Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the business world is quickly embracing the remote-first paradigm. But remote workforce challenges typically arise, even when your employees are tech-savvy and highly agile. Working from home requires significant process updates, some of which make common tasks more difficult than they were originally. Additionally, when an employee struggles, they may not know who to turn to or how to reach out for help.
Luckily, many remote workforce challenges are resolvable with a bit of effort and diligence. Here are tips for overcoming the five biggest remote workforce challenges that companies typically encounter.
1. Use Robust Project Management Software
Project management software is supposed to streamline processes and keep diverse, dispersed teams on target. However, if your current solution is cumbersome, doesn’t support cross-team collaboration, doesn’t track changes in real-time, or is otherwise lacking, your remote workforce will struggle.
Ideally, you want a project management software solution that allows your teams to get a solid overview of the entire project at a glance. Additionally, workload and task management features are a must, as well a relevant cross-departmental functionality.
A user-friendly interface is also a necessity, especially when not all team members are tech-savvy. For example, a drag-and-drop task management approach could be ideal, particularly if it is coupled with automated to-do list generation and centralized communication capabilities.
2. Create Heads-Down Quiet Hours
While a workplace can be brimming with distractions, employees can often use signals to let others know that they don’t want to be disturbed. This can include putting on headphones while they are working, a visual cue that they would prefer to remain undisturbed, or even put up a physical sign.
A remote workforce doesn’t necessarily have those options. There isn’t necessarily a simple way to signal to others that they need to concentrate on heads-down style tasks. This could lead to interruptions at inopportune times, which could damage productivity and morale.
Consider implementing formal heads-down quiet hours. During those periods, team members are encouraged to make use of “do not disturb” features or to disengage from team chats. Similarly, your remote workforce shouldn’t reach out to other team members barring emergencies during those time windows, ensuring everyone has the chance to work without distractions.
3. Establish Virtual Meeting Guidelines
In-person meetings already have a bad rap as potential time-wasters. Now that everyone is gathering virtually, the odds of a subpar experience can actually be higher. People talking over one another means know one is understood, and background noises from people’s homes can be distracting. Plus, if the conversation shifts off-topic or some participants aren’t fully engaged, and are, instead, handling other tasks unbeknownst to others, it can make the meeting unproductive overall.
Establishing virtual meeting guidelines can help. Require formal agendas, ensuring everyone knows what the topic is, and intervene if the conversation drifts off target. Make sure participants mute themselves unless they are actively speaking, and create a signal that can put an end to unnecessary crosstalk should it occur.
4. Schedule One-on-One Video Chats
Touching base with each employee individually is a must if you’re managing a remote workforce. It gives you an opportunity to see how a worker is doing, as it may not be apparent that a team member is struggling otherwise.
The one-on-one video chats can, and should, be brief, ensuring that the meeting is beneficial, not disruptive or an attempt at micromanagement. The idea is to find out if any challenges are hindering their ability to excel and, if so, to find workable solutions. Additionally, it’s a chance to provide support and let them know you are available.
5. Encourage Some Fun
Humans are social creatures. Now that you’re dealing with a remote workforce, opportunities for casual conversations and social activities among colleagues are inherently limited. This can be damaging to morale and may cause professional relationships to languish.
If you want to keep your team strong, make space for fun and socialization. Dedicate a channel in your collaboration software to casual conversation, funny videos, or similar relaxed interactions and sharing. Host video chat happy hours where everyone can simply talk, or give each team member a pizza delivery gift card and have a virtual pizza party.
Ultimately, managing a remote workforce is challenging, but it’s a paradigm many companies will have to embrace for the foreseeable future. With the tips above, you can make the process easier for everyone, ensuring that morale and productivity both stay high.