Remote Work

The Most Prominent Challenges of Managing Remote Employees (And How to Overcome Them)

April 13, 2023

The importance of effective management in business cannot be overstated.

For one, effectively managing employees empowers them to become productive, self-sufficient members of your organization who are highly engaged. This is especially significant given how a highly engaged workforce increases profitability by 23% while employee disengagement costs the world economy a whopping $7.8 trillion in lost productivity every year.

That said, managing employees is a massive task with its own set of unique complexities, particularly in a remote setting. But, as with most problems, it’s possible to forge ahead with some guidance, diligence, and work.  Below, we look at four top challenges of managing remote employees, plus how to overcome them.

1.    Communication

Communication is one of the biggest challenges of managing remote teams, and it was exacerbated by the fact that many companies had to quickly transition and acclimate to remote work due to the pandemic. 20% of the workers surveyed for the 2020 State of Remote Work report highlighted that collaboration and communication were the biggest struggles of working remotely. 

With a geographically dispersed team, it can be difficult to maintain consistent lines of communication with employees and ensure that everyone has access to all relevant information. This challenge can lead to difficulties in collaboration and meeting deadlines as well as miscommunication or misinterpretation among team members.

Moreover, when team members are working remotely, they may not communicate as frequently or effectively as they would in a traditional office setting for various reasons:

  •  Lack of face-to-face interaction: In remote teams, members may not have the opportunity to communicate in person, which can make it difficult to build trust and rapport with one another. This can, in turn, make it challenging to establish clear communication channels and ensure that everyone is on the same page.
  • Different time zones: Remote teams may be spread across different time zones, which can make it difficult to schedule meetings and collaborate in real time.
  • Overreliance on technology: Remote teams often rely on technology, such as email, chat, or video conferencing to communicate. However, technology can sometimes fail or be unreliable, which can result in miscommunication or delays.
  • Lack of nonverbal cues: In remote teams, people may not have access to nonverbal cues like body language and facial expressions. This can make it difficult to interpret tone and intent, thus contributing to communication breakdown.

To overcome these problems, consider:

  • Establishing clear team communication protocols. For example, setting regular check-ins via video conference or phone calls can help keep projects on track while allowing opportunities for feedback.
  • Using a variety of communication channels, such as video conferencing, chat, and email. For instance, combining email with tools like Slack and Asana will help streamline internal conversations and better manage tasks within the organization so that everyone is always up to date. Trying to keep everything in emails will most likely become chaotic and difficult to follow.
  • What works best for each individual employee's needs. Some employees need more frequent contact than others, some may respond better to text messages rather than emails, etc. Taking the time to invest in understanding these nuances allows for stronger relationships in remote teams, which ultimately translates into greater productivity.
  • Encouraging team members to build relationships with one another so they can communicate more effectively.
  • Having regular check-ins and feedback sessions to help ensure that everyone is on the same page and that communication is effective.

2.    Inability to track work and productivity

In a remote environment, the inability to track work and productivity can lead to a lack of accountability and transparency.

When employees work remotely, managers and team leaders may find it difficult to keep track of what tasks are being completed, how long they are taking, and the overall progress being made on projects. Furthermore, without visibility into team productivity, managers may struggle to identify areas where processes or workflows could be improved. This disconnect can lead to inefficiencies, as well as a waste of time and other resources.

To overcome these problems, consider:

  • Establishing clear goals and objectives and setting expectations for deliverables. This way, you can track productivity and monitor performance more accurately as work progresses and goals are met.
  • Using project management software and regular check-ins to track progress, provide regular feedback, and offer support when needed.

3.    Social isolation and lack of team building

Remote working inherently implies a certain level of physical separation from colleagues, which can lead to feelings of loneliness. 

A study conducted by organizational psychologist, Lynn Holdsworth, found that full-time remote work increased loneliness by 67% when compared to in-office work. Working remotely can cause several problems that lead to employee disengagement and difficulties with managing them:

  • Lack of face-to-face interaction: Without regular face-to-face contact with coworkers, it may be difficult for remote workers to build relationships and feel like they are part of a cohesive team. This disconnection from colleagues can then lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness. The alienation is further amplified if there is no company culture that fosters collaboration in a remote setting. 
  • Limited opportunities for socialization and team building: Remote workers may have fewer opportunities to socialize with colleagues outside of work hours. They may miss out on casual conversations, office events, and other social activities that can help build camaraderie among coworkers.
  • Lack of boundaries between work and personal life: Remote workers may find it difficult to separate their work and personal lives when they are working from home. This can lead to feelings of isolation as they spend more time working and less time engaging in social activities outside of work.

To overcome these problems, consider:

  • Fostering communication and connection by encouraging remote workers to communicate with their colleagues regularly and scheduling regular check-ins to ensure that they feel connected and included.
  • Creating opportunities for socialization by hosting virtual events, like team-building activities, happy hours, or online games. This will help remote workers build connections with their colleagues. Also, encourage remote employees to participate in local networking events or conferences to help them expand their professional networks.
  • Encouraging work-life balance. This involves encouraging remote employees to take breaks and set boundaries between work and personal time. By so doing, employees can have time to engage in social activities outside of work, including spending time with family and friends to help combat feelings of isolation.

4.    Lack of positive organizational culture

Because of the communication challenges that make trust difficult to establish, as well as issues such as social isolation and a lack of team building, it’s often difficult for remote teams to build a positive organizational culture.

Furthermore, without a physical office or regular meetings with colleagues, creating and maintaining a sense of camaraderie becomes difficult as does fostering a positive work culture and effectively managing the team.

To overcome these problems, consider:

  • Having a clear vision that everyone is working towards and establishing clear expectations and guidelines for how team members should interact and work together.
  • Being intentional about building a shared sense of purpose and values. For example, it’s a good idea to build strong communication channels, establish regular team-building activities, and create opportunities for social interaction.

When implementing all these solutions it’s important to remember that it takes time to develop strong relationships among remote team members; patience will be essential during this process as individuals learn more about each other and become comfortable interacting virtually rather than face-to-face.

With thoughtful effort from both managers and employees alike, however, companies can successfully cultivate an atmosphere of creativity and support even without ever having met physically in person. It's also worth noting that enlisting professional assistance can help simplify remote team management.

How an EOR Makes Managing Remote Team Challenges Easier

While there are many details involved in managing remote employees, the tedious and often time-consuming administrative, compliance, and HR tasks don’t have to compete with your core business functions for your time and attention. This is where an EOR like Remofirst comes in, allowing for simplified remote employee management. How does an EOR do this?

Compliance With Local Laws and Regulations

With the help of an EOR, companies can stay compliant with local employment laws and regulations in the country where remote employees are located. This includes compliance with payroll taxes, employment contracts, and labor laws.

Employee Onboarding and Offboarding

An EOR can handle the onboarding and offboarding process for remote employees, including employment contracts, background checks, and benefits enrollment. For example, Remofirst offers same-day onboarding and can help with background checks through its partners. This helps ensure a smooth and efficient process for both the company and the remote employee.

Payroll and Benefits Management

Using an EOR, you can handle payroll processing and benefits administration for remote employees. Remofirst will, for instance, help with global payroll and handling benefits, such as health insurance, stock options, and equipment provisioning. This can aid in the accuracy and timely payment of remote employees, as well as compliance with local regulations.

HR Support and Risk Management

An EOR can provide HR support to businesses, including assistance with employee relations issues such as visas, benefits, and anything else related to international employment. Having an EOR also means getting robust support to help you handle the risks associated with hiring remote workers, such as employment law compliance (avoiding misclassification) and worker safety. All of this can help ensure that remote employees feel supported and engaged in their work, while also reducing legal and financial risks associated with remote work.

Business Scaling

Partnering with an EOR is particularly helpful when scaling an organization because it provides several benefits, including reducing administrative costs, lowering the cost of hiring new employees, and getting help with effectively working across various time zones.  

Overcoming the Challenges of Managing Remote Employees the Hassle-Free Way

Granted, managing a remote team takes a lot of work, but outsourcing the administrative aspect of remote employment to an EOR like Remofirst will help you take care of and manage your remote employees in an efficient and cost-effective manner.  

However, it’s important to remember that not all EORs are created equal. While some will help you manage your remote team and grow your business more effectively, others may do the exact opposite. Not sure how to choose the right EOR? Here’s a rundown of the questions you’ll need to ask before making your choice.