Whether to hire remote staff or promote remote work for employees has been a double-edged sword for years, with the idea divided across the aisle. Fast forward to 2020 and the concept of remote working or ‘work from home’ has now turned into a reality. The Covid-19 pandemic not only reignited the ‘remote work’ debate but also made the concept a part of our daily reality. Just about every organization across the globe has embraced hiring of remote staff, albeit with a few caveats, unheard of during the pre-pandemic office-going culture.
The current global crisis has not only changed the foreseeable future for us all but has also reinvented the work wheel. As per a recent survey by market intelligence firm, Savanta, conducted in Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, and the United States; 33% of the respondents frequently work as hired remote staff, while 16% work as a full-time remote staff. A combined workforce of 49% from the survey has been employed on remote employment, with an increasing number of employees as well as employers opting for remote work solutions.
The global dynamics are changing post-COVID and the worldwide white-collar workforce is the first to be impacted. The question remains, do we continue with the debate, or do we invoke the inevitable evolution, that is ‘remote working’?
Remote working is a concept that’s fast catching up but just like every change of trend, it carries its own set of disadvantages, which if left unaddressed can lead to its collapse. Regardless of what reservations you might have against ‘work from home’ or hiring remote staff, the fact remains, that it’s here to stay. So, without diving into the rabbit hole of endless debate, let’s focus on managing the pitfalls of remote working. Remember, these solutions aren’t some magic pills. You’ll need to understand them, implement them, and follow Remote Team Management Mistakes to Avoid for managing teams remotely.
1. Time Management
Unlike going to an office environment, one of the most challenging aspects of remote working is ‘time management’. An alien mix of home and office ecosystem, it’s quite a unique situation for both the employers and the employees. The former feels that the availability of extra hours should lead to increased productivity, while the latter finds it rather difficult to strike the right balance.
- The employer/manager should speak to the employee about what’s expected of the employee and also inquire as to how much the employee can deliver in the initial days of remote working.
- As an employee, the first thing you need to do is to prioritize your daily tasks. Try to manage your energy and not your time. The more you focus on the work at hand, the better your productivity will be. Also, make sure you communicate what and how much you can deliver for the day. Make realistic estimates and convey them to the manager and explain the rationale behind those.
2. Accountability & Productivity Tracking
While most of the hired remote staff are professional enough to understand their accountability towards their employers, yet there are a few bad apples that tend to take undue advantage of this benefit. This is one of the main reasons why many organizations do not prefer remote working. However, where there’s a will, there’s away!
- Installing time and productivity tracking software is a great way to ensure that your remote staff is making the best use of their work time. Some might think of this as a ‘Big Brother’ move, but it’s not. Employers invest a great deal of time, money, and resources into their businesses and hence deserve the highest level of performance and responsibility from their employees.
- Such software programs offer informative insights, such as URL monitoring, random screenshots, productivity gauges, etc. that allow a manager to understand the work behavior of a remote staff while giving a holistic performance/productivity picture of the employee.
As comfortable as working from home is, distraction around the house is a challenge that requires an employee’s immediate attention. From kids running around the house to your pet craving for a walk outside, managing these situations is vital to ensure consistent productivity and utilization of time.
- Hang a ‘Do not Disturb’ sign outside your workroom. Ensure that your family members are aware of your working hours and sensitize them about the necessity of not being disturbed during work hours unless there’s an emergency.
- Try to keep your working hours consistent, as much as possible, especially if you live with your family.
- It’s best to not make or take personal calls during work hours and stay away from IM apps. The more distractions you reduce, the better your productivity becomes.
- Do your best to finish pending household chores during the weekend, so that you’re ready to hit the ground running on Monday and continue the streak throughout the week.
4. Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)
A bitcoin-boom inspired jargon, FOMO or Fear of Missing Out is equally applicable when it comes to remote working. A perceived state of psychological distress, FOMO is the result of a lack of communication that is prevalent in work from home scenarios. Communication between a well-oiled team is vital, but it becomes a whole new ballgame when the team is spread off-site and communicating electronically. Granted that the presence of virtual conferencing, IMs, video calls, etc. has made it much easier to communicate, but scheduling such meets for the right reasons is an art.
- Unlike in an office, remote staff could easily get bored staring at the computer screen and typing away at the keyboard all day. The lack of a functioning and visible staff in the background can be demotivating at best and disorienting at worst. This is why frequent team video calls are a great idea to keep the team members’ mojo alive and kicking. Such calls need not be always about work but lighthearted conversations and fun. This would act as a great stress buster while making the team members feel connected. An occasional video call at lunch during the weekend isn’t a bad idea either.
5. Time Zone Turns Into The Twilight Zone
Ever had the misfortune of experiencing jet lag? It’s not a pretty feeling and for the most part, it just feels nauseating. This is exactly what you might feel if there’s a time zone difference between your team and other departments and it upends your fixed routine. Severely disrupted communication and proliferation of misinformation are some other side effects that effectively ruin your work, your team, and the overall organizational zen.
- Flexible work timings are a wonderful way to ensure that the remote staff stays in sync with the other teams and the main office. This enables the ‘work from home’ employees to manage their work time, without having the feeling of being burnt out. To make this happen, remote workers need to get out of the fixed-time routine. Being at home and without the stress of commuting, creating such a flexible mindset isn’t that hard, especially for one who might have a teammate who also happens to be in the same time zone. It’s all about focus, determination, and motivation.
Well, these were some of the most common issues of remote working and how to manage them from both an employee and an employer’s perspective. Now, it’d be a good idea to sit back and delve on how hiring remote staff would benefit your business, especially during these trying times. Besides a few downsides, remote working is a new reality, and if you know who you want, which work you want for, and from where to hire remote staff, then you are pretty much set for a low-cost, high-yield business operation.