5 Challenges (and Solutions) for Taking Your Team Remote
Has your team gone fully remote in 2020? So have we — and in this post, we’re sharing the top challenges (and solutions) we’ve found.
The year is 2020.
Physical human interaction is at an all-time low.
We’ve all been working remotely since March because of the virus-that-must-not-be-named.
At 9 Clouds, we generally agree we can be more productive when working outside of the office due to fewer distractions from our teammates or restaurant lunches.
Our team has been enjoying the flexibility of working from home for more than a decade, and we know a thing or two about making remote work work.
That said, we’re also more vulnerable to working longer hours and a whole host of other inconveniences that come without the regular routine of going to the office.
Here are five common challenges you may face with your staff working remotely — and solutions for overcoming them and managing your team successfully.
Jump to Each Challenge:
Challenge #1: Working Too Much
Prior to a global pandemic, you may have been fearful of having a fully remote staff because of the misconception that employees will slack off without supervision.
In reality, many of us have a harder time sticking to a “9-to-5” due to the blurred lines between our personal and professional lives.
There are many ways to combat over-working, but tools like time tracking and internal communication have never been more important for keeping your daily hours in check and understanding the expectations of your team.
Here are three ways the now-fully remote 9 Clouds team balances work and home life:
- Set appointments on your calendar. Quite literally, make “appointments” for everything. Okay, maybe not sleeping and eating, but activities like breaks, working out, and picking up groceries are all valid events that need dedicated time set aside.
- Be clear when your workday begins and ends. Communicating your availability to your team via Slack or email is key. Not only will this keep your team informed, it will also encourage you to close your computer and walk away.
- Create physical boundaries with your workspace. In an ideal world, we’d all have a dedicated home office to shut out the noises of the dog and dishwasher, but that’s not always the case. Try something as simple as putting your laptop out of sight when you’re done working to avoid the temptation to log back on. Or, section off part of a room for work so it feels like a separate space.
Challenge #2: Prioritizing Work
Working remotely requires self motivation. If you’re lucky enough to have a flexible working schedule, the ability to prioritize work can be both a blessing and a curse.
Managing your own work is hard enough, but when you add in checking in with your staff, helping your child with their homework, or letting the dog out, you might feel unaccomplished at the end of your workday.
Here’s how to make sure the most important tasks get done in a workday:
- Eat your frog. This is a long-time crowd favorite here at 9 Clouds. Your “frog” is your biggest, most important task — and the one you’re most likely to procrastinate. If you eat your frog first, the rest of your day will seem like a breeze.
- Limit the number of tasks in your day. There are many approaches to doing this. One option our CEO, Sarah, likes is making a to-do list for tomorrow at the end of each day. Another is planning out the entire week based on the number of hours available. If a typical task takes two hours, don’t plan for seven of those tasks in one day (psst: that’s 14 hours of work in one day if you’re not a math whiz).
- Use planned breaks for home-life tasks. Remember when we suggested blocking out time in your calendar? This can be helpful for ensuring personal work gets accomplished without distracting you while you’re trying to write a blog post. Utilize your lunch break for switching that load of laundry or doing the dishes. This way, it won’t be weighing on you while you’re trying to focus on work.
Challenge #3: Interruptions
Earlier, we said our team feels more productive when working outside of the office due to fewer distractions.
But it’s not always sunshine and roses working outside of the office. You’ll have to deal with other kinds of distractions.
Whether it’s the mailperson needing your signature, neighbors dropping by unannounced, kids crying, or roommates interrupting, it can be tough to find a good place to take Zoom calls in peace.
It’s important to be clear on which interruptions are okay and which aren’t. Here are some ideas for avoiding interruptions while working remote:
- Set up a signal to let others know you’re in work mode. Think of it as a Slack “do not disturb” (DND) feature in real life. Maybe post an actual DND sign on your door, or wear headphones to send a clear message.
- Keep consistent work hours. Laying out your working hours for those in your home is a great way to set boundaries.
- Work “off-site” or take time away. If you know the furnace guy is going to be working in your house, head to a coffee shop or co-working space, or block out time in your calendar to deal with the distraction without trying to work simultaneously.
Challenge #4: Loneliness
If you don’t have family members or roommates home with you while working, you might have the opposite problem: isolation.
It’s easy to get into the routine of working from home all day . . . and then never leaving your home for the rest of that day (and sometimes for days after that).
Typically, working in a shared office allows for organic moments of interaction. Working remotely doesn’t allow for such natural interactions.
Battling the feeling of isolation requires effort. It’s important to keep up the morale of your team and regularly check in.
We’ve written on team-building tips for remote workers in the past, but here are some actionable solutions for 2020:
- Schedule virtual social breaks. One way 9 Clouds combats the feeling of isolation from one another is daily scheduled “water cooler chats” in Slack. It’s a simple reminder that encourages those who aren’t engaged in a project to hop on a video call and shoot the shit.
- Plan virtual happy hours or group lunches. Whether your team is working remote because of a pandemic or your team typically spans five states, virtual happy hours and lunches make for easy socializing. Bonus points if you host a virtual “lunch and learn” to collaborate with your team while also swapping casserole recipes.
- Try co-working spaces or coffee shops. When the environment allows, try out a public place. At the very least, you can interact with the barista when placing your order, or simply have the white noise of chitchat from others.
Challenge #5: Technology Issues
Listen, technology is great. But it can also have its downfalls.
Nothing makes remote work more challenging than an Internet outage, a computer system update, or no audio or video on a conference call.
Many public Wi-Fi hotspots can also be spotty. And even with a decent Internet connection, video conferencing apps aren’t always reliable, so virtual meetings can be frustrating.
- Have a backup plan. A mobile hotspot device can work wonders for Internet glitches. Also, have a phone on hand to call into that conference call that suddenly locks up your computer. If you’re the host, consider having one of your staff launch the Zoom meeting to free up some of your bandwidth.
- Test your tools. “Can you hear me now?” Audio, but no video. Video, but no audio. Just a couple of the pitfalls of temperamental technology. It’s important to take five to 10 minutes before a call to test the audio and video on your device to ensure they’re working.
- Over-communicate. If suddenly you need to drop video because you’re experiencing Internet issues or your audio quits working, let those on the call know. Most conference calling tools have a chat feature. Use it to tell those on the call you’re still engaged and doing your best to be involved.
You Can Do It!
Remote work can be very challenging, but it can also be very rewarding. We’re counting ourselves lucky to have made the transition to fully remote work so smoothly.
If you can make it through the challenges of your team working in different environments, you’ll find it rewarding too — and perhaps more time for a life outside of work as well.Check Out Our Favorite Remote Work Tools