Organisations are struggling to manage remote teams effectively, with poor communication and work practices limiting efficiency and productivity.
That’s according to the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM), which surveyed over 1,000 remote workers for its report Going Remote: Leading Dispersed Teams. While individuals cited benefits in terms of work life balance, autonomy and [check], 88% said they struggle with inconsistent working practices and miscommunication. In addition, 83% feel overwhelmed by emails and a lack of team identity can cause isolation and loneliness.
If they get it right, organisations can achieve increased business reach, improvements in productivity, and cost & time savings with a remote or geographically-dispersed workforce.
The ILM said firms need to learn to capitalise on alternative technologies for team communication, such as video conferencing and collaboration software, so they can reduce email overload.
ILM head of research and policy, Kate Cooper, said: “We know that remote teams are a reality of the modern workplace. By 2020 it is predicted that half of all full time employees will be working remotely. But this poses a real management challenge, it is harder to manage team members if you rarely meet in person. This research shows that many managers of dispersed teams are struggling to get the basics right and develop a clear shared focus and team ethos.”
She added: “E-mail is a real problem for remote teams, with over use consuming huge amounts of time and energy. What is more, we found that a lack of face-to-face interaction can lead to feelings of isolation and even paranoia. Regular, scheduled daily or weekly team meetings by video and audio can reduce inefficient email dialogue while also enabling a greater sense of shared identity, values and purpose.”
- Create a clear shared plan for team objectives, deadlines and how each member will contribute.
- Build a team ethos – with regular face-to-face interaction and social time.
- Use the right technologies – set strict guidelines on email usage and replace with chat and video tools wherever appropriate.
- Instil a sense of balance across your team – monitor workloads, watch out for signs of stress or isolation and create an open culture where employees can raise concerns.
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