence of social chitchat in an office setting, a few remote employees can experience loneliness and isolation
- Remote workers are also affected by home distractions
- Technological hiccups can also hinder the productivity of remote employees
These remote work challenges, if not addressed, can take a toll on your remote employees’ work-life and defeat the purpose of remote work.
Tips for supporting remote workers to keep them happy and productive
We have talked to 14 experts to collect practical tips and tricks to support remote employees so that they can become more productive and make a good work-life balance at the same time.
Remote work comes with its own set of difficulties. As a leader in a remote-first organization, it is critical that you:
1. Take the time to systemize and build out your team’s day-to-day processes. Have a project management system in place and documented processes that your team can refer to and adhere to.
2. Water cooler talk, and impromptus conversations are difficult to achieve in a remote environment – but important to maintain. Leaders in your team should encourage non-work-related chats. If you use Slack, it’s easy to set up a ‘watercooler’ channel for these types of discussions, or even use an app like Donut to automatically encourage ice breaker discussions.
3. Engage in team activities. There is no shortage of things you can do to keep your team social, while social distancing. From online games like Among Us, to asking ice breaker questions before meetings, or even enlisting in a team building company to host a virtual team building activity – there’s no shortage of affordable (or even free) ways to keep your team engaged.
Director of Marketing
Outback Team Building
From our experience, what worked well was equipping our remote workers with the technology and tools to keep the team connected regardless of where they are.
Some tools that help maintain productivity are video conferencing apps, messaging apps, and collaboration and productivity apps.
It would also be a great help to maintain transparent and frequent communication with the team. Not only will you keep track of the tasks, but you can also foster connections.
Constantly communicating with your remote workers make them feel like they are an integral part of the company. It also shows that the company cares for them. This drives employee engagement.
Here are some tips a company should consider to ensure its remote workers are happy and healthy:
Introducing flexible working hours: It’s vital to recognize that employees live very different lives. There are parents juggling school schedules, interns who are not yet done with their university studies, night owls, morning larks… The list goes on. It is impossible to accommodate all of them with fixed working hours, so it’s a good idea to give employees the right to decide when they work. It requires a lot of trust, but it’s definitely worth it. In our experience, after we introduced this idea, our employees have reported higher levels of job satisfaction, and our company productivity has improved.
Well-structured remote (or hybrid) work policy: It’s one thing to call yourself a remote company, but it’s a different story to organize remote work efficiently. It’s vital to invest in home-office work setups, digital communication tools, online integrations, and every tiny detail that makes remote employees productive and happy while working from anywhere.
Providing relevant benefits: The pandemic has changed the general view of work benefits. Gym memberships became irrelevant with closed facilities, and medical insurance companies saw a big boom of interest. Thus, a company needs to check what its employees want most of all and be ready to provide relevant bonuses.
Encouraging healthy work-life balance: Avoiding burnout and keeping the spirits high is proved to be harder in remote settings. Many feel overworked, unmotivated, and fatigued all the time. Companies must monitor the situation (e.g., through anonymous surveys) and take relevant action when required. Employees are the greatest asset of any business, so it’s vital to prioritize their well-being and make sure they are comfortable and happy about working remotely.
There are issues that need to be addressed if working from home is going to become a long-term solution where remote workers can be happy and productive.
Provide employees with a good internet connection: A good internet connection is a basic need for employees working from home. When employees have a fast-speed internet connection, things work out pretty well. However, in rural areas, employees may struggle to stay connected. Many Employees believe companies and businesses can help them thrive working from home by paying for better internet speed.
Deal with work-from-home fatigue: Employees have often desired to get back to the office as soon as possible, the reason being that they have experienced an increase in work-from-home fatigue. This can be due to the increased use of video conference technology, where employees get exhausted from being in meetings on cameras all day. Employers can take certain steps to deal with work-from-home fatigue, such as switching to phone calls instead of video conferences, scheduling fewer meetings, or taking micro-breaks.
Promote collaborations between remote workers: Promoting collaborations between remote workers can be tough, without the face-to-face conversations that take place in the break-rooms of the office. Promoting collaboration may require social platforms or scheduled brainstorming. We can increase the likelihood of collaboration by helping to connect employees across functional areas to establish some human connection.
Creating a remote team promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion. And with this comes a variety of personalities, skill sets, and work styles. For this reason, it’s essential to focus on the outcome rather than the process for achieving the end goal.
While our team’s not exactly a band of misfits, we are marching to the beat of our own drums regarding how we work. Our varying skill sets and work styles enable us to meet challenges head-on from varying directions to reach successful outcomes quickly.
And the diversity of our personalities is why we can connect with a wide range of artists while still being relatable with our audience. Because of this, we could build something that didn’t exist in the world of art and eCommerce.
By not defining one set process for everyone, we’re motivating our team members to use their best abilities to reach their goals each day.
To make it even more possible, mental health and wellness programs are being added to packages to ensure that the remoteness of the job does not impact an employee’s wellbeing.
Companies should also focus on working with tools and software that make working remotely more efficient and effective and work on reward systems to highlight an employee’s achievements and boost their productivity.
As a CEO of a remote company for years, I know how employees thrive with independence and flexibility. Trusting them and giving them enough autonomy to decide and contribute to the company, instead of hand-holding and micromanaging them, encourages them to perform better.
Creating a team culture is another thing. Ensuring that your company has a welcoming, engaging, and inclusive team does a lot for employees. Studies show that employees stay in companies because of a good work environment.
One of our most successful initiatives for keeping our remote team happy is sending care packages.
In college, it is common for parents to send their kids packs with personal items from home, food, gift cards, money, and more. We do a similar process where we send a pack with goodies for our team.
The effect of this gift is similar to the excitement of Christmas. Everyone loves getting an unexpected package in the mail, and so the surprise boosts team spirits and productivity in the weeks to come.
It’s important to still find ways for remote workers to be engaged in company culture.
Virtual happy hours (during work hours) are one way to give employees a chance to gather, destress, and maybe play some games. It helps employees get to know their coworkers and feel connected to the company in a way they might not otherwise.
Also, be sure to express your appreciation to employees for the work they do! We send out “appreciations” using the Slack app Disco and do “Weekly Wins” in our virtual Friday meetings to highlight the accomplishments of all employees that week.
I believe the best way to ensure employee happiness and productivity is by saying no to micromanagement. Micromanagement does nothing but sap employees’ morale, confidence and productivity. Workers should have the freedom and trust to make their own decisions when working remotely.
Employers need to provide two things to make sure their remote workers are satisfied and productive; flexibility and technology.
By giving them flexible hours to work with, employers will help their remote employees achieve a level of work-life balance that wasn’t possible before. And the right set of tools will enable them to complete their tasks efficiently and communicate more effectively with other remote workers.
Fostering collaboration and good work/life balance for our global team come down to every employee in our organization being mindful of the difference in time zones.
While many entrepreneurs believe team collaboration comes down to workers being available at all hours, this can put a significant amount of pressure on your team, leading to lower productivity and higher staff turnover.
Many of our new projects require a significant amount of interaction, making it vital to be conscientious of when and how they contact their teammates to avoid employee burnout. Being considerate of time differences will help keep stress levels low and reduce the chances of human error.
One word: Empathy!
Everybody’s situation is different. Some people are more vulnerable to Covid (which hasn’t gone away, much as some governments would seem to think so). Some people have children at home, who may be sent home unexpectedly to isolate themselves.
The more leaders seek to understand and make allowances for the teams, the more people will feel heard. Greater morale and productivity follow naturally from there.
Encouraging your employees to set boundaries around work and when, where, and how it can be done is essential.
I practice what I preach on this – I use a google calendar to create a block schedule for myself, and staying disciplined to that gives me freedom to truly enjoy my non-work time as opposed to letting one bleed into the other.
Additionally, recognizing the strengths of each team member and how they best operate (and then allowing that to inform how you collaborate) can make a positive difference.
We also have weekly company-wide zoom meetings where we can connect and form a more personal bond.
Takeaway points to support your remote employees
Remote workers, if strategically managed, can be productivity ninjas. All the above experts cumulatively agreed on the following:
- Use tools to connect with your remote team at the emotional level
- Encourage remote team building activities
- Create a standard operating process (SOP) for remote workers
- Set a clear communication guideline for remote workers
- Encourage remote social interactions
- Mentor your remote team more than manage
Most importantly, you should practice empathy. Listen to your remote employees’ concerns, problems, and anxieties patiently. And then, try to offer the right solutions as quickly as you can.
Remote work can offer multiple potential benefits to you and your employees. But there are many hurdles in the way of managing a remote team efficiently.
The above tips and strategies shared by leading experts will certainly help you address remote work challenges successfully to make your remote team happy and productive.
Your employees are your biggest asset, remote or on-site. If you take care of them, they will take care of your business. So, start implementing best practices to support your remote team to reap the true benefits of remote work.
Carlo Borja is the Head of Content Marketing for Time Doctor, a productivity analytics software for distributed teams. He is a remote work advocate, a father and a coffee junkie.