By Alex Pavlović
Remote work is here to stay. Companies who nail it now will reap the rewards.
Far from being a temporary pandemic annoyance, remote work is rapidly being embraced and ramped up by organizations who recognize its undeniable benefits.
Work-life balance. Boosted recruitment and retention. Lower operating costs. Remote work offers tangible advantages to companies and their employees, and is rapidly becoming the status quo.
But that doesn’t mean it’s without its challenges and hurdles. After all, only 6% of Americans did it full-time before 2020, and it took a global pandemic to push remote work into the mainstream.
Now that businesses are embracing it wholesale, overcoming the core challenges of remote work and managing a remote team will separate the good from the great.
Let’s take a look.
- Where the hell is everyone?
The first challenge is the most obvious. How can you manage a team who aren’t in the same room as you, who you can’t just grab a chair and sit next to, and who might be in a different city, country or continent?
Management thrives on communication, connection and conversation – all seemingly impossible in a remote world.
Remote work frees your business of the necessity of investing in office space, but it therefore makes cloud-based connection tools unavoidable as a counterweight.
There’s no getting around it: emails won’t do. Long back-and-forth chains will clutter, confuse and complicate communication, preventing your remote team from getting on the same page.
Consider a system like Slack or Teams that enables instant, back-and-forth digital conversation, as well as video conferencing where needed.
- Time zones
Does your organization have global, multi-continental ambitions? If so, you probably require presence across time zones. Even if you’re only spread across the United States, you might still face the problem of a Boston team getting to work, and knocking off for the day, 3 hours before your Seattle workers.
Consistently setting a 7pm meeting for an east-coast team, or asking your west-coasters to start work at 6am, is a great way to annoy your colleagues and erode the work-life balance benefits of remote work.
Consider setting a Venn diagram ‘overlap’ period around the middle of the day for scheduling meetings, calls and catch-ups in regular work hours for everyone, regardless of where they’re based.
To take this further, think about how to make flexible work possible: where out-of-hours calls are unavoidable, give workers the flexibility to take an hour two off in lieu.
Or engineer meetings which people can join asynchronously – perhaps by viewing recordings, notes or action points when they’re next back online.
Remote work provides a golden opportunity to be inventive and ditch superfluous meetings, forcing you to consciously plan communication times that connect and empower your colleagues without making time differences a hindrance.
Back in 2021, I worked for a software company which refused to permit remote work for a minute longer than was necessary.
I heard members of the business discuss how it was ‘time for people to return’, how the business culture could only be built with physical interaction in a central office, that managing a team was impossible without reading the body language and subconscious cues of a person in the …….