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The challenges of managing remote team members

More and more project managers are managing remote workers because businesses are becoming increasingly global. Companies want to tap into the best talent, which is why they will often outsource or hire teams based overseas. Recent research shows that 40% of remote job listings allow international remote work. While this presents many benefits, it can be challenging to manage people located far away, which is why this is now a critical part of a project manager’s skill set. Read on to discover the challenges facing project managers with remote team members, and how to overcome them.

  • Time differences – One of the main problems facing remote workers is the time difference. If the time difference is no greater than seven hours, you should be able to find a point in the working day whereby your hours overlap, allowing you to schedule a meeting, even if it is the start of your working day and the end of theirs. If your working days do not overlap, this can be a lot more challenging. Establish a system whereby you both give each other daily updates, via email or the project management software you use, for example. You should then try and have a weekly audio or video call. Don’t expect the remote workers to be inconvenienced all of the time, you are going to need to be flexible and adapt to them as best as you can. The likelihood is that they will return the favour.

  • Feeling out of the loop – It can be very easy for remote team members to feel like they are not part of the team. They may feel a bit lost and like they don’t really know what they are doing, which can essentially cause them to ‘hide’, i.e. they will avoid your messages, delay responses, and come up with frequent excuses. When managing a remote project team, the key is to communicate regularly, and make time for small talk too so that the workers feel comfortable. You also need to be clear regarding objectives and implement deadlines for all work to be submitted by.

  • Cultural differences – The way we work in the UK is very different from other areas of the world, be it China, the Philippines, or elsewhere. You need to respect cultural differences at all times, from differences in regards to how many days a person has off work, to how long their lunch break is, to how much workers chat to one and other. All of these seemingly small things make a huge difference. In the UK, most people get four weeks off work per year. How would you like it if you were told you could only have one week off because that’s what your project manager in another country is allowed?

  • Tracking productivity – Finally, tracking productivity can be difficult when you cannot physically see how your employees are performing. This is why it is extremely important to have guidelines for all remote team members and to implement deadlines. You should also have tools in place to track what your remote employees are doing, as well as systems so that you know your business’s metrics.

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