The trend of working from home is opening up a new range of possibilities for business structuring and operations. However, managing a remote sales team definitely has its challenges. Here are the most common obstacles that remote teams face and how to solve them.
#1. Communication Problems
When you work remotely with team members in different time zones and on different schedules, it is sometimes hard to connect with your team all at the same time since their availability varies. Not being able to communicate with your team may cause confusion and misunderstanding.
In an office, if a member isn’t responding to an email, you can simply stop by their desk and get what you need. But with a remote team, all you can do is wait for your co-worker’s reply. Something that is truly urgent may not be resolved immediately.
While working from home can have a positive impact on team productivity, the communication barrier can be a problem if there’s not an efficient system in place. Here are a few tips:
Set clear expectations
Be clear about which hours your team members should work and set specific deadlines. Each member should get a handle on when everyone is working so all members know the best time to reach someone and when to expect a response.
Get a project management software
There is plenty of software available that can help maximize remote team communication. In fact, a report shows that utilizing a project management software helps improve workplace communication by 52%. Use the communication features in your project management software and encourage everyone to chat with each other.
Set specific meeting times
You can host a weekly video meeting with all team members so that everyone can touch base and get a sense of how the projects are going. This will keep everyone on the same page, and aware of what’s going on with everyone else.
#2. Poor Calling Service Quality
If you have a growing team of remote workers, then a hosted VoIP solution is critical for better communication and collaboration between team members. Also, while you can use traditional online approaches like email marketing, having a good VoIP for customer relations is a necessity if you want to take your business to the next level.
Remember, most remote employees only use their internet connection for both voice and data. Therefore, call quality issues can arise. Without a properly configured router or a reliable hosted VoIP solution, your company’s calling service won’t be effective, or worse, will get negative feedback from annoyed customers.
Having a VoIP solution will make working from home a lot easier for remote employees. There are plenty of VoIP service providers for small businesses you can choose from. Some phone service providers even offer a single line for only $25 or so. If you’re serious about improving the quality of work of your remote employees, then get them their own work phone.
The comfort and convenience of working at home may lead to several distractions. Interruptions from children, neighbors, family and friends can be very disruptive. Also, with the allure of a couch, Netflix, snacking, “quick” walks to the park, virtual reality games, and whatever small distractions there are in a day, it’s not surprising that you worry about the work productivity of your employees out of the office.
Here are a few suggestions to help improve your team’s focus without micromanaging them:
Recommend distraction blocking apps
Distraction blocking apps work in different ways. Depending on the type of work your team is doing, you can encourage your staff to block sites that are generally found to be distracting like Facebook.
Simply assigning tasks at the beginning of the week or month and then letting remote staff work on them, may lead to employees feeling burned out or may lead them to thinking there’s plenty of time to procrastinate. That’s why you need to communicate with employees on a regular basis to see how things are coming along. Make your team feel that they are both supported and being held accountable for their work hours.
Setting specific deadlines per project or per stage of the project can help employees work at a certain pace. Break down larger projects into smaller tasks and set a deadline to boost your team’s productivity.
#4. Feelings of Isolation
Sometimes, professionals working from home suffer from feelings of isolation and loneliness. Since traditional workplace provides an avenue location to meet new people and make friends, people working from home have to be more resourceful to get to know people and stay in touch with their colleagues.
With no coworkers or bosses around, some remote staff may find it difficult to adjust in a solitary work environment. Also, it can be harder to maintain team spirit when employees are working at different times and locations. Here are a few tips to make sure everyone knows they’re part of the team:
Keep the lines of communication open
While it’s not possible to expect everyone to be available 24/7, knowing that they can reach out to you or to their colleagues through digital channels can help virtual workers feel more connected. Encourage your team to get connected not just through your work platform, but in other less formal settings like on social media.
Gamify your teamwork
Gamification refers to the application of game-playing elements to nongame environments. This tactic has become popular for companies who want to encourage loyalty and engagement in a fun way. You can host friendly competitions and rewards for everyday or weekly activities to boost remote employee engagement. Recognizing achievements will also help remote workers feel valued and respected.
Have regular check-ins
While varying work schedules and time zone differences can make it difficult for employees to reach their co-workers when they need to, you can establish certain times when they will be consistently available to respond to messages.
While the work-from-home lifestyle brings some great perks, it’s not without challenges. Fortunately there are creative means to avoid these common difficulties so you and your team can fully enjoy the benefits of working remotely.