What Unexpected Challenges Arise When Managing Remote Teams?

What Unexpected Challenges Arise When Managing Remote Teams?

When it comes to the intricacies of managing remote teams, we’ve gathered firsthand experiences from seasoned people managers to uncover the unexpected challenges they’ve faced. From navigating time zone differences to creating virtual coffee breaks for team bonding, here are the top five strategies shared by HR leaders and CEOs on overcoming the hurdles of remote team management.

  • Navigating Time Zone Differences
  • Fostering Remote Community Engagement
  • Enhancing Team Productivity and Accountability
  • Adopting Asynchronous Communication Tools
  • Creating Virtual Coffee Breaks for Team Bonding

Navigating Time Zone Differences

Although we expected time zone issues when adopting remote working across a global team, we hadn’t considered working week differences.

We had recently made an offer to a candidate located in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and hadn’t considered the fact that the Saudi weekend starts on Friday, not Saturday.

Additionally, Sunday would be a working day in KSA, but a weekend here in the West. Normally, this wouldn’t be an issue, but this candidate was particularly junior and needed support and supervision throughout the onboarding process.

Consequently, we ensured that someone was on standby to provide guidance and advice on a Sunday and ensured that by Thursday, the employee’s most pressing concerns were addressed. This ensured that their onboarding process went well, without being too disruptive for the management team.

Chloe YarwoodChloe Yarwood
HR Manager, Test Partnership

Fostering Remote Community Engagement

One of the hardest parts of navigating the shift to remote teams was finding effective ways to build community in remote workspaces. The methods we used in an in-person office just weren’t working effectively, especially after the first few months when the novelty of Zoom meetings had truly worn off. We also found that, especially among the employees who adapted well to remote work, traditional socializing with their coworkers was not something they missed.

Our solution eventually evolved organically with the employee-led creation of several off-topic public Slack channels that everyone could contribute to. We have one for cute photos of pets and kids, one that picks a streaming series to watch together, and one for arranging in-person meetups, especially when any of us are traveling. It’s led to a happy medium where we can feel connected to each other without trying to force anything.

Nick ValentinoNick Valentino
VP of Market Operations, Bellhop

Enhancing Team Productivity and Accountability

Perhaps the biggest unexpected challenge was ensuring ongoing team productivity and accountability without the benefit of shared office space.

To address this, I mandated clearly defined and measurable goals and provided weekly progress updates in project management software so that everyone could see tasks, deadlines, and statuses in real time. I also scheduled weekly team meetings to review accomplishments, identify blockers, and reaffirm priorities. In these meetings, each team member gets to discuss their progress and what is hanging them up, providing needed visibility into each team member’s work and resulting in a sense of accountability with respect to each other and the team.

This approach’s benefits extend to keeping all team members on track, ensuring objectives are met, and ensuring that everyone feels supported and held accountable for their contribution. Regular communication to keep the lines of support open improves the team’s overall productivity.

Sunaree KomolchomaleeSunaree Komolchomalee
Head of Human Resources, Cupid Digital PR Agency

Adopting Asynchronous Communication Tools

I won’t say it was completely unexpected, because we’ve always been a remote-first company, but one challenge that definitely got more and more amplified as we started hiring across different countries was scheduling meetings across multiple time zones. With team members dispersed across the globe, finding a suitable meeting time became a logistical nightmare.

To address this, we adopted asynchronous communication tools, particularly async videos, to replace real-time meetings. It allowed everyone to contribute at their convenience, respecting their time zones and personal schedules. I also realized that, as opposed to jumping on a ‘quick’ call, which is seldom ever quick, there was more intention behind creating these videos. Everyone was taking their time to review the content and responding thoughtfully, without the pressure of immediate responses. Sure, we’ve seen a few hiccups here and there, which is only natural because we’re human beings. But overall, this approach continues to serve us well to date.

Gary GrayGary Gray
CEO, CouponChief.com

Creating Virtual Coffee Breaks for Team Bonding

One unexpected challenge I’ve faced when managing remote teams is the lack of spontaneous, informal communication, which often leads to feelings of isolation and miscommunication among team members.

How I Addressed It:

Virtual Coffee Breaks: I introduced regular virtual coffee breaks where team members could join a casual video call with no set agenda. These breaks mimicked the informal chats that happen naturally in an office setting.

Positive Outcomes:

Improved Team Bonding: These informal interactions helped team members get to know each other better, fostering a sense of camaraderie and team spirit.

Enhanced Communication: Casual conversations allowed for more open and frequent communication, reducing the chances of miscommunication.

Increased Morale: Regular social interactions helped reduce feelings of isolation and boosted overall team morale.

By creating opportunities for informal interaction, I was able to address the challenge of isolation and enhance team cohesion and communication in a remote work environment.

Ana AlipatAna Alipat
Recruitment Team Lead, Dayjob Recruitment

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