Top 5 Challenges Every Remote Team Will Face
Remote work is not an issue – actually, it may let you breeze past your competitors. However, if you do not properly adapt to the evolving labor market, remote teams can become a real nightmare. Lack of proper management will plunge them into chaos and they’ll become ineffective and inefficient. Below you’ll find the top 5 challenges every remote team will face as well as suggestions to help you address them and keep your teams delivering excellent results.
1. Replace direct management with indirect control
In a traditional working setup managers can easily assess how the work’s going – by simply walking up and talking to team members. This gives every Project Manager an unparalleled insight into what’s going on within the team and alerts them to problems building up. That, in turn, enables them to address issues before they get out of hand. However, direct contact is not possible in a dispersed team, meaning direct management becomes ineffective because the Project Manager can only evaluate results and relies on ongoing communication with their team.
In order to understand the magnitude of problems posed by an inadequately managed remote team, think about the following scenario: one of the team members is unhappy with their supervisor. In a traditional office setting, the Project Manager would see there’s something off with the body language, gestures, facial expressions; and quickly realize they’ve got a problem on their hands. But that won’t happen and the team member’s unhappiness will go on unnoticed since that person works remotely. A call – be it video or a regular phone call – won’t give the same level of insight and thus the Project Manager will be less likely to notice the issue. This may result in reduced employee productivity or, in the worst case scenario – even quitting.
Management style is changing – how to cope with it? Remote teams tend to be isolated so you need to take extra care to ensure Project Managers create an atmosphere that closely resembles the traditional office setup. Crucially, you need to communicate the entire team collectively as well as with every individual team member separately. Managers should encourage and foster team spirit and friendly relations between team members, just as they would in a traditional office setup. But be careful and avoid the trap of micro-management as it’s only going to harm team productivity.
2. Co-operation with Junior Developers
Hiring Junior Developers is an excellent decision. It ensures your entire team benefits from continuous development and growth: your Junior Devs learn quickly and become independent, and the more experienced employees develop their soft and leadership skills.
In a traditional office setup scenario Junior Devs are always supervised by more experienced mentors who often conduct additional Code Review and keep tabs on the work delivered by their mentees in order to ensure quality. However, when Junior Devs are added to a dispersed team, quality control as well as keeping track of their development becomes an issue. A badly managed junior employee can bring chaos to the project instead of adding value to the entire team.
Many Junior Developers find it difficult to ask questions and turn for support in a remote work environment. That’s why problems and errors are spotted much later – there’s no Senior Developer watching over the Junior’s shoulder all the time. So, what to do in order to ensure working with Junior Devs is equally productive and valuable for both parties in a remote scenario? First of all, it’s important to implement an appropriate onboarding and training process for the inexperienced employees. This will help to bring the team together right from the very beginning. On the other hand, the managers supervising dispersed teams that include Junior Devs must make themselves available to them at all times, answer their questions, and establish an environment where asking questions is not seen as a mistake but part and parcel of the learning process. Your remote team will develop and avoid chaos only where both the Project Manager and the Senior Developer – responsible for one of your Juniors – are available.
3. Communication Challenges
Communication within dispersed teams is among the major challenges – or at least it’s among the most discussed ones. Sadly, it doesn’t improve the status quo. Communication problems arise chiefly from methods remote teams rely on: e-mails, chats, text messages, videocalls. Each of them can ‘lose’ the meaning a message is supposed to convey. Messages often lose some of their value as they end crammed into a tiny space. Online chatting does not carry the same potential like in-person, face-to-face meetings, and it’s usually the team’s productivity and creativity that suffer.
How to deal with this challenge? Designate specific communication methods and channels that include separate channels for casual, non-work-related conversations. Also, do not inundate your team with a lot of tiny messages – you’ll be better off having a daily debrief session where everyone provides updates and feedback.
4. Trust in colleagues we’ve never seen
Another challenge is the issue of trust among your team members. It often so happens that teams are genuinely dispersed and it really is impossible to meet in-person. This hampers the relationship and trust building process – an essential ingredient for successful project delivery. People who’ve never met in real life may not trust each other fully (which is totally understandable and natural). This, in turn, impedes communication and means that whatever is being said may not be taken with enough gravitas.
Building trust is a difficult process that requires commitment from Project Managers. In order to foster team integration and pursue targets together it may be a good idea to create a dedicated communication space (like a Slack channel) intended for out-of-work hobbies chat, sending links to interesting articles, or simply talking about whatever you like. Managers must be open-minded and set an example for the rest of your team – chatting not only about work, but also about themselves, answering questions, sharing interesting or fun stuff, etc. Building a culture based on trust in a remote team takes time but it’s absolutely crucial in terms of team productivity.
5. Building and maintaining processes
Processes are important in the traditional setup but, when push comes to shove, doing things slightly differently is much easier than it is in a remote team setting – a simple conversation will do. Stepping away from a process in a remote team setup will result in chaos and delays because with no direct contact you can’t just identify its source and fix it. Here, too, it’s crucial to properly onboard employees and introduce them to the company’s processes so that everyone knows what they’re responsible for and what is their role within the team. It is also important to establish how the tasks are performed and how the results are assessed. Permanent and accessible KPIs will help avoid unnecessary confusion and chaos, with each team member knowing exactly what is expected of them.
Remote teams can help you gain a competitive advantage and contribute to tremendous growth. Remote work will, however, ask many questions of your management and team members that you’ll have to tackle on your road to glory. Reach out to us if you need support with finding and adding the best IT talent to your teams.
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