The modern work world centers around remote and hybrid operations. Remote working sounds enticing, so offering these options can help companies secure top talent. Unfortunately, remote work also presents new remote work challenges.

Remote work may offer flexibility and convenience, but ensuring those are advantages and not liabilities will require specific action and focus.

Some issues remote companies battle are collaboration, productivity, project management, and security.  As an owner or manager, navigating these challenges and creating a thriving work environment that fosters growth, productivity, and positive communication is essential. 

This post will discuss nine challenges of working remotely and how to overcome these common remote work pitfalls.

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1. Remote team collaboration and communication

Collaboration and communication can be remote work’s most essential and challenging aspect. With limited face-to-face interaction and the availability of electronic communication, it takes more work to establish healthy, productive relationships with colleagues. 

At the same time, people need to learn processes to address issues while discovering the people in their organization. Onboarding is especially difficult because of its increased mental workload compared to co-working spaces and traditional in-office situations. It leads to many remote work challenges for managers.

That means getting onboarding right takes focus and specific effort.

To overcome the challenge of working outside of a traditional work environment, companies should incorporate virtual meetings, conference calls, team-building activities, and knowledge management systems to simplify the communications needed to collaborate. 

It’s difficult to force people to brainstorm or work through things together. So, instead, start by removing the barriers to collaboration. When you get the challenges out of the way, your remote team will be more comfortable working together. Once you address communication gaps, you might even learn to master asynchronous work and have extended coverage working across multiple time zones. 

2. Productivity 

Maintaining productivity can be daunting when working from home. Distractions, lack of supervision, and time management challenges are a few reasons why teams often move to asynchronous work. 

Remote companies should establish clearly defined goals, measurements, and evaluation processes. Use time management tools to keep employees on track — especially tools like Insights that integrate with Hubstaff time tracking.

The crucial shift here is to move from pure hours to projects and goals. Successful remote workers prioritize accomplishing goals. This is better measured and attained by evaluating people based on task completion — not just how long they’ve been at their computers.

Adopting goals and KPIs driven by outcomes encourages people to be more productive while avoiding false metrics and measurements that can lead to frustration or disengagement.

3. Habits and cultural differences

When working with international remote teams, companies face the challenge of dealing with cultural differences that can affect productivity and communication. Companies should take the necessary steps to educate their employees on cultural differences and hire diverse teams to ensure safe workspaces for all employees.

A woman engaging in a video call with teammates.

One of our favorite tools for support here is giving people time to speak with and learn about others across the company. At Hubstaff, our onboarding starts with small meetings across departments. These introduce new team members to people worldwide and give everyone a chance to ask questions and learn.

Consider ongoing cultural sensitivity and diversity training to help your team members learn and set expectations. Some habits (like communicating with fewer metaphors) can be easy to adopt.

Other habits may require more extensive support. Everyone benefits from following a few guidelines and continuing education about different cultures and traditions because we all want a more enjoyable work environment.

4. Balancing work and personal life

Balancing personal and professional life is another challenge of managing remote employees.

Remote team members are at risk of working longer hours and having less structure to their breaks, which can lead to burnout. The difficulty for employers is that you need to tackle work and home habits.

Companies should encourage employees to establish work boundaries and ensure a healthy work-life balance. This means actively monitoring hours so your team isn’t letting work bleed into personal time. You can use tools like Hubstaff to set breaks and limits. 

Leaders should also think about training team members on creating boundaries at home. Support your people by allowing them to step away when needed. That means encouraging them to use benefits or pause time without consequence for things like doctor appointments or picking the kids up from school.

Thankfully, many remote work challenges for managers can be addressed by leading by example. There are even small things like encouraging people to work in a space separate from where they spend their downtime so that there’s less of a compulsive feeling to need to check email while watching some TV or reading a book. 

For a more detailed dive, check out these nine tips for improving the work-life balance for your team members and crew.

5. Overworking and stress

Overworking is rampant in remote work settings. The lack of separation between work and home life can make it challenging to disconnect from work. To overcome this challenge, companies should set fair and reasonable deadlines.

Again, we want to return to the idea that companies benefit by shifting goals away from hourly tasks and toward outcomes. 

You should still track hours for payment purposes. However, people’s work should be judged by accomplishments instead of pure productivity metrics focusing on clicks or keyboard activity. Instead, use those activity elements to verify work activity and spot trends to help your team reach new heights.

Burnout is a significant threat and can be challenging to spot — especially for managers new to leadership or new to remote. Here are a few signs to watch out for and some tips on addressing them specifically.

6. Project and task management 

Managing remote project teams can be a challenging task. Companies should select project management software that all team members can access. This helps ensure that everyone is working towards the set goal and clears any misunderstandings that may arise.

Tracking time with Hubstaff Tasks.

If you don’t have any existing project management tools, review the experience of your existing teams. See who has familiarity with which system and with what level of project management complexity.

Simplify your tool selection based on your team’s experience level. That’ll speed up adoption and utilization, giving you a positive return. Plus, your team will face fewer frustrations with new processes. 

Your aim is to set expectations and avoid failures. When possible, stick to a single project management tool across your organization. That way, you can pay for training for leads and set company-wide policies for projects and tasks. These options make it easy for managers to report to leadership about successes and growth, giving everyone credit for their hard work.

7. Career growth

The lack of career growth or advancement opportunities can be discouraging for employees. Remote companies should offer:

  • Continuous training programs
  • Career advancement programs
  • Leadership roles
  • Employee engagement survey
  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) groups
  • Promotions
  • Opportunities for employee-led feedback

Employees often stay where they are until something forces them to leave. This workplace inertia concept has been detailed and confirmed for decades. Leaders and managers must identify what would cause someone to leave. In many cases, that is a lack of opportunity.

This reality is why career growth and smart retention strategies often go hand-in-hand.

If you’re struggling to understand what to offer, look at how you (and your competitors) hire. Ask yourself:

  • What do you offer that people like?
  • Where does your business fall short? 
  • Why would someone choose you to start their career?
  • What steps will people want to take in their respective careers?

Building off of these questions helps ensure your organization understands career growth issues and the solutions you need to help your team grow.

8. Building and maintaining trust

If you’ve read nearly any other page on the Hubstaff website, you’ve likely seen our thoughts on trust. Building and maintaining trust is essential to successful remote work. It’s also critical to solving most remote work challenges. Fail to build trust, and you’ll never be able to recover.

In remote work, trust comes in a few different forms: 

  • Visibility. Trust starts with being visible. That covers simply being available on Slack and other communication and collaboration tools. Visibility also means leading by example. For instance, leaders can create a company culture where they take PTO to help team members feel comfortable.
  • Transparency. For the metrics we’ve mentioned, trust comes from transparency — especially in evaluating teams. Allow teams to provide feedback and celebrate their successes so they feel invested in their performance.
  • Communication. Trust requires ongoing communication, too. Companies should support multiple communication channels, establish regular video meetings, conduct team-building sessions, and provide opportunities for each remote worker to get to know one another beforehand. 

Trust is a core part of everything else on this list because successful remote work inherently means trusting people to do their jobs without looking over their shoulders at all times. Try these tips to get started on the road to establishing trust.

9. Time zone differences

Speaking of times, another remote work challenge for companies to consider is physical location and time. This seems simple but can be one of the trickiest remote work challenges for managers.

Time zone differences are a significant issue when working with international teams. Remote work can complicate this because you’ll juggle more time zones, sometimes even if people are in the same state or country.

Companies should establish set hours of work that overlap, offering flexibility and rotating shifts. That can help you address support-focused remote working challenges and solutions.

If you support more asynchronous work, consider picking a company time zone and sharing that with team members. That way, it’s easier to schedule meetings that everyone can attend.

Thankfully, many tools like Google Calendar will convert meetings and due dates into local time. This allows a manager to set a single time, and then each individual knows when it will occur. Automated tools eliminate the risk of time zone conversion errors.

Remote work challenges for companies

Technical challenges are a significant hurdle in remote work. However, they’re also an excellent solution for many issues — like the automatic time zone conversion just mentioned.

Look for common threads when thinking about the challenges of working remotely and how to overcome them. Companies should use reliable communication and task management tools, offer tech support, and provide access to the required technology to complete their tasks. 

Your remote organization needs a strong IT leader. Not only will they need to select and help troubleshoot proven tools, but they will also need to develop security practices that keep your distributed organization safe. They’re a linchpin to your success as you use technology to bridge the time and distance gaps mentioned above.

Remote work solutions offer companies the flexibility and productivity needed for a thriving work environment. Navigating remote work challenges is critical for companies that want to maintain a productive and healthy work culture. Remember to prioritize these nine areas:

  • Communication
  • Productivity
  • Habits and cultural differences
  • Healthy work-life balance
  • Overworking and stress
  • Project and task management
  • Career growth
  • Building and maintaining trust
  • Time zone differences 

What have you found to be your most common remote work challenges and the best solution? Share with us in the comments below.

Category: Remote