Remote work has completely transformed not only where we work but also how we work. Physically meeting and checking in with your team regularly may no longer possible in a remote working environment. What’s more, many traditional measures of productivity and performance aren’t feasible in such an environment, so remote working can present several challenges for managers to overcome.
It’s therefore vital for managers to be open to implementing new and effective approaches to managing remote workers. It’s particularly important to do so given that recent research has found that the COVID-19 pandemic led to a 14% decrease in employee productivity in the US. Plus, by all accounts, remote work looks like it’s a phenomenon that’s here to stay (at least in some shape or form). So, it’s well worth tweaking your management approach adapt to remote work sooner rather than later.
Of course, overhauling how you manage your team remotely is easier said than done. The good news is that there are plenty of other professionals in the same boat. After all, chances are that anyone who has ever managed a team of remote workers has encountered the very same or similar problems that you’re facing.
To shed some light on how other professionals are dealing with the challenges associated with managing their teams remotely, we reached out to a panel of 32 business leaders and managers and asked them to answer this question:
“If you could wave a magic wand to improve one aspect of managing remote workers, what would it be?”
Meet Our Panel of HR Professionals & Business Leaders:
Keep reading to learn more the key aspects our experts would like to improve about managing their teams remotely.
Michele Hall Duncan is the President and CEO of the enCourage Kids Foundation.
“I’ve actually already waved my magic wand to improve the one aspect of managing remote workers that I have found to be the most challenging…”
That aspect is time management tracking. In the world of the remote workspace, where we no longer have opportunities for impromptu check-ins or the ability to just pop into someone’s office for a status report on a particular project, assessing workflows and progress outside of scheduled virtual meetings has been a challenge.
So, we started using Monday.com as a visual project management tool. It adds a level of accountability that allows us to better understand where everyone is in their project management. It also helps us to organize collaborative tasks and see how everyone on the team is working together to reach both individual and group goals. In addition, it allows us to ensure nothing falls through the cracks.
Ashwin Sokke is the co-founder of WOW Skin Science, a beauty company that sells 100% vegan hair care and skincare, as well as face and body grooming essentials for your lifestyle. The company’s all-natural solutions are free of animal testing, parabens, and sulfates. Sokke co-founded the company with his brother and another brother duo in 2013 in India. They wanted to be the first Indian beauty/wellness brand to go truly global.
“I would like to wave a magic wand to improve collaboration…”
After all, the biggest challenge in a remote workplace is the limited ability to collaborate. I recognize that in-person collaboration is always superior, but with technology advancing rapidly, we have many tools that help us combat this issue. The number one remote work tool used within my company is Telegram. Telegram is used for internal daily messaging between team members and leaders. The tool allows us to create groups, name the groups, add or remove members as needed, send attachments, add photos or videos, and share locations, in addition to many other features.
I find that my employees enjoy using Telegram as it is easy and quick to use—similar to a texting app. For any other communication that requires a verbal or physical presence, we use Zoom or Google Meets. Both tools are simple to use and allow us to videoconference as many people as required for a given situation. I think staying connected and putting extra emphasis on communication has been vital to the success of my business while working remotely.
Carla’s passion for data and technical chops led her to co-create Broadband Search. She believes the internet should be a human right and volunteers at her local animal shelter in her spare time.
“If I could wave a wand and improve one aspect of managing remote workers, it would be…”
To enhance employee communication. It would be amazing if we could all communicate and understand one another without much effort. One of the challenges that comes along with remote work is getting everyone on the same page for projects. Communication is of utmost importance, and understanding one another is the only way to get projects done efficiently.
When your team can’t communicate properly, projects get delayed because they have to go back and fix various issues that came about from the miscommunication. While this isn’t always an issue, it does seem to pop up every now and then. So it would be great if I could just magically make it disappear altogether and always have projects run smoothly.
Vipin Chahal is the founder of Return Policy Guide. He has always been a keen observer who likes to strategize new means and ways to help his growth, both as an individual and as an entrepreneur.
“If I could wave a magic wand, I would like to improve employee monitoring software…”
I would like it to use more integrated and proctored audio/video methods to keep an eye on employees, while giving them their space at the same time. What we have now are very strict monitoring tools that breach the privacy of employees when they are at home. So, this is the one aspect that needs constant innovation to support HR managers or project heads in managing their workers remotely.
Laura’s love for every major sport made her aware of the frustration that comes with trying to acquire a decent cable sports package. In turn, she became a major advocate for Dish and began operating Infinity Dish.
“If I could wave my magic wand, I would change… “
The speed of communication between remote workers. We are in a unique and still reasonably new situation, and everyone is doing their best. But I do wish I saw faster response times on occasion. Everyone is on their own schedule due to kids, virtual schooling, helping out with parents, or just working off-peak hours. All these schedules make it slow going through the communication chain at times. When face-to-face in an office, or at least in an office at the same time, the response time is typically much quicker.
Manny Hernandez is a self-made entrepreneur, CEO, and co-Founder of Omni, Inc. He is a consummate marketer and information technology professional with over ten years of experience in the fast-evolving arena of direct response marketing. He loves to travel and enjoys the freedom that working online provides.
“The number one aspect I’d improve about managing remote workers is trust…”
When employees trust their managers and believe they’re working toward a shared vision, collaboration and engagement happen naturally. But it’s hard-won in an environment where face-to-face interaction is a rarity. The flexibility of working from home requires an additional level of trust among team members. Not knowing who’s working when, delays in responses, varying levels of productivity, and decreased overall communication all put a strain on team trust.
I am thankful to the great team of remote workers at Omni for sharing in the company vision, as it has helped us to have the shared mission, collaborative spirit, and strategic team-building needed to instill trust among employees and the managers. However, I always want these aspects to get better, so having a magic wand to improve trust would make the whole remote management process much easier.
Edwin Rubio is the VP of Sales at Vapor Empire, a Los Angeles based E-Cigarette retailer. Edwin has experience in full-cycle marketing, project management, data analytics, and managing sales teams. He believes in building meaningful, long-lasting business relationships.
“If I could wave a magic wand, I would improve communication between employees…”
Teams work best when they communicate effectively, so having everyone work remotely has definitely made an impact. The ability to have an intimate one on one conversation has definitely been hindered due to remote work. Zoom has been great for meetings, but it does not match up to the feeling of face-to-face conversations.
Questions are answered when communicating through video chats, but the ability to connect on a personal and emotional level is less likely through the virtual platforms. Having the option to converse quickly or in passing is something that some of us may have taken for granted in the past, as now we need to set a date and time to even have short conversations.
Vinay Amin is a Health Expert and the CEO of Eu Natural.
“One of the biggest remote work challenges we’ve come up against is employees not knowing when or how to turn-off from their work…”
So, I’d like to wave a magic wand to improve this problem. It’s an understandable problem to have, as it can be difficult to separate living space and working space. But as we move forward, it seems like remote work is here to stay. A magic wand to help employees work in a focused manner, achieve their daily work goals, then forget work for the rest of the day, is what I want.
While not quite a magic wand solution, one suggestion I have for managers is to divide working days into tasks; assign tasks to be completed during the day, then once these tasks are finished, employees don’t work anymore. This makes the day goal-oriented and can make switching-off easier once the goal is achieved.
A second way to handle at-home time management is for employees to prepare a designated working space and only do work when sitting in that area. This helps compartmentalize the living and working areas, which makes it easier to turn off from work when not sitting in the workspace.
Hardeep is a Cambridge MBA graduate and the President of Stone and Tile Shoppe, an online store offering interior and exterior stone decoration.
“I would improve the hiring process if I could wave a magic wand…”
To ensure that your remote team works successfully, it’s vital to hire the right people. After all, not everyone can be a remote worker. Many people love the flexibility of working remotely, but only some have the attitude, motivation, and discipline to be productive as remote employees.
You should look for people who can work independently, as it’s always easier to manage a self-starter who doesn’t need a push to complete tasks. If you hire employees who have the motivation to do their job well, you won’t need to micromanage them. They won’t wait for you to ask for updates or assign new tasks for them. Rather, they will proactively update you on the status and schedule.
Nicole Garcia is the Chief Marketing Officer of Mostcraft, an online resource blog for arts and crafts.
“If I could wave a magic wand to improve one aspect of managing virtual workers, I’d…”
Give them the fastest internet speed possible. Remote workers depend on the internet, and not all of them are getting the same speed that they need for their work. So, the best way to improve virtual workers’ performance would be to grant them the highest Mbps each internet provider could give. This could enhance their productivity so they can work as smoothly as possible.
Brack Nelson is the marketing manager of Incrementors SEO Services.
“If I could wave a magic wand to improve one aspect of managing remote workers, it would be…”
Eliminating the feeling of being left out. This feeling is more prevalent among remote employees than those on-site. Remote workers may feel left out of the organization itself, from being recognized, considered for a raise, or the opportunity to share their opinions.
When you work remotely, you miss out on so many opportunities to connect with your colleagues and managers, including more minor ones like running into each other in the office. You also feel like your co-workers don’t hear you the same. I often think that management should consider the needs of remote employees like they do for in-office employees in order to increase the productivity, diversity, and team spirit of remote employees.
Hassan Alnassir is the founder and owner of Premium Joy, a toy company selling educational foam playthings for children.
“To better manage remote workers, I would change their time zones to all be the same…”
So that they can all work at the exact same time each day. Unified working hours would allow remote staff to promptly communicate with their manager and with one another whenever they need to. For instance, if everyone was in the same time zone, employees could quickly get any answers they need from their manager. This would allow them to complete their work without any delays.
Yaniv Masjedi is the CMO at Nextiva.
“If I could wave a magic wand, I would make team members reply within five minutes of sending a message…”
One of the advantages of remote work is the flexibility to perform responsibilities whenever workers feel the most productive. However, the biggest drawback of this perk is delayed replies.
Message senders typically receive replies hours after sending their message—and in some cases, the day after. Remote workers have their own responsibilities to perform, so it is understandable why there is a delayed response. However, if coworkers can reply within five minutes, it would help to make progress much faster.
John Cho is the founder of My Pet Child.
“If I could wave a magic wand, I would want everyone to have the exact same availability during the workweek…”
When you’re remote, there is an amount of flexibility that is both the best and worst part of remote work. It is great because overall, employees get more done as they can create a schedule that works best for them. But this flexibility is our downfall when we need things done quickly or have group projects.
Even though everyone is putting in their 8 hours, sometimes more, if mine are 9 to 5 and an employee who I really need confirmation from splits their workday up differently, I may not be able to reach them. It’s a fine balance of boundaries and accessibility.
Noman Nalkhande is the founder of WP Adventure.
“If I could wave a magic wand to improve an aspect of managing remote staff, it would be staff motivation…”
While there are many tools to overcome the technical difficulties that come along with remote working, managing expectations and motivating staff members is a bit of a challenge. Everyone is hit by the pandemic in some form—some more than others—and we all respond to problems differently.
There are times when some employees aren’t motivated enough because factors that existed before, such as the office community and the frequent banter, are now much harder to replicate while working remotely. Some employees thrive in such environments, and unless things go back to normal, it’s a constant effort to improve this aspect of managing remote workers.
Azza Shahid is a marketing consultant at Physicians Thrive.
“If I had a magic wand, I would address problems related to productivity and prioritizing work…”
These are the two things that I have changed my mind about since I started working remotely. I have discovered that:
- It isn’t easy to be productive.
I thought that being productive at home would be very easy and that I would end up being more productive than in the office. However, I have found this not to be true, as when I’m home, there are so many interruptions that come in the way of work. There are also some days when it is really hard to get motivated to do any work. It is especially hard if you have young kids, as they don’t understand that you are working and not able to play. You need to set boundaries in order to be more productive.
- Prioritizing work is hard.
Managing your own work is hard. When you don’t have someone checking up on you and telling you which task to do first, you may end up doing unimportant tasks first and having no time left over to do the urgent and important ones. Then there’s the constant temptation to tidy up the kitchen when you’re procrastinating or to play with your child because you catch their pleading look. All of a sudden, it’s evening, and you have nothing to show for the day. So, it’s important when you’re working at home to decide beforehand which task is most urgent to do first.
Salina is the CEO and founder of LinkedIn-Pro, a platform and destination for people to find tips, hacks, tricks, and updates about LinkedIn and B2B marketing. Previously, she worked for more than seven years in marketing and communication related roles in both consumer goods and B2B companies.
“If I could wave a magic wand to improve an aspect about managing remote workers, it would definitely be…”
To have the ability to know that they are getting some focused and solid work done every day. As a manager or founder of a newly formed company, you are always worried that there are too many distractions at home or outside for staff who are working at home. You worry that they’re not focused or doing the work they are supposed to be doing, and that they’ll eventually fail to deliver. So, I wish I could have a way to know that they are indeed focused and getting solid work done before they go away to do any other non-work activities.
Alvin is the CEO of Dr Wealth. He built a business to empower DIY investors to make better investments. A believer of the factor-based investing approach, Alvin conducts the flagship Intelligent Investor Immersive program under Dr Wealth. He is also the author of Secrets of Singapore Trading Gurus and Singapore Permanent Portfolio.
“If I could wave a magic wand, I would want to know how remote workers are feeling…”
Having good morale is a necessary ingredient for a high-performing team. Unfortunately, remote working has disabled my ability to sense my team members’ morale. Face-to-face communication and reading body language are inaccurate via video conferencing and impossible otherwise. Hence, I would ask for a magic wand to identify potential morale issues so that I can address them before the problems snowball into something detrimental.
Sean Nguyen is the Director of Internet Advisor.
“Basically, I just wish we didn’t have to spend so much time on Zoom to the point where everyone hates it and we all suffer from Zoom fatigue…”
It’s a necessary evil, because we can’t really get things done without it. But it’s so incredibly tiring and annoying for employees, especially on days that are packed with meetings. The alternative isn’t better, because written communication is much more ineffective. If I had a dime for every time there was a miscommunication because of a misread email or message, I’d have enough money to send out COVID stimulus packages myself. Communication is just an integral part of management, so having it be so difficult is just very disheartening.
Eric Sachs is the CEO of Sachs Marketing Group.
“One of the most frustrating parts of managing a remote team is technical difficulties, so I wish I could wave a magic wand to fix them…”
We can do everything in our power to make sure every single team member is outfitted with the proper equipment and utilities. But unfortunately, problems and outages occur, and there isn’t much we can do about it.
So, if I could wave a magic wand, I’d make sure that remote teams never had to deal with a single unexpected technological difficulty or interruption again.
In the marketing world and other fast-paced business environments where a variety of creatives are working quickly together on many moving parts, the slightest technology downtime can cause big problems.
Albert is the founder of Home Living Lab, a company centered on home improvement solutions. He is extremely passionate about sharing his experience and knowledge with people seeking to build their perfect home.
“One of the main struggles with managing remote workers is how difficult it is to track their progress and productivity…”
So, I would wave a magic wand to make this easier. In a conventional office, managers just need to pop their heads out of the office to check that everyone is hard at work. In this age of remote working, it’s more difficult for managers to monitor the productivity of their employees.
If I had a magic wand, I would want to be able to keep a watchful eye on all employees constantly to ensure that they’re doing meaningful work. That is, of course, not realistic or practical. Therefore, managers and leaders should now focus more on results rather than hours spent on the computer. Switching to a results-oriented culture can ease the anxiety of managers and also allow employees to have more independence and flexibility.
Mike Sadowski is the CEO and Founder at Brand24.com, a Poland-based startup that specializes in online reputation management and mentions all over the internet.
“I’d use a magic wand to improve companionship and contact among employees…”
The reason being that the biggest downside of remote working so far for me is the lack of physical, face-to-face interaction between my employees. Loneliness and isolation are, in my opinion, the most prominent issues of remote working.
The other thing is the communication restrictions, as there are limited non-verbal cues for me to read. This, in turn, results in a situation where I can’t sense my employees’ attitude, well-being, and comfort. It’s much harder to understand subtle cues in a message if it is text-only or communicated via Zoom or Teams. I value an individual approach to each employee, so this is one of my biggest pet peeves about remote work. To combat it, I try to meet my employees in person, too, being sure to keep with all safety precautions.
Petra Odak is a Chief Marketing Officer at Better Proposals, a simple yet incredibly powerful proposal software tool that helps you to send high-converting, web-based business proposals in minutes. She’s a solution-oriented marketing enthusiast with more than 5 years of experience in various fields of marketing and project management.
“If there is one thing I wish was better about managing remote workers, it would be communication…”
It would be great if there was a way to press and hold a button to record a short video every time you wanted to explain something that cannot be explained in text. This is actually not that difficult to develop in an app, but for some reason, no one has done it yet.
Michael Alexis is the CEO of TeamBuilding.
“I’d like to wave a magic wand to recognize that exact point where productivity drops off a cliff, or if it doesn’t get started at all…”
Most remote workers are a joy to work with; they bring passion, skill, and work ethic to the job and help the organization achieve its goal. However, a small percentage of hires may lack that work ethic or otherwise not be able to contribute at their full capacity or potential.
The challenge without having a magic wand is that even tools like time tracking and one-on-ones are flawed in terms of supervision and check-ins. The result is that sometimes it can take weeks or even months to recognize and resolve these issues.
Chelsea Baldwin is a multi-business entrepreneur and founder of BusinessBitch.com. She’s got over a decade of self-employment experience, and helps people get started with and grow their business dreams without waiting around and wasting time.
“If I could wave a magic wand to improve one aspect of managing remote workers, it would be…”
For them to actually follow the processes laid out for them. I would also like them to refer back to the work order or instruction document to fulfill the things that need to be done. That is, instead of just winging it (or so it seems on our end) and turning in something that’s half-baked or not following the instructions given. A lot of times, it seems like remote workers just blaze through whatever tasks they’re given to mark it off as done instead of actually investing in the project. This even happens when actually investing in the project does ultimately mean they’d be paid more, due to spending more hours working.
Brian is the Founder and CEO of Mergers & Inquisitions.
“If I could improve one aspect of managing remote workers, it would be…”
To make it as easy as possible for employees to adapt to new technology. While working at home, technical mishaps happen all too often. Installation issues, system incompatibility, or a simple lack of knowledge are common and inconvenient. These obstacles stop hard workers from doing their job. It can get frustrating.
Worst of all, some managers aren’t adept enough with each piece of software to train their staff.
And, in fairness, we can’t expect this of every manager. This is why proper delegation is important. Every team needs a specialist in each department to train their team. It lightens the load so we don’t spread ourselves too thin.
Otherwise, employees burn all their time struggling instead of working. It leads to so much confusion that the team can burn out before they begin. For me, it’s been a bumpy ride, and I’m sure it has for most of us. We’ve all run into unexpected setbacks. But once we ensured our team could use the software, it made management a lot easier. It took the weight off the shoulders of the team. We firmly believe that our team should be able to excel at their jobs with nothing holding them back, so that’s exactly what we set out to achieve.
That magic wand would make delegation and efficiency more commonplace during the pandemic.
Velin has been practicing martial arts for over 15 years and recently started sharing his experience by launching his own website, KeenFighter.
“If I could wave a magic wand to improve one aspect of managing remote workers, it would be communication…”
One of the great advantages of working in an office is the ability to just go up to someone and talk to them. When talking in-person, I have a much easier time telling if the other person is following me or if they have some apprehensions.
Being in the same office also gives you the ability to get everybody together for a couple of minutes and get them up to speed on all the current tasks. Just like talking to a single person, not only is it much easier to see when you need to clarify something, but people are also more comfortable interrupting you to ask for clarification.
When working remotely, all these things are much more difficult. While I really like conferencing software like Zoom and Teams, it just feels more disconnected compared to face-to-face communication.
Vincent Scaramuzzo is the President of Ed-Exec, Inc, a leading education executive search firm. He is also a contributing author to various education publications regarding education recruiting. A specialist in the education field for over a decade, Scaramuzzo places candidates in higher education positions across the country.
“Over-communication is one of the most challenging aspects of remote working…”
So, I would wave a magic wand to improve this problem. To ensure work is getting done and to keep the communication flowing, it is easy to bombard team members with too many messages. However, too much communication can distract people, cause digital exhaustion, and lead to heightened anxiety around work, all of which results in low productivity.
Managers of remote workers need to strike a balance between over-communicating and under-communicating. You need to set clear expectations from the get-go, including milestones and daily deliverables. It is also important to agree on when and how you will touch base with the entire team and individually. Additionally, you want to set boundaries around each member’s availability to ensure effective communication while still respecting everyone’s time.
Israel Gaudette is the founder of Link Tracker Pro, one of Canada’s fastest-growing SaaS companies.
“If I could improve one aspect of managing remote workers, it would be isolation…”
Robbed from having a human touch, remote workers feel enormous loneliness leading to a drastic decrease in productivity. Until now, this has been a big issue with managing my remote team. It’s a fluctuating factor, and I never get a hold of a concrete solution for it. So if I had a chance to wave a magic wand, I would obliterate the feeling of being isolated and lonely from the hearts of my team. I’d use the wand to create a virtual working space where they can socialize, talk, gossip, and even have a party together—just like being in an actual office.
Generally, managing a remote team is a very tough and daunting responsibility. Often, we want to just address everything in a way that’s just as simple as waving a magic wand. If a chance to use such a wand was suddenly presented to me, I would definitely choose to let my remote workers be happy at all times.
Tony has over two decades’ worth of experience in HR and recruitment for some of the largest organizations in Canada. Alongside this, Tony has developed a breadth of knowledge in digital media and branding to support his recruitment and HR strategies. Tony now leads Canadian talent acquisition for Amica Senior Lifestyles.
“I would ensure that communication is maintained with each and every staff member, no matter their level of authority or perceived value…”
Individuals need to know what is expected of them and their associates. The flow of business information should allow for the connection between departments and the streamlining of work processes. The team, although remote, will perceive a sense of community and experience less confusion over what needs to be done that day.
Platforms such as Trello and Monday.com are effective solutions here. You can create themed boards on Trello and color code those given specific tasks/roles. Similarly, the team-working platform Monday will show each member’s tasks, their progress in traffic light style colors, and any required deadlines.
Both avoid the duplication of tasks and break down the bigger project(s) into bite-sized pieces for remote workers. They also enable managers to keep track and ensure that things are running smoothly. To this end, I would remind managers to trust in their team to complete work once tasks have been allocated.
Laurie is the founder, owner, and part-time editor of Call Outdoors, a blog that promotes a love for all things outdoors. He is qualified as a developer and loves creating solutions in the IT space, which is also his full-time career.
“If I could wave a magic wand, I would ask for one standard time zone…”
The nature of both blog editing and developing has exposed me to managing all kinds of remote workers. I have found that remote working cracks open a new talent pool that includes professionals from all over the world, which is brilliant for businesses that require a unique skillset or person with specific experience. That said, working with people in different time zones can be incredibly challenging.
That’s why I’d love it if everyone worked within one standard time zone. After all, there is nothing worse than having an urgent issue crop up, and the right person for the job is fast asleep in bed because it’s 3:00 AM where they are!
Illia Termeno is the Director of Extrabrains! marketing agency.
“When people work remotely, they can miss the feeling of company culture…”
So, I’d wave a magic wand to ensure employees always feel a part of it. It’s difficult to create and maintain culture through written words alone, so you should make an extra effort to keep people feeling committed to their team. They should feel that they are not just working separately—they’re contributing true value to the team’s common goal. You can achieve this by having and maintaining non-work-related communication and keeping your team informed about how the company is doing.