The case for working remotely has been strong for years, but managers, worried productivity would decline if their teams worked from home, have stubbornly insisted employees commute to the office.
That changed abruptly in March of this year when the global COVID-19 pandemic left companies no choice but to shift to remote offices or shut down altogether. Many CEOs and senior managers have just as abruptly changed their minds about remote work. They now realize their teams are just as productive from home as they were in the office.
Nonetheless, shifting your team entirely to remote work poses a unique set of challenges. Let’s examine four of the biggest remote work challenges facing businesses, and some solutions for each.
Building a dynamic team culture
You see your teammates, day in and day out, when you work together in an office. It’s natural to ask a quick question when you walk past a colleague’s desk, to engage in small talk in the break room, and to have an impromptu all-hands meeting in the conference room when the situation demands.
One of the undeniable advantages of working at an office is the opportunity to engage with your coworkers, collaborate face to face, and build a dynamic team culture.
While it’s still possible to build a dynamic team culture remotely, you have to be intentional and consistent to make it stick. It takes work, but the benefits of building a dynamic team culture are worth it. Your team is motivated and aligned toward a shared vision and goal, with each employee engaged in the work they’re doing. This, in turn, encourages collaboration between teams that fosters new ideas and innovation.
Achieving these benefits requires solid, consistent leadership and steady communication. Founders and executives must lead by example, be transparent, and work to communicate the company’s mission, values, and goals. Some good starting points include
- Scheduling regular, all-hands Zoom calls at least once a month to discuss big-picture initiatives, introduce any new hires, and celebrate every win, big or small
- Organizing virtual team-building activities to encourage people to get to know teammates throughout the organization
- Setting up watercooler channels in Slack for non-work topics, like sharing pet photos
Managing projects across multiple time zones
Projects can get lost in translation or take longer than expected when your team is spread out across multiple time zones. To stay organized and keep projects on track, use a good project management process throughout the entire company.
There are many project management tools available, each with pros and cons. Here’s a detailed guide where we discuss many software options.
Keeping your digital office secure
Digital security is a big concern in highly regulated industries like healthcare, pharmaceuticals, and banking.
Pro tip: If you work in the healthcare industry and need to ensure you’re HIPAA compliant, check out this post for some specific remote work tips.
There are basic IT security protocols every remote worker should follow:
- Don’t use public, unsecured WiFi.
- Do use a VPN.
- Use a password manager such as LastPass.
- Never leave company equipment unsecured in public spaces, such as coffee shops, restaurants, or airport lounges.
Avoiding employee burnout
Remote workers tend to be more productive, work longer hours, and take fewer vacations than their in-office counterparts. The lack of clear boundaries between work and home is a major concern when they work on urgent projects, because long hours are how they demonstrate that they are team players. Instead of being less stressed by working at home, remote employees often feel overwhelmed and at risk of burning out.
A Digital Ocean study found that up to 82 percent of remote tech workers suffer burnout at some point. Employee burnout isn’t just a personal problem. Poor team morale, higher employee turnover rates, and increased stress levels are serious problems for companies in competitive markets.
To avoid burnout, make certain all employees regularly meet one on one with their managers and can fully unplug on vacation. Encourage employees to be honest about their workload and the challenges they’re facing.
Many managers ignored the data for years and dismissed remote work, assuming people who work from home would slack off. Sadly, it took a pandemic for them to realize that this isn’t the real challenge.
While there are real concerns with remote offices, like building a thriving team culture and keeping your company’s sensitive information secure, these challenges can be addressed through a combination of management, company policy, and software.