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Major challenges of remote staffing and how to overcome them

Image Credit: Bruce Mars / Pixelbay
(Image credit: Image Credit: Bruce Mars / Pixelbay)

The trend of hiring remote staff or virtual teams has risen massively over the past decade. Right from small businesses and start-ups to MNCs, operations being run entirely by remote teams have become quite a common scenario. And why not! According to a recently conducted survey, a company can save over $10,000 annually when one hires remote staff. The survey also revealed that with remote or virtual staff, there is a higher level of productivity, greater satisfaction rate, and also bigger access to a global talent pool. However, despite these figures, businesses worldwide tend to face several hurdles with respect to managing a team remotely. This article will thus focus on the major challenges faced by entrepreneurs and SMEs with remote staffing and offer a few tips on how to tackle these problems effectively.

Multiple time zones

When hiring remotely, varying time zones is pretty much one of the first battles you may have to face. And if the employees are seated across multiple time zones, the task becomes all the more challenging. However, this can be tackled effectively as long as meetings are scheduled in advance and you’re able to find a common time that’s suitable for all employees. Say for instance, if an employee in the central time zone is working between 9am to 6pm, and an Eastern Time employee from 10am to 7apm, you have a good 8 hour overlap between the two shifts where meetings can be set up without causing any trouble. Further, if the two employees are working together on the same project, a better coordination is also established. However, in cases where large time differences are encountered, you may have to schedule one meeting a week that runs for a longer duration while also ensuring that it still falls within the work hours of your remote staff.

Communication is key

Establishing good communication is key to making remote work a grand success. However, this is easier said than done. Establishing a smooth and effective communication can at times be hard even with in-house employees, and when it comes to remote staff, one can imagine the hardship. Since it’s impossible to physically walk over to the remote employee’s desk to check the progress, the staff not responding to your emails or calls on certain occasions can become all the more frustrating. This can also be true the other way around. Due to varying time zones or different locations, sometimes in-house employees fail to include the remote staff in essential information, thus leading to de-trust within the staff. Therefore, the most ideal way to overcome any form communication barrier is by using appropriate communication tools.

  • Pick the right tools and software that fit the needs of your business or project perfectly. Be it Slack for chatting, Trello for project management, or Zoom for video conferencing; there are hundreds of tools out there that will make your remote work far too easy.
  • Set up weekly or monthly meetings including both; in-house and remote staff and occasionally try to engage in off-work topics as well.
  • Ensure a well streamed form of communication is established between remote staff of varying locations and time zones for the smooth functioning of a project.

Define roles and responsibilities

When you have to coordinate work between in-house and remote staff or among employees who are working remotely from various locations, there could arise a certain level of confusion with regards to the task at hand. This is the reason why you need to establish and communicate the roles and responsibilities of each employee and form a clear hierarchy or structure for stages of work flow. When you hire a remote staff, make sure that you provide them with a proper job description that details out essentials of the project and ensure that a remote talent does not go for a waste with an out of sight, out of mind attitude.

Tracking performance and offering promotions

Tracking the performance of a remote employee can be challenging as it becomes hard to check if the virtual staff is utilising their time efficiently and appropriately. In order to ensure this, you can practice the below mentioned steps…

  • Tracking the performance of a remote employee can be challenging as it becomes hard to check if the virtual staff is utilising their time efficiently and appropriately. In order to ensure this, you can practice the below mentioned steps…
  • Explore the various tools and software that assist project leads keep a tab on the progress of a given task. These tools can also evaluate the employee’s performance. This helps in identifying and communicating any drawbacks immediately.  
  • You can also make use of employee productivity tools that will give you quantitative data about how an employee is utilising his/her time.

Once you’re clear on how to track the performance of your remote staff, also remember to appreciate the employee accordingly. Remote employees often feel left out due to the fewer opportunities of job advancements. Thus, always keep your remote staff in mind during promotions and incentives so as to encourage and boost their morale from time to time.

Lack of trust leads to deception

You are naturally bound to trust your in-house staff more than your remote employees as daily face-to-face interactions tend to create stronger feelings of trust. However, a display of this lack of trust will have a direct effect on the progress and quality of your project, because, let’s face it, the more you micromanage your remote staff, the more reluctant he/she will be to work for you. Hence, the only way you can establish a two-way trust is by being as transparent as possible. Be clear about the work hours, pay rate, payment timeline, project expectations, project updates, monitoring tools, and so on and so forth and trust your staff enough to know that they are completing their assigned tasks on time. Also, assure them that you’re always there to assist them through the process of the project as opposed to merely micromanaging their each second.

Remember, remote staffing can fetch top talents at low costs, but if you fail to establish a strong bond with your remote employee, your project is bound to fail despite the talent and skills of the staff. Remote staffing is a two-way street; while the employee enjoys the flexibility that the work offers, you can save up massively on project costs. However, do not expect this collaboration to work wonders for you if you aren’t diligent and proactive in solving the challenges that come with handling a virtual team.

Shaunvir Singh Mahil, Director, Virtual Employee Private Limited