5 Challenges of Managing Remote Employees (And Solutions to Overcome Them)

Written by David Salters on April 5, 2022

Although 41% of workers say they never want to go back to the office, remote work also comes with some challenges for even the most enthusiastic proponents of flexible work models.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses sent employees into the remote wilderness, where they quickly adapted and became adept at meeting deadlines by staying highly productive at home.

Fast-forward a few years, and remote work has become a likely permanent fixture in the modern workforce. Especially amid an unprecedented resignation revolution, employers must now adjust to the challenges of managing remote employees.

5 Common Challenges of Managing Remote Employees and Solutions to Overcome Them

The advancement in technology and the effects of the pandemic created a massive paradigm shift in the workplace toward remote work. While offering remote work brings significant advantages, employers are also discovering challenges that come with managing remote employees.

But don’t let the challenges of managing remote employees deter your organization from offering it to your team (and in turn, reaping the benefits) just because it seems daunting.

Here are five of the most common challenges of managing remote employees that you might encounter and the strategies for how to best overcome them.

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Challenge 1: Isolation Leading to Emotional and Mental Health Challenges

Isolation and a decline in mental health are likely some of the most prominent and concerning challenges of managing remote employees.

Many employees may see remote work as an escape from fluorescent lighting, micromanagement and office gossip, but the reality is that remote work is often isolating, which can lead to depression, anxiety and loneliness.

It’s easy to forget that, as frustrating as some aspects of the physical workplace can be, it also offers a level of social engagement that can be beneficial for employees—which gets lost when your team works remotely.

Solution for managing remote employees:

The same technology that allows employees to work from home can also allow them to feel more engaged. Encourage remote staff members to participate in virtual remote team building sessions, suggests Forbes.

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And since many restrictions regarding the pandemic have lifted, there’s no reason you can’t recommend that departments or project teams meet for non-work-related activities, like happy hour events, bowling leagues or trivia game nights.

Challenge 2: Distractions and Disturbances

In an ideal world, remote employees can find a quiet, distraction-free corner of the house to call their home office. Despite an employee’s best intentions to remain distraction-free, children, pets, roommates and family members are likely to intrude. Or the sight of unwashed dishes, laundry or other household tasks may catch an employee’s attention.

Then, voila! Your remote team member has gotten distracted, missed a deadline and feels awful about it—and so do you.

When your team isn’t physically working together and accountable in an office space, one of the greatest challenges of managing remote employees can be ensuring that they remain as productive as possible.

Solution for managing remote employees:

Let employees know that you want to support them in keeping a schedule to ensure that they can take care of both their work and personal responsibilities. Encourage them to create systems that work for their specific scenarios that will help to keep them focused and on task when they’re on the job.

Your individual team members will likely already be aware of their greatest distractions, and they should be able to think critically about how to eliminate these distractions during working times.

While this will look different for each team member based on their work styles, personalities and at-home set-ups, some helpful suggestions may be encouraging productivity apps or offering a package or stipend for an effective remote office.

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Believe it or not, when their set-up is right and distractions are minimized, your team members may actually be more focused and productive when working remotely!

Challenge 3: Work/Life Balance

When working from home becomes a long-term or permanent work model, it can be hard for remote employees to balance their work life with their home life since the two become so interconnected. Many remote employees struggle to defend personal and family time with the always-on nature of remote work.

This can lead to overwork and employees feeling little control over their personal lives.

While that may seem of little consequence to some employers, the root concern of this challenge of managing remote employees is team member burnout. If your team feels like they must always be available to work just because they’re at home where their office is, you may see team morale dwindle quickly.

Solution for managing remote employees:

Remind employees that they should pause throughout the day and take full lunch breaks at home like they would if they were physically in an office building. Encourage them to set appropriate boundaries for their particular roles and responsibilities.

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Yes, some projects and even some seasons may require after-hours work or even overtime. But, if that’s the case, it’s important to make sure your people are equipped to manage these times well and that they are recognized and rewarded for their efforts.

Another solution is providing team building activities for remote teams, encouraging personal relationships among your team so they can support each other throughout the day and acknowledging important lines between work and personal life.

Challenge 4: Collaboration Elimination

Another challenge of managing remote employees is getting everyone on the same page and working in tandem. With team members working at home on their own, it may be difficult for them to feel involved, understand what others are working on and recognize their impact in the larger team.

It’s no doubt that it can be difficult to foster collaboration among remote employees.

Solution for managing remote employees:

Team building for remote workers is a critical tool in facilitating robust collaboration. But don’t let your efforts end with games and virtual parties. Make sure that team building actually extends to work efforts as well so that skills learned in remote team building transfer to collaboration on work projects.

With multiple productivity and video conferencing mobile apps, there is no reason your employees shouldn’t be connecting regularly with each other on projects and efforts regardless of where they are working.

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You can also provide shared documents that track work activities, notes the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) so that all team members are aware of how others are spending time, see where they can help and add value to others and recognize how their efforts contribute to the company’s goals.

Challenge 5: Lack of Recognition Often Leads to Lack of Motivation

Business leaders have increasingly understood the value that employees place on recognition. It’s incredibly important to recognize team members for good work in ways that are meaningful to them.

If your team is going above and beyond or putting in hard work that goes unnoticed, team members may quickly become disillusioned with your company, your team and their role.

That desire for feedback and recognition hasn’t faded with the rise in remote work. Yet, one of the challenges of managing remote workers is that it’s trickier for many leaders to really understand what their team is working on, what those efforts require and how they are performing.

Unfortunately, this can quickly lead to a lack of recognition of your employees, which can also mean that your team may lose motivation to keep up the good work.

Solution for managing remote employees:

Even with remote work models, you can still keep track of your employees’ efforts, ideas and achievements and recognize and reward them for it.

Schedule time with your team members to check in on what they are working on or use a project management system to ensure you’re always up to date on what’s happening.

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Don’t let this crucial means of engaging and retaining employees slip through the cracks, but remember that different team members will receive recognition differently.

While some would love to be honored for great efforts in front of your entire organization, others would shy away and would prefer a one-on-one conversation with positive feedback from a supervisor.

It’s important to know your team’s personalities so that your recognition is actually meaningful to those you’re hoping to reward, or you might be right back to where you started.

Don’t Face the Challenges of Managing Remote Employees on Your Own

While there are certainly challenges of managing remote employees, there are also great benefits. The key is finding the right solution for your company and your people so that everyone is productive and happy.

Warren Averett Staffing & Recruiting can help you assess the right remote, hybrid or onsite strategy for your organization, support your HR leaders in managing these major workplace shifts and also provide top-notch recruiting that frees your HR team to better focus on strategic imperatives for your business and building the right workplace culture.

Schedule a time to chat with an advisor about how your company can help your employees thrive with the right workplace model for your business.

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