Remote workforce management is frequently overlooked. Today, almost a quarter of U.S. employees work remotely or within a hybrid work environment. Despite this reality, many HR and business professionals lead their organization through remote work—well—blindly.
This is understandable considering the rapid transition to remote work in 2020, leaving organizations to play catchup. However, remote work is not going anywhere, meaning we must take advantage of expert tools and strategies to finally optimize it, or risk losing employees to companies that have a better remote employee experience.
Fortunately, there are many proven steps HR and managers can take to make remote work a little easier on themselves and their employees. Doing this also creates significant benefits like increased productivity, engagement and profitability.
Common Challenges of Remote Work
Before you begin optimizing your organization’s remote workforce management, first you need to understand the daily challenges remote employees face. After all, even a high-performing employee will struggle if they do not have the adequate resources, clear communication and preparation.
Challenges that present themselves in a remote work environment can fall within these three buckets:
A lack of visibility
Oftentimes, remote managers and employees must work together with less visibility into each other’s responsibilities and less face-to-face communication. This can cause a lack of trust if the manager feels or receives evidence that their direct report is not working quickly or thoroughly. Meanwhile, employees may struggle to perform if their remote workplace creates conditions for excessive workloads, limited managerial support or poor communication clarity.
Poor information design
Within a remote workplace where collaboration and work processes all take place online, many remote employees find that it’s difficult to locate what they need. Whether they can’t find answers to simple questions, or don’t know who to ask, they spend much of their time locating information.
Poor information design has significant impacts on both work quality and interpersonal relationships. Research shows that when remote workers don’t have “mutual knowledge” it’s easier for conflict to arise. For instance, if you know that an employee has less knowledge of a client and receive a subpar assignment from them, you’re able to determine that they need more information. When in a remote work environment, you may find it difficult to give them the benefit of the doubt if it’s assumed that they have everything they need.
Lastly, working remotely can cause employee loneliness and disconnect within your workplace, factors that significantly contribute to employee turnover and underperformance. Extroverted employees feel the effects of loneliness more commonly within a remote work environment, however it can affect all employees if a remote work culture is not established over a longer period of time.
Ways to solve common remote work challenges
However, there’s no need to worry; many remote organizations thrive within virtual work environments. It just requires active preparation and a purposeful strategy to maintain transparency, clear communication and strong support for your employees.
Define standard ways of remote working
Establishing and communicating your organization’s remote ways of working is one of the easiest ways to simplify the transition to remote work. It works because it offers employees clear expectations for how they should navigate working within an uncertain, digital environment.
Expectations should be defined for:
- The frequency, time and tools to foster collaboration and communication
- Virtual meeting protocols
- Ideal availability
- Information sharing
- Vision, mission and values
- And other “rules of work” at your organization
HR or managers should establish these remote work guidelines and make them consistent across the whole organization to ensure all employees have the same, clear expectations, from the moment they begin working for the organization.
Build a remote work culture
To ensure employees feel a sense of belonging at your remote organization and reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness, the next step of business is to build a vibrant remote work culture. Not sure how to create something that can feel intangible?
Keep in mind, a remote work culture basically consists of a structure for employees to socialize and get the opportunity to know one another without talking about work topics. This is especially helpful for employees who've transitioned to remote work quickly or onboarded remotely.
To begin establishing a remote work culture, or help managers establish one within their team, department or location, ask them to make the first couple of minutes within a virtual call about catching up. This is natural to implement within meetings and gives employees the opportunity to learn more about their coworkers.
Another simple way to make your remote work environment more social and create a sense of culture is to hold virtual events. Whether a virtual office party, a trivia night or for a game of pictionary, virtual events are easy to coordinate and are inclusive to your entire workforce.
Also keep in mind that it's important for these events to be accepted and attended by members of the leadership from time to time to show that they are supportive of team building and creating a better work culture.
Manage remote work burnout
Because digital remote work can hinder visibility, many remote managers struggle to assess employee workloads. Whether the employee is in meetings all day delaying important work, has too much on their plate or does not have all the information to efficiently complete their assignment, remote work burnout is a real consequence of remote workforce mismanagement.
To prevent remote work burnout from occurring, hold periodic conferences to discuss healthy work habits and teach employees how to advocate for their time, such as if they have too many meetings.
Additionally, be on the lookout for signs of remote employee burnout, like consistent tiredness, irritability and symptoms of depression. For any employees that look like they’re struggling, hold one-on-ones to see if you can alleviate their challenges in the workplace and listen to why they’re feeling the way they are.
Collaboration tools for remote workforces
Collaboration is a vital part of any work, and in a remote organization, it requires necessary tools to facilitate correctly. Some popular collaboration tools for remote workforces include:
- Google Workspace
These enable remote employees to plan, execute and track relevant projects and goals with minimal confusion, no matter where they’re working from.
Remote management solutions
If your remote employees work across multiple work management systems like those listed above, it can be difficult to get clear visibility of an individual employee’s digital work. This begs the question: How do you see if their tools are actively participating in helping them complete work or if they’re becoming overwhelmed with the amount of work tasked?
That's why it's important to use a remote management solution like a people analytics platforms. These solutions are built to consolidate all your tools’ analytics and help HR and managers identify trends and view how their organization is working across these systems.
People analytics platforms are not focused on "tracking" employees; they help managers understand how employees are working so they can support them properly. It enables you to:
- Drive forward your people strategies
- View employee sentiment
- Make obscure digital work processes visible
- Drive efficient, meaningful remote work
Most importantly, it helps you meet the requirements of all your employees and their role in a remote organization, no matter the scale.
Ease the transition to remote work
As you’ve learned by now, the transition to remote work doesn’t always have to be filled with bumps in the road. By understanding common remote workplace challenges and leveraging the easy suggestions we’ve recommended, you’re already strides beyond many organizations in optimizing your remote work processes.
Curious to learn how you can raise remote employee retention without the in-person office and perks? Read our recent blog and try these remote employee retention strategies yourself!