When we think about the ideal job, work-life balance is something that comes to mind quite often. It’s why it come as no surprise that remote work is becoming a huge trend in the work world. The convenience of working from home, avoiding 3-hour roundtrip commutes, and blocking out unnecessary distractions sounds pretty ideal to me.

The tightening labor pool means managers must be more flexible. Work-life balance has proven to be the number-one priority for applicants and candidates today. Studies on telecommuting shows benefits for both businesses and workers. Specifically, more and more researchers are concluding that remote workers are happier and more productive than their peers in the office.

With any new trend or change from the norm comes with a few concerns. In this post, we’ll take a look at the obstacles facing remote work and how to avoid them.


The Benefits of a Remote Workforce

The employee engagement consultants at TINYPulse surveyed 509 individuals who work from home exclusively, and they compared the answers to responses from 200,000 employees in traditional work environments. According to the results published in their report What Leaders Need to Know about Remote Workers, telecommuters rate their happiness levels at an average of 8.10, while office-based colleagues report a happiness score of only 7.42. A remarkable 91 percent of survey respondents also reported that they are more productive at home than they are when working in an office environment.


Obstacles Facing Virtual Teams

Managing employees virtually is not without its challenges. The most common issue leaders face is keeping their remote workers engaged. There are three complaints that crop up frequently. Fortunately, new technology and innovative management techniques have created effective solutions.

Employee Engagement

A significant factor in employee engagement is the strength of relationships with colleagues. Unfortunately, remote workers don’t have the opportunity to enjoy friendly chats over morning coffee or the convenience of walking over to a colleague’s desk at any time. Overcoming this obstacle requires a bit of creativity and technology. Some effective methods of encouraging strong relationships include the following:

  • Connect a few minutes before a meeting starts. Allow a few minutes at the start of team meetings to catch up on colleagues’ personal milestones. Encourage staff members to share children’s accomplishments, upcoming vacation plans and other big news with the group.
  • Use video conferencing tools so individuals can communicate with each other face-to-face. Team members can learn much more about each other when they can match voices with faces. Communication runs much more smoothly when facial expressions are part of the conversation.
  • Meet in-person on a regular basis. Consider scheduling a time for your remote staff to fly in or drive in when budgets permit. Whether it is once a quarter or once a year, give remote team members the opportunity to come together in-person. This is a chance to have group discussions on upcoming projects or to complete a team-building activity together. The relationships employees build over a day or two create better collaboration once everyone returns to their home offices.
  • Team Collaboration

    Creating an environment that connects remote team members can be challenging, particularly when virtual employees have to collaborate to reach a common goal. There are a variety of project management platforms designed for a remote workforce, making it possible for individuals to brainstorm, have working discussions and submit completed project components efficiently.

    Use tools like Trello, Slack, Go-To-Meeting, and LoopUp. Collaboration and communication apps allow for a constant flow of communication and engagement across teams. Through broadcasting positive feedback, company alerts, and personal recognition, managers have discovered that cohesion in an otherwise scattered group.

    Performance Feedback

    The era of annual performance evaluations is over. Today’s workforce wants feedback from leaders far more frequently, and virtual workers are no exception. The lack of feedback between managers and staff create a barrier in communication and diminish room for growth.

    Real-time performance feedback motivates employees and encourages improvements in performance. While remote employees cannot drop into their manager’s office for a quick check-in, digital leaderboards give up-to-date information on individual and team accomplishments. Visibility into team performance tends to create increased engagement and productivity in virtual staff members – critical for the overall success of the program.

    The number of remote workers is increasing nationwide and studies only show this trend is growing and here to stay. The worries of engaging your remote staff can be eased as technology and creative management practices make it possible to overcome common obstacles for a successful, engaged workforce.