Top 3 Challenges of a Remote Workforce
Working remotely is becoming more frequent for office staff who’s only infrastructure need is a solid internet connection. There are a lot of advantages to it – no daily commute, the coffee is usually better, you can work in your pajamas (if you don’t plan on attending any webcam calls) plus you’re at home – pretty great, right? While working remotely does present some very attractive options, there are also some challenges that employers need to consider when having a more remote workforce, temporary or permanent.
Hands up if you knew this would be first on my list! Yes, of course your communications could be the first to suffer from a remote workforce. We (myself included) have a natural tendency to prefer written communications and sometimes this can cause more issues than we perceive it to solve or prevent. I won’t go into my whole encoding/decoding of messages rant but when communicating over written modes only, intended message meaning can be lost or misunderstood when your readers are opening their emails or reading their IM messages from you. What could take 3 rounds of emails at the cost of 2 person-hours could sometimes be solved with a 10 minute conference call. As an employer with a remote workforce, encouraging your people to pick up the phone as early as possible in a dialogue will help minimize miscommunications.
Working remotely does not allow us to work co-located with our fellow employees. The unseen side effect of this can sometimes be a longer time to help build high-performing teams. The reason for this is that people who do not physically see each other on a daily (or regular) tend to not be as close or as trusting of those who they work in constant contact with. This is all with a giant caveat that depending on the nature of the work being performed and how much interaction is needed, this could accelerate team building time however if people can work remotely there is a good chance that a good portion of their work can be done in isolation which can (not always) make team building a more challenging task.
A key to being successful is being able to collaborate with your co-workers. Sharing ideas, helping out are just some of the ways that collaboration helps build a strong team. While the tools at our disposal for a remote workforce are always improving, nothing will ever beat face-to-face collaboration at a meeting room table. Whether it’s coming together to estimate a project or troubleshoot a difficult problem, not being able to walk over to someone’s desk or have them look over your shoulder can present challenges when times call for collaboration.
Working remotely is a great option to be able to offer employees and is a very effective way to control overhead costs (no centralized office = no rent) however it is with these words of caution that employers need to be careful on how employees are managed and what to watch out for when enjoying the fruits of a geographically dispersed workforce.
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