The post COVID world has distributed workforces as an inescapable reality. There are 3 major challenges that creep up with the distributed/WFH (Work From Home) teams. This is our recommendation about how to address them.
This new paradigm comes with its own challenges. As distributed teams become the rule rather than the exception, especially in technology-related industries, managers and workers find themselves playing a game for which they weren’t told all the rules. The nature of remote work is isolating. Bonding does not come easily to virtual teams. A manager needs to recognize that and work at creating a virtual camaraderie.
Challenge 1: Direct Management vs Indirect Supervision
In a traditional office environment, managers assessed the status of the team by simply walking around, observing, and talking to employees. This allowed them to stay on top of developing problems by direct observation and intervention before it spirals out of control. However, in a distributed team a manager can only indirectly infer what’s actually going on with a team, based on results — which are noticeable only much further down a project.
How can you overcome this? Keeping non-standard communication channels open
Managing a distributed team by practising a remote version of direct management – you can touch base with each team member individually and collectively as if you were walking around the office daily. The aim is to encourage the same kind of interpersonal relationship-building between employees that goes on in a traditional break room without being a micromanager.
Challenge 2: Managing “Junior” levels
In a traditional work environment, junior developers sit side-by-side with senior developers and can ask questions during downtime without being seen as a “pest”. In distributed teams, juniors hesitate to ask questions, when asking a simple question would have kept everything going in the right direction.
How can this cycle be interrupted? Being proactively available to juniors
With a distributed team, the manager needs to ensure that less experienced employees feel like they can ask questions without getting fired. One way is to have a virtual mentorship program: matching new employees with older employees in an organized way that incentivizes employees to improve their skill set.
Challenge 3: Creativity and productivity decline
Remote teams have a universe of choices for how to talk to one another: instant chat, email, telephone, text, video calls. This last one should be the same as being there, right? While video call technology is an amazing tool, it’s no substitute for sitting in a room with co-workers for face-to-face conversations.
Creativity and productivity can easily suffer up to 15-20% per employee and you will need to staff-up just to stay even! Here are some ways for boosting employee productivity:
How can you boost creativity? Keep informal channels open
If employees can reach out on one-on-ones over pre-determined schedules or connect flexibly to discuss new ideas and solve problems, they are likely to keep the focus on concluding the task at hand.
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