By Christine Peters

The global health pandemic has lead to more and more companies switching to remote work. Although the trend of working remotely has been growing for years now, the coronavirus pandemic has sped things up.

Millions of companies across the globe are now forced to participate in the remote work experiment. Some were ready for it, others were not. Remote work has its advantages, but it also poses numerous challenges for employers and employees alike. Thankfully, there are tools and strategies every business can use to tackle these issues. In this article, we break down the greatest challenges of remote work — and how to address them. 

Communication breakdown 

One of the most common challenges of working remotely is communication. When employees work in the same office, they can interact with each other without any physical limitations. Differing schedules, technological problems, and working from different locations can make team collaboration slower and less efficient.

The first thing you need to break the barriers is an effective communication channel. The good news is that there are many collaboration tools available for all sorts of tasks and teams that will help you solve this problem. Here are some of the most popular: 

  • Slack: Remote team communication requires a channel that is instant and responsive. That’s just what Slack was built for. It helps your team instantly connect, share documents, screen share, and more. 
  • Zoom: We’re now in the Age of Zoom and if you aren’t on the video conferencing bandwagon, chances are, your business will be left behind. Use Zoom or another video conferencing platform to keep your internal team aligned and your customers and clients happy. 
  • Slab: Sharing information was easy when you shared an office. But the intranet your org relied on is tricky to manage when you’re working remote. Slab to the rescue — you can easily share documents, information, and company policies, all in one easy-to-reference place.  

Project (mis)management 

For some businesses, one of the biggest challenges of remote work is managing projects. When the team isn’t physically present in the same building, assigning tasks, meeting deadlines, and tracking progress becomes complicated. The bigger the team and the project, the more difficult it gets. 

On the bright side, technology comes to the rescue once again. There are helpful online tools you can choose from to manage projects depending on your type of industry. If you are already using a software application to manage your projects, you can use the same online tools to manage your remote workers. Cloud-based tools for managing virtual teams are very useful and popular these days. The best applications include Trello, Basecamp, and Asana— test the demo versions to find one that works best for your business. 

Keeping track of everyone’s progress 

Studies have confirmed that remote workers are more productive. But how can you prove that? Keeping track of multiple employees’ progress on a daily basis is one of the hardest parts of project management. Although physical presence isn’t necessarily an indicator of productivity, many employers and managers like watching their in-office employees work so they can confirm that things are getting done. 

It is important to come up with an efficient reporting system that doesn’t become a timesuck. 

  • Schedule brief, weekly online meetings to catch up with everyone’s progress, ask and answer questions, and make sure your team is aligned.
  • Supplement these meetings with a weekly written report or host a daily standup via Slack to make sure tasks are getting done. 
  • Have your team track time with tools like Harvest or RescueTime to get more granular insight into progress.

Lack of innovation

There is something about gathering in a meeting room and exchanging creative energy. By creating a physical distance between co-workers and changing the nature of communication, remote work can hinder creativity and innovation. As your employees struggle to adjust to remote work, they may not feel as motivated and inspired as usual. 

Since avoiding physical contact should be a priority during the pandemic, you need to find alternative ways to foster innovation. 

  • Encourage your employees to share ideas and hold virtual brainstorming sessions.
  • Replicate the creativity that can come from chance encounters by holding casual one-on-ones.
  • Avoid micromanaging your creative team and let them form their own collaboration strategies.
  • Encourage learning and development by incentivizing online education — webinars, courses, and roundtables can often spur ideas when thinking has gotten stagnant.

Tech issues

Most companies provide their in-office personnel with a computer, suitable business software, and tech support. However, many businesses expect remote staff members to supply their own equipment. Many people don’t have the means to get good computers and other devices. Another challenge they may face is finding reliable wifi. Many remote workers work from locations where internet speed and phone coverage cannot meet job requirements. 

Therefore, you should provide your employees with all the necessary resources even after they switch to working from home. 

  • Send them laptops with laptop cases or travel bags and other equipment they may need. If they prefer using their own computers and software, make sure their devices and tools meet company standards. 
  • Reimburse employees who need to update their wifi speeds to meet work expectations.
  • Offer employee cell phones to keep your team connected.

Information security challenges of remote work

Keeping company information safe can easily become one of the most difficult challenges of remote work. Proper education and training will help the whole team overcome this challenge. You should help all employees understand their role in keeping sensitive and confidential company information safe at all times. It is also the employer’s responsibility to help secure that information no matter where their staff members work or what device they work on. 

  • Set requirements for uploading and downloading information
  • Require anti-virus software to protect sensitive data
  • Establish criteria for creating passwords to ensure their properly difficult.

By following this advice, the move to remote work will go more smoothly and your organization will better reap the benefits of this new normal.

Christine Peters is a part-time blogger and former journalist. Her educational background in journalism has given her a broad base from which to approach a wide range of topics. She is currently collaborating with moving and storage companies, writing informative articles on how to organize corporate relocation and move out of the office in a safe and efficient way