The 2020 pandemic ushered in the future of work, which lies in the remote. Putting an end to an age-old debate about remote work flexibility, 2020 certainly made remote work a norm. While employees shifted their workstations to their homes, managers rushed into analyzing situations and coming up with new ways to ensure productivity and keeping teams’ morale up in such times.
With just a few days for 2020 to come to an end, everyone knows that remote work is not going anywhere. In fact, studies and research have shown that remote working will expand in the coming months. So, managers not just have to gear up for managing an even bigger remote workforce but also understand the challenges of remote working and the tools that can help overcome them. Along with that, managing teams in 2021 would also mean being aware of the trends in remote work to manage better and retain productivity despite the situation.
Top Challenges of Managing Remote IT Staff
If 2020 has taught us one thing, it is that the future of work is here. And it is remote. The revolution ushered in by the pandemic is here to stay, but it did not come so easy for the global workforce, especially the IT industry. While security and transparency were a top concern, there was a considerable challenge in managing this remote IT staff.
One of the biggest challenges comes when they have to collaborate with their IT staff. They need to be in sync with the development and create a proactive environment where the IT teams can show-off their capabilities to the utmost. However, being in different physical locations, collaborating on projects becomes quite a challenge. And especially when you are hiring remote developers, getting them to sync with your way of collaborating can take up some time.
Maintaining Company Culture
Another challenge comes when they have to build a company culture. Culture is imperative to improve your company’s brand image. But when you are not in physical proximity, fostering a culture becomes challenging. When they are not in physical proximity, many things get missed out, like - office banters, coffee discussions, on-desk chats, group brainstorming, etc. All of this can not just lead to weaker company culture but also demotivate the team spirit that was earlier there when things were normal. No human contact can even mean reduced trust, which may hamper the quality of work delivered by the remote team.
Getting Together At The Same Time
Working from home, everyone has to juggle between different commitments. It cannot be the same as an office where you can send across a message or announce a meeting instantly. People might be away from their workstations or could be managing their tasks as per their flexibilities. Managing group meetings is quite a challenge in remote environments. It isn’t easy for everyone to be together at the same time. Some might have client commitments, breaks at that time, or some other family work. Not being in the same office means the inability to call an instant meeting with all in the office.
Another challenge for most project managers managing remote development teams is tracking productivity. Although most employees might feel more comfortable working remotely from the comfort of homes or other places, it does come with the challenge of focusing. Hence, the one thing that is most affected during remote working is productivity. And for managers, keeping the productivity intact may come as a challenge. They might not associate their homes or other places as a place of work, and even the slightest distraction from a family member, neighborhood noise, etc., may easily break their focus.
Getting Work-Life Balance On Track
While most people feel that remote working has improved work-life balance, there are many who feel the opposite. Even seasoned WFH pros are feeling the strain of remote working during the pandemic. The new remote workers might be feeling it too. Many don’t have the required workstation at home while others feel that any routine has blurred in working from home. There are also many reports that employees are more reluctant to take leaves during WFH. Many are even stating that their working hours have increased owing to remote working and they find themselves working extra hours even after the official hours have closed.
Managing Complex Tasks
There are several tasks in remote work, especially in the IT industry; some are simple while others are extremely complex. While it is easy to manage simple tasks even when you don’t have the team with you in the office, managing complex tasks becomes a challenge. Even when you are using the best video conferencing tools and software, getting your thoughts through on a project could look ineffective. Moreover, some complex projects have different layers of tasks with subtasks and various deadlines that might just confuse your remote team.
Remote Working Tools
As 2020 became the year of remote work, many new tools, SaaS products, and other technologies came to the fore to make remote working easier. Moreover, businesses had to pivot their strategies as well to ensure continuity in their operations.
Some tools that can help you simplify remote working are:
Basecamp For Project Management
More than just a project management tool, Basecamp allows remote workers to collaborate internally as well as with clients. It can be divided into levels for HQ, teams, and projects. Each project can have respective To-Dos, Action Items, Permanent Messages, share docs and files, set automatic check-ins for start and end of the day to track productivity.
Slack For Smooth Collaboration
Communication is the most affected aspect of working in remote environments. To set things right, Slack is an awesome tool. One can have one-on-ones with teammates, have group discussions or group calls in Slack groups, create channels for different projects or tasks, and much more. It even helps you add apps and integrations to get notifications from them directly into the inbox.
JIRA For Project Assignment
While basecamp works great for managing projects, Jira works best for controlling different remote teams, their tasks, and timelines. By creating stories, sub-tasks, issues, etc., assigning the reporter, and assignee, project managers can keep complete track of the project.
Zoho For Culture And HR
Company culture is adversely affected by remote work. The human resources team finds it very difficult to bring everyone together and feel a sense of belongingness. Zoho can help in onboarding, sharing files, attendance, performance, confirmation, and much more during remote work.
Also Read: Top 7 Remote Working Tools For 2021
Trends In Remote Working
Every year, one can see new trends shaping the remote working environment. And when you are managing a remote team, keeping a track of these trends is imperative. They can help you shape your management initiatives and how you intend to keep your team motivated and productive. Let’s have a look at the remote working trends.
Trend #1: Remote Work To Enhance Productivity
While most people feel that productivity is a challenge in remote working, the truth is that managers can relax as remote work is expected to increase employee productivity in the coming year. Owl Lab, a video conferencing company has released a report suggesting the employees are working an extra 26 hours a month in remote working situations. These could be the commute hours that they are putting in extra. Moreover, when offered flexibility, employees are encouraged to work harder and give better results. Stanford research has even concluded that remote employees are as much as 13% more productive than their on-site workers.
Trend #2: Number Of Remote Workers To Increase
The Covid pandemic led to a lockdown in most countries, forcing the majority of the employees to work from home. Most people believe that everyone would get back to normal work once a vaccine is discovered. However, working remotely highlighted the many benefits that one can enjoy with the added flexibility. There were already predictions in the Future Workforce Report by Upwork that over 73% of all the departments would have remote workers by 2028. This number is definitely increasing in 2021 whether covid still exists or not.
Trend #3: Managers & Executives To Join Remote Workforce
Up until March 2020, the majority of the remote workforce consisted of those down in the corporate hierarchy. However, as everyone started working from home, even those higher up in the corporate ladder like the managers, executives, CEOs, and others have started working remotely. And this trend will continue to get stronger in 2021. So managers can also expect to start working remotely and managing their remote or onsite teams from anywhere using the amazing tools available now.
Trend #4: Cybersecurity To Be Top Consideration
As remote work saw a sudden boom in 2020, the main consideration for most businesses managing remote teams was to ensure security. Cyberattacks have become common and businesses need to be extremely careful in the security of their remote workers’ network and VPNs. With the continuous increase in remote working, managers would have to prioritize new strategies to manage risks and the threats associated with it.
Trend #5: Working From Anywhere To Gain Popularity
Remote work has always been synonymous for most to working from home. However, in 2021, they would not just be working from home. The next biggest trend in remote working in 2021 would be working from anywhere. Most businesses would be offering greater flexibility to their workforce by allowing work from anywhere instead of just home.
For managers, it would mean that they would need to keep a track of the location from which the employees are working. Whether they seek to work from home, co-working spaces, or from any other part of the world, they would be able to enjoy the flexibility to do so.
Also Read: How We Transitioned Into Work From Anywhere
A Remote Team As Productive As On-Site Team
Like any other organization, we, at Classic Informatics, also went into work from home from March 2020. We had the same concern when the pandemic hit the world and everyone had to be tied to the work from home routine for an unprecedented amount of time. There were apprehensions about a team of 300+ IT professionals going remote with no chance of physical contact for days.
Initially, it was a bit difficult to adjust to this new normal for our IT teams. They were accustomed to daily scrum meetings, swift action from the project manager in the office but now they had to do everything virtually.
We tracked the same for two months and saw that our IT team delivered not just the same productivity but even more. We were glad that they were delivering the work with the same quality and exceeded our expectations.
Remote Is The Future
Analyzing the working scenario in 2020, it is certain that remote working is going to be the future. It is here to stay and more and more businesses are going to continue with remote workplaces in 2021. The coming year will see managers becoming experts at managing remote teams. Be it by using remote working tools, being prepared for the challenges, or gearing up for the evolving trends, remote team managers would definitely succeed at managing them.
Published On: 21st December 2020