Ever since Covid-19 trapped the world in their homes, businesses have been increasingly turning towards remote work.
Experts believe that this will bring about a more permanent change where remote work becomes the norm.
However, the more people start working from home, the more likely it is that mistakes will occur due to human error. It should be stressed that human error is purely accidental; otherwise, the action would constitute a violation of the company’s policies instead of a simple error. Nevertheless, these accidents can prove costly to a business.
Therefore, it’s a manager’s responsibility to reduce the possibility of human error as much as possible. With that in mind, here are a few problems that most people managing remote teams face, along with possible remedies:
1. Common management problems
Although remote employees work from home, they are still employees, which means that they should be treated as such. The same management pitfalls that would hinder a team working from an office can also affect a remote team. Let’s look at a few classic examples:
Setting unrealistic goals or deadlines
Managers need to be realistic in their expectations when setting goals or deadlines, especially if they plan to hold their employees accountable for coming up short. If a manager sets unreasonable deadlines, the employees will end up rushing to meet these targets, causing a few mistakes along the way.
Setting unclear goals
Any employee, whether working in an office or from home, needs to clearly understand what is expected of them and how their work relates to the overall benefit of their company. Employees also need to know what KPIs and metrics managers will use to assess their work.
A manager has to be clear on who is responsible for what and when a task is due. These details can make all the difference between an employee taking ownership of their responsibilities and an employee who fails to deliver on his basic duties.
Setting unclear objectives and micromanaging lie at opposite ends of the same spectrum, and can be equally detrimental.
Many employees enjoy remote work for the freedom it brings. The last thing they want is a manager breathing down their necks, checking in on them every five minutes.
When working with a remote team, a manager should set clear expectations and targets yet leave their employees leeway in how to achieve these targets so long as the expectations are met.
Better yet, if a manager could involve their team in the goal and target setting process, this would encourage the employees to take ownership of their tasks.
2. Problems with communication
One of the main problems regarding remote work is a lack of communication. While office employees tend to work side-by-side in cubicles, chatting together by the water cooler, remote workers don’t have this luxury. Often, remote employees are working from different countries altogether, making communication a hassle.
There are two specific areas where communication may be problematic:
For a team to function well, they need to interact together. However, some managers ignore this, which can be harmful to the work. If the employees aren’t comfortable with each other, how should they approach one another whenever they have any burning questions?
Managers should strive to initiate regular team interactions. These interactions can take the form of get-to-know-you Q & A’s a weekly basis or the form of online game competitions where the winner gets a prize of sorts.
Communication between the manager and their employees
Given the large physical distances between remote teams, some managers inadvertently slack a bit when it comes to team communication. This is understandable because, in an office setting, managers are available to employees throughout the workday: All the employee has to do is knock on the manager’s door. This is not the case when it comes to remote work.
In addition to giving the employees clear and concise instructions, managers should make themselves available as much as possible. This means having an “open-door” policy for employees to reach them easily.
A manager needs to be proactive and check up on their employees from time to time, making sure that the work is going along smoothly.
This is not the same as micromanaging; rather than telling the employee what to do and fussing over the minutiae, a manager should check with employees to see if they are facing any problems getting the work done.
3. Not providing the necessary tools for the job
Remote workers need access to particular tools that office employees wouldn’t necessarily use. They need tools to facilitate the communication process, tools to help share and store files, and tools to research and gather the information necessary for their jobs. Furthermore, some remote workers need special tools in their home workstation.
The company is responsible for providing these tools. The companies that fail to do so are bound to end up cleaning the mess caused by a series of preventable mistakes.
4. Failing to provide the necessary training
The fact that employees work from home is not an excuse to neglect the training and development they need to flourish and grow in their careers.
Managers should offer their employees regular performance reviews; employees need feedback on their work as well as constructive criticism. Employees also need recognition for a job well done. After all, everyone wants to work in a place where they feel seen and appreciated.
Concerning training, there are a few things managers need to look out for. First of all, employees need to receive cybersecurity training and learn how to be cautious online, especially when sending or receiving sensitive information.
This becomes all the more pertinent given that nine out of ten breaches happen due to human error.
Companies should have a tested and proven disaster recovery plan in place in the event of a breach. Furthermore, it’s important to train the employees, especially remote ones, on what to do if a human error happens and make sure that the employees know the disaster recovery plan well.
Aside from security, there are other areas where employees need training. Technology is always evolving. Employees need to learn how to use the most cutting-edge tools in their field to stay productive.
Additionally, employees can also benefit from training that helps their individual career paths, including training for more managerial or senior positions.
Bringing it all together
Remote work is here to stay, and today’s managers have to adapt to this changing reality. This means learning how to sidestep most of the mistakes that come with people working on different continents.
Managers have to create clear lines of communication between themselves and their employees as well as between the employees themselves. Managers need to also empower their employees and give them the tools necessary for success while also providing the necessary training to help them grow and achieve their full potential.
About the Author
Heather Redding is a part-time assistant manager and writer based in Aurora, Illinois. She is also an avid reader and a tech enthusiast. When Heather is not working or writing, she enjoys her Kindle library with a hot cup of coffee. Reach out to her on Twitter.