5 myths about managing permanent remote teams

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It’s increasingly looking like a full return to the office is unlikely to happen, even after the pandemic is over.

According to data from Global Workplace Analytics and Design Public Group, only a meager 5% of companies expect a full return to the office post-pandemic. For the vast majority of businesses, the future looks remote and distributed, with teams of employees working together from different locations, different time zones, and even different countries.

Managing remote teams involves new challenges and new ways to approach how work gets done. But to achieve long-term remote work success, organizations must first confront these common myths.

Myth 1: Remote teams are less productive

In the past, one of the greatest barriers to remote work adoption was the belief that without supervision, employees would slack off and not get their work done. After all, as the old saying goes, when the cat’s away, the mice will play. Right?

Not so fast. Survey after survey has found that remote productivity has thrived during COVID, with both employers and employees reporting that they’re getting more work done from home.

In fact, one survey on remote work from PwC found that employers were even more likely than employees to say teams have been more productive at home than they were at the office. If anything, people are working harder and longer, with 60% of workers saying they work more hours remotely than they did during pre-pandemic times at the office.

Myth 2: Remote teams can’t communicate

We’ve long thought of the office not just as a physical place but as a main connector of employees. Without that hub, the logic goes, teammates won’t keep each other in the loop, and risky silos can develop. 

That might have been the case back when homebound workers had limited means of connecting with colleagues. But in this golden age of technology, that assumption doesn’t reflect reality. In fact, research shows that remote teams communicate frequently. A majority of workers, for example, say they’re in contact with their direct supervisor on a daily basis—if not several times per day. Only a small minority said communications with their managers are limited to once a month or never. A majority of workers also report that they’re able to contact coworkers when they need them and are able to get timely information and answers to questions.

Obviously, companies need to do their part to make communicating from home as easy as it was when you could stick your head into a coworker’s office or cube—and this means employing the right tools. While some businesses use separate solutions for each type of communication—for example, separate apps for messaging, phone calls, and video—an all-in-one solution like RingCentral allows employees to connect seamlessly and instantly, using whatever channel makes sense for the task at hand.

Myth 3: Remote teams can’t collaborate

Communication is one thing, but what about tasks that require a deeper level of teamwork and information sharing? The good news is data on remote work shows collaboration doesn’t take a hit when teammates work from separate locations. A majority of managers—63% and 59% respectively—say both team creativity/innovation and teamwork have been unimpacted or even improved during WFH. Of course, just like communication, for remote collaboration to thrive, teams need tools that allow them to connect and work together without hassle.

Myth 4: Remote teams have no culture

With 30% of remote workers reporting that their company’s culture worsened this year, it’s clear that many businesses didn’t do a great job of fostering a sense of collectiveness in 2020. This makes sense given that for many the focus was largely on business continuity amid a global crisis, but it’s a challenge that must be overcome if remote work is to thrive as the “new normal.” 

Working remotely can certainly make developing and imparting a sense of culture more challenging—but it’s far from impossible. After all, you’re all still one team working on common goals. Keeping a strong company culture while working remotely requires intentional thought and planning: first to define what a team’s culture is and then to instill it among teammates.

Myth 5: Remote employees can’t be managed

For many managers, keeping tabs on employees’ work literally means looking over their shoulders to make sure the job gets done. And while no one likes a micromanager, it’s a style of supervision that is largely incompatible with remote work.

Instead of installing remote monitoring software, businesses looking to encourage their employees’ best work remotely should instead consider redefining what management actually means. Given high rates of productivity, most remote workers probably don’t need a babysitter to make sure they get their work done. What they do need is communication and support—with managers working collaboratively with employees to achieve an understanding and buy-in for company and team goals and providing the necessary support to achieve desired outcomes.

Remote work is the future of work. Are your leaders prepared?Read the report

Originally published Nov 19, 2020, updated Dec 01, 2020

RingCentral Office combines message, video, and phone into a single platform.

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