9 Biggest Challenges for Remote Teams (and the Tools to Address Them)

Date posted: January 10, 2018

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By Jens Jakob Andersen

Remote teams can help you save a ton of money. They are more productive, motivated, and often, more talented than the in-house teams.

However, managing a remote team is difficult. It comes with a unique set of challenges that, if not addressed properly, may negate the benefits. Fortunately, there are a number of tools that can help.

I am going to share the best 22 that I use to manage my remote team of 50+ employees at RunRepeat.com.

Challenge # 1: Timely communication across different time zones

You can use the email but your inbox will soon become a mess and you will start losing important messages (and your cool).

The solution:

It’s hard to think of a remote team that doesn’t use Slack. It makes team communication incredibly simple and well-organized.

Challenge # 2: The lack of face-to-face communication

Slack can work for all sorts of discussions, file sharing, or brainstorming. But there are instances when you need face-to-face communication e.g. interviews and team meetings.

The solution:

You can simply use video conferencing tools like Skype or Google Hangout. The only problem is finding a time that works for all. Try using a tool like Calendly or World Time Buddy. Just enter the locations and get time suggestions that suit everybody.

Challenge # 3: Project management

Different working hours can cause problems when multiple teams or employees need to collaborate on a project. Plus, you will find it hard to monitor the progress if all projects are organized, managed, or collaborated through emails. This is why you must use a project management tool.

The solution:

There are plenty of options but I personally found Trello and Asana to be the best.

Trello allows you to break down large projects into small, manageable tasks. You can create cards and assign to any team member. There’s an option to add due dates or checklists.

Asana has more features and while that’s a good thing, it also makes it a bit more complex. Use Dropbox or Google Drive for file sharing.

Challenge # 4: Training & education

Every once in awhile you will have to train or explain something to your employees. For example, when you want to introduce a new tool or strategy.

The solution:

If it is something simple, use the screen sharing. Skype or Google Hangout has screen sharing option but I have found Join.me or Zoom to be more efficient. They have additional features like whiteboarding that can be extremely handy. If it is something complex, use Screencast to create and share videos.

Challenge # 5: Relationship building

Relationships matters. Even more when you are dealing with remote workers. Make sure that they don’t feel shunned or left out.

The solution:

Relationship building takes more than a tool. You must be easy to approach so they feel comfortable while talking to you. Having said that, there are tools that can help.

For example, awesomeboss allows you to keep track of all details and events like birthdays or anniversaries (with gift ideas for employees). Huddlecard allows team members to chip in with greetings and messages to wish a colleague on a special occasion.

Challenge # 6: Work burnout

Remote workers value the flexibility that comes with these jobs. They are keen to make it work even if they have to put in extra hours. That’s a good thing but too much of anything can be bad. For you and your team, it is important to avoid stress and work-related burnout.

The solution:       

Time management is all about creating and following a routine. You can use a to-do list app like Todoist. Use Pomodoro technique to avoid sitting for long hours. Here’s a free tool to set up notifications.  

Challenge # 7: Dealing with the distractions

Remote work is like a skill that you master with the passage of time. Distractions are everywhere. You must learn to focus.

The solution:

At times, putting on the headphones is all you need to get into the zone. This tool offers music to improve focus and productivity. I also like Coffivity for creating work-friendly environment.

Challenge # 8: Accountability and ownership

You cannot micromanage or spoonfeed everyone in your team. Remote employees thrive when they are given complete control and ownership. At the same time, there needs to be some check and balance.   

The solution:

Use Upwork or Hubstaff for time tracking. You will also need a transparent way to recognize and reward high-performing employees and for that Wooboard is best.   

Challenge # 9: Build company culture

Company culture affects everything from productivity to quality, and employee retention to loyalty.

The solution:

The best way is to hire employees who align with your company culture. Here’s a tool that helps you find the appropriate candidates through a custom-made questionnaire, which is built while keeping your company culture and values in mind.

Jens Jakob Andersen is an entrepreneur, competitive runner, and the founder of RunRepeat.com. The site promises to never let you buy another bad running shoe.

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