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what are challenges managing remote team

What Are The Challenges Of Operating A Remote Team

As more and more companies look to save money, or reduce their startup costs, they are setting up remote teams.

Some big companies like IBM encourage working remotely, because they don’t have to prepare facilities or office space for the person.

On the other hand, some entrepreneurs who have start-ups will work from home too. They may need a developer, and this person can work from home rather than coming to an office.

Whatever the context, having a remote team has its advantages and disadvantages. There are also some potential mitigating actions against these remote team challenges.

Advantages

  • On call when needed – You can organise your team in such a way that they are on call when they are needed. If you have them working in different time zones, then you could have 24 hours coverage.
  • Reduced Cost – You don’t need to pay their internet costs, or even their facility cost. The facility cost would include furniture and other amenities that an employee usually receives in an office.
  • Higher Productivity – Your remote team can be more productive when working remotely. Part of this reason is due to the fact they are working in their own environment. This environment is something that they know and that should make them feel comfortable
  • Matrix structure – You can setup the team in such a way that they are working in a matrix. This matrix can include various personalities and skill sets that together provide a great team that achieves results. It would really depend on your choice of structuring them.
  • Faster Incident Response Rate – If you are working remotely, then a team could potentially respond to an incident much faster. Since all the team members are spread out, they can have the tools needed to respond to situations.

Challenges of a remote team

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Tracking their work

It’s quite difficult to see what each team member is doing on a daily basis. You cannot just walk to their desk or into their office to ask them for an update.

Ways to mitigate this include:

  1. There are software applications out there that provide work track solutions. You may have to invest some money into buying the software. However, consider the initial investment may prove to a great benefit in the future.
  2. You can have regular meetings with the team member to assess their progress to specific deadlines/goals.

Startup Person ≠ Remote person

A person that looks like they could really work well in your startup may not have the personality needed to work remotely. For example, they may not have the discipline and focus to work on their own outside of regular supervision and the office.

To mitigate this you could:

  1. Conduct an interview. The interview is a great way to ensure that you can identify the personality and work habits of the candidate. You should take the time to understand if they have previous experience working from home and in what capacity.
  2. You should also consider to potentially give them some remote task as part of the interview process to see how long it takes them and if they deliver the quality that is expected.

Lack of team building

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If the team is working remotely, then it can be very difficult to organise team building activities. It means that the team cannot get together and get to know each other on a more personal level.

To help mitigate this you can:

  1. You can offer to organise an annual team building in a location to which everyone agrees. It’s an opportunity for them to decide collectively what they want to meet.
  2. You can also offer to have regular weekly meetings to discuss what is going on within the team.
  3. Suggesting team members interacting with each offline, if possible, may also encourage them to work together more and getting to know each other.

Difficult to communicate

With everyone being so far apart, it can be really hard to communicate clearly and that everyone understands what is going on. The team manager/team leader and/or team members can experience this difficulty. This is especially true if the team members are working in different time zones and will not have an opportunity to talk in real time.

To help mitigate this situation you could:

  1. A regular, weekly team meeting may help solve this issue as the team can speak with each other. During the meeting, the manager/team leader should ask what is working for everyone and what is not working. This is an opportunity to resolve any issues and build on what is going well.
  2. Some rules should be in place that sets priority to different tasks and communications depending on where they are located and what is needed. This can really help manage the difficulty if team members are working in different times. For example, team members should look to resolve those queries first which are coming from a different time zone.

Work/Life Balance

People may have difficulty distinguishing between working and private life especially if they are working at home and not in a co-working space.

To mitigate this you could:

  1. Ensure that you have a system in place to monitor people’s working hours
  2. Have regular follow-ups with them if you notice that they are working beyond normal hours or you believe there is a risk they may be working too much