Every type of work has bottlenecks to productivity and flow, including remote work. Yet, while remote work isn’t unique in the fact that potential pain points exist, it does have some specific bottlenecks that are common to remote work.
Here are four common remote work bottlenecks, along with suggested solutions to improve remote team workflow.
Lachlan Brown has been managing a fully remote team of writers from different parts of the world for many years. As Founder of Hack Spirit, a website focused on psychology, relationships, and personal development, Brown admits that her remote team hasn’t always been successful. A problematic area she’s encountered is communication breakdowns between team members. To overcome this bottleneck, she’s had to get creative and intentional in her approach.
“One strategy that has worked well for us is to establish clear communication protocols and expectations,” Brown says. “This includes setting expectations for response times, using project management tools like Trello to stay organized, and scheduling regular video check-ins to ensure everyone is on the same page.”
Miscommunication can happen easily and innocently. Nebojsa Savicic, Cofounder of Plainly, a tool that allows business owners, marketers, and salespeople to automate and personalize video content, notes that something as simple as texting style might lead to hard feelings and misunderstanding.
“Texting someone without using an emoji might be perceived as passive-aggressive by someone while the texter was just sending out a regular message,” Savicic says.
It’s therefore particularly important for members of remote teams to pay special attention to how their written words, or things left unsaid, could be misunderstood, and be intentional about what they state and how they express things.
Time Zone Differences
Emery Bowles, who runs a website that specializes in remote working and remote work tools, has found another bottleneck arises from time zone differences. When remote workers are in different time zones from one another, it can lead to confusion among colleagues due to miscommunication about availability times for meetings, or when people will be online working.
To avoid this kind of problem, Bowles suggests that organizations consider using software that enables employees worldwide access to their files at any time for easier collaboration and deadline coordination.
“Organizations could also designate specific times when staff across different time zones come online together, ensuring progress is made in real time with no one feeling left out,” Bowles says.
No Central Workspace Hub
Another common remote work bottleneck, according to Will Ward, Founder and CEO of the translation company Industry Arabic, is having a confusing file management system and a remote workspace that doesn’t feel like a central hub.
“This can be because your team is simply using the wrong programs, or likely because you’re not strict enough in your implementation and organization,” Ward says.
Fortunately, he believes this problem can be easily resolved. “There are plenty of learning materials and webinars on the internet geared to managers and leaders for common remote work-related software,” Ward says. “You need to either learn how to fully utilize your existing software or shop around for something new that will make your team more cohesive.”
He admits that it can take a long time until you learn how to utilize a tech tool to its full extent, but that shouldn’t stop you from doubling down on the training as needed.
While many companies had no choice but to quickly adopt new software at the start of the pandemic, Ward notes that doesn’t mean you can’t shop around and look to transition to new remote work software now—or double down on relearning your current one.
“It’s important you have IT or a designated employee lead who is an expert in this software before you attempt to implement it on a company-wide scale,” Ward says.
Since remote workers are often literally “out of sight” for their teams, some managers go overboard with wanting to try to ensure that their work isn’t “out of mind.”
Savicic points out that a remote work bottleneck can be managers finding the right balance between ensuring that work will get done without micromanaging or surveilling people working from home. The solution to this, according to Savicic, is to have multiple touchpoints with your employees, whether through Slack, virtual hangouts, or midweek check-ins.
In considering this issue, Brown has found it helpful to create a culture of trust and autonomy, where team members are empowered to take ownership of their work and make decisions independently. “This helps minimize the need for micromanagement and allows everyone to focus on their areas of expertise,” Brown says.
As an example, Brown says when she onboards new writers, she provides them with a comprehensive style guide and writing tips but also encourages them to bring their own unique perspective and voice to their work. “This helps each writer feel valued and respected while also ensuring that the work produced is of high quality and aligned with our brand’s vision,” Brown says.
Banish Bottlenecks Thoughtfully
Coordinating people, schedules, and tools may have added challenges for remote teams, but you can overcome common remote work bottlenecks with thoughtful strategies. Taking a page from the playbooks of remote work veterans can help remote teams avoid reinventing the wheel when they encounter these four common bottlenecks.
For more remote management best practices, check out our Q&A with leading remote companies and virtual teams.
By Robin Madell | Categories: Build a Remote Team