Insight

Addressing the challenges of remote working arrangments

Time management is one of the biggest concerns when adopting telecommuting arrangements, especially when there are different time zones involved. Remote teams are supposed to increase productivity, at least according to a number of studies including one from Global Workplace Analytics. However, it can also become a stumbling block for those unable to unlock the secrets of time management.

To handle time management issues better, it’s important to get acquainted with the specific challenges facing remote team time management. The coronavirus pandemic is forcing many companies to resort to telework. It’s important to know how to resolve essential issues such as time management to make sure that the switch to a new work arrangement does not result in inefficiencies and other problems.

Different time zones

Time zones affect the operation of remote teams. It’s difficult to change work and rest schedules, especially for older adult workers. Significant time zone differences require adjustments on the part of the employee, the employer, or both.

Almost all workers are willing to adjust their routines, but doing so tends to result in reduced productivity. Not many can adapt their body clocks easily to changing schedules. Also, there’s the risk of suffering from adverse health consequences.

“The arguments in favour of introducing shift work clearly depend on productivity and safety being maintained at an acceptable level. However, the evidence reviewed in this paper clearly indicates that both productivity and safety may be compromised at night,” write Simon Folkard and Philip Tucker in an in-depth review for the journal Occupational Medicine.

“Safety declines over successive night shifts, with increasing hours on duty and between successive rest breaks. The only known way to minimize these problems is to improve shift systems with respect to these factors,” the researchers add.

To make telecommuting work for employees in different time zones, shifting is necessary. However, it is recommended that employees are not given successive night shifts too often. Age and health conditions should be considered. The length of night shifts should also be reduced. Flexibility is encouraged to strike a balance between employee health and productivity.

Ineffective management tools 

Even the best remote team managers would have a hard time handling schedule and task management without the proper tools. Dealing with teleworkers who work at the same time may be relatively easy, but working with employees from different time zones can be challenging when done manually or using traditional systems.

There’s a need for solutions that simplify the way employee shifting is managed. Especially during emergencies, it’s essential to have the flexibility to reassign and reschedule to make up for the unexpected increases in deliverables or emergencies that lead to employee absences.

It also helps to have software with an automated system for optimizing schedules and the hiring of employees in relation to demand. Operations data can be analyzed to optimize hires, schedules, and assignments.

The global workforce is changing, with relation to the so-called “gig” economy. It involves instant gratification, where clients or customers get whatever they want, whenever they want, wherever they want it. 

Difficulties in work-from-home setups

The State of Remote Work 2020 report cites the following as the top struggles of remote workers: difficulties in collaboration and communication, loneliness, the inability to unplug, and distractions at home. The lack of motivation also factors in. These can prevent employees from working at their best and worsen the time management problem that is common among teleworkers.

Poor communication and collaboration can be demotivating to many competent workers. Loneliness can lead to procrastination and the lack of drive to work. The inability to unplug can mess with schedules and result in unwanted effects that prevent employees from following their set timelines. More importantly, distractions in the place of work (at home or at some cafe) can drive productivity down and negatively impact schedules.

Also worth noting is the inability of many remote employees to collaborate in a remote setting. A company can do many things to make the telework setup less disobliging, but it would be difficult to achieve the desired outcomes if the employees themselves refuse to cooperate. It’s easy to come up with excuses when your supervisor can’t be physically present to check on you. Technical difficulties can also get in the way, and the remote worker may not have the willingness to address the problem.

In search for better remote work management

Many tend to believe that managers have already grown adept at the management of remote teams. Asia, for instance, is home to many business process outsourcing companies that serve clients on the other side of the world. The region is also dotted by multinational companies that operate branches or offices in many countries. However, there are still those who find it difficult to hurdle the time management challenge.

That’s why it’s important to come up with suitable solutions for the potential issues brought about by different time zones, compliance requirements, the use of inadequate time management tools, and the inherent resistance of some workers to collaborate.

Featured image: Unsplash

Author: J. Angelo

Venture builder and industry analyst

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