So why does working remotely often fail to live up to our expectations?
There are numerous reasons, and we will get to those in a minute.
Before we dive into the common pitfalls of working remotely and how to avoid being a statistic, let's tackle specifically what remote work is.
Click "READ MORE" to unfold the ultimate guide to more effectively working remotely.
What is Remote Work and What Does Working Remotely Mean?
"Remote work is a working style that allows professionals to work outside of a traditional office environment. It is based on the concept that work does not need to be done in a specific place to be executed successfully."
This makes being prepared for remote work even more important, from both a manager and employee’s standpoint.
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The 7 Pitfalls and Issues with Remote Work for Managers and Workers Alike
Because remote work entails working away from the office and physical presences with your team, it has some major pitfalls for both remote workers and managers trying to maintain their team.
Let’s look at the 7 main challenges so we can combat them head on.
1. Poor Communication Kills Trust
On the other hand, sometimes this is the newly remote employee’s fault, failing to make the extra effort to be a part of the team via Slack, Hangouts, email, etc. It's easy for managers to let remote workers fall into the, "out of sight, out of mind," category. Poor communication will only exacerbate that. And with all of the heavy reliance on technology to communicate remotely, don't forget to prioritize their cybersecurity.
This can even happen where an employee is truly doing great work, but hasn’t kept their team and/or manager in the loop, leaving them to think they are slacking.
Don’t allow this to happen...stay in touch at least once a day, if not more often.
2. Overworking Helps No One
Knowing when to stop can be difficult. This is especially true with smartphones enabling us to respond to emails or knock out micro-tasks from anywhere. Overworking like this can lead to burning out and ultimately result in worse quality work in the long haul.
If you allow yourself to do this regularly, no one wins.
3. Failure to Prioritize
Not to mention the temptation to tune out and watch YouTube until you completely lose track of time can lead to a remote worker being derailed at any point if they're not careful.
4. Warning: Culture isn't Remote Friendly
Having a culture that's accomodating to remote workers is essential to that person's success. This includes keeping the remote worker in the loop on office policy changes or projects as well as communicating to your in-office team that it’s expected that go out of their way to support remote workers. Ask them to put themselves in the shoes of the other.
It's also wise to make sure the remote worker has an ally in the office that can relay daily happenings. This will keep the worker informed, and also make them feel like a part of the team. 52% of remote workers surveyed said they feel they're treated differently or left out compared to their in-office comrades. An in-office contact can help prevent this.
If you're in a management position, check in with your remote workers and see how they're feeling. If they're feeling left out or like they aren't a part of the team, a few small changes will make a world of difference.
If you are considering a remote position, ask what percentage of their workforce is remote, and if it is a very low percentage, consider yourself warned that you may be fighting an uphill battle with most of your co-workers not being understanding of the challenges of remote work if you take the job.
5. Inferior Project Coordination
As a manager, make sure you're stressing the importance of communicating where projects are at. A project management tool like Basecamp or Mavenlink can make this process a breeze.
As a remote worker, make sure you're communicating with your team and clearly stating what you're working on.
6. Good Work Isn't Automatically Recognized
Pay close attention to the work your remote workers are doing and take a moment to give great work a shout-out on Slack or Skype or whatever platform you're using. A little praise can go a long way, especially with remote workers. This will motivate them to continue doing great work and remind them they're a part of the team, even if they're not right there in the office.
7. Remote Workers Feel Stuck
This once again stems from poor communication and not having a plan on the manager’s part.
Notice a trend?
9 Steps for Leaders & Employees: How to More Effectively Work Remotely
Managers of remote workers, we've got you covered too!
8. Collaborate (and Listen)
Collaborating has never been easier for remote workers. Take advantage of the many tools available to you and work with your teammates. This will help you feel like a part of the team, build camaraderie, and make things more fun!
9. Be a Self-Starter
If you don't enjoy managing yourself to a large extent, remote work may not be the thing for you.
10. Improve Your Writing Skills
This also applies to management. If you're sending instructions to your team, make sure you're using clear language that leaves no room for misinterpretation. Muddled instructions can result in questions, or worse, questions not being asked. There's nothing worse than checking on a project a week in, only to see it's being taken in the wrong direction.
11. Schedule EVERYTHING
Assign every step of every task to someone and make sure there's a due date on it. Then check up on it. Self-accountability is huge in remote work, and nothing keeps people on task and accountable like looming due dates that both worker and manager have agreed to.
The CanIRank team has had some great success with the Pomodoro Technique. This involves doing 25-minute sprints, during which time you avoid all distractions. This means no emails, texts, coffee breaks, or cat videos. After the sprint you take a few minutes off to unwind, chat on Slack, etc. Then you sprint again.
It's a really simple technique which is why it works. You'd be amazed at how much you can accomplish in those 25 minutes.
13. Pick the Job that Best Fits You
Like any other position, finding the right remote work is key to succeeding. If you love the idea of working from home but loathe phone calls, you probably want to avoid a telecommuting sales job. On the flip side, if you love talking but hate research, you probably shouldn't take that remote marketing job.
Make sure to ask a lot of probing questions of the hiring manager or HR person to determine if a fit…
14. Pick the Right Candidate for Remote Work
Some people can be stellar employees in the office but horrible at home. On the other hand, some people thrive in a home office environment and might perform better than when in the office.
It can sting to let a great employee work from home when you love having them in the office, but sometimes it can mean the difference between that person leaving the company or staying on.
For brand new hires, don't forget to consider whether they are a fit for your company's values before you consider them a fit for remote working.
15. Separate Work from Home Life
A lot of the CanIRank members regularly work from beaches, coffee shops, or from their backyards to simply "get away." This simple change in setting can not only make home feel less like your workplace, but also give you some new creative juices.
And who doesn't love working from a coffee shop (as long as you have good headphones)?
One bottomless mug, please.
16. Relax and Have Fun
We're living in a time when you can work from home, the beach, the moon - you name it. Embrace the tech that makes this possible, enjoy that you're free from a cubicle, and have fun engaging with your team.
Make weekly socials a thing, or turn Tuesday into a "Bizarre Article of the Week" day. Host polls about who would win a fight, "Darth Vader or the Michelin Man." Ask your team what kind of activities they'd like to throw into the week to keep things interesting and ensure everyone is taking a break.
Get everyone involved!
Advancing Your Remote-Friendly Workplace
If you're in a leadership role and unsure how to go about handling the shift to having a remote team, contact me for assistance on effectively leading your team through this transition.