Remote Work in 2021: Challenges, Opportunities (Tools for Remote Management + Management Tips Inside)

remote worker holding white mug and laptop

This is a guest post for the MELD Coworking blog written by Anna Grechko.

These days, remote work has not just become a trend but a necessity for companies all around the world. According to Owl Labs, 51% of on-site employees say they want to work remotely while 43% of U.S. employers say they are planning to offer more opportunities for remote work next year. 

As a result, thousands of team leaders are now having to learn how to manage remote teams effectively and successfully. For sure, that can be scary, especially if you have never worked with team members on a remote basis before.

You may even feel like you’re losing control over the situation or find that trust issues with a remote team can be quite a challenge. Yet, remote work is becoming more and more prevalent, and managers need to adapt to make the workplace comfortable for everyone involved.

This guide is going to help you learn more facts about remote working, its challenges, and tips to manage remote employees effectively. 

six happy remote employees standing together

How remote work impacts employee productivity, loyalty, and retention

There’s a common stereotype that employees who work remotely are lazy, pajama-clad people who slack off rather than getting their work done. Statistics prove it wrong. Let’s dive into some numbers. 

For 79% of respondents, remote work increases productivity. 78% of employees admit having less stress while working remotely. 91% of employees surveyed say that remote working allows them to balance work and life responsibilities better, making them happier and thus more motivated.

Remote work is also a major benefit among companies competing for the best talent. 71% of survey respondents agree that the ability to work remotely would make them more likely to choose one employer over another in their next job. 

Not only does offering remote work attract new specialists to the company, but it also improves employee loyalty and retention. In fact, 74% of survey respondents agree that the ability to work remotely would make them less likely to leave their employer.

woman working from home while holding a baby

Biggest Challenges Facing Remote Employees

To manage effectively, team leaders should be aware of the challenges their employees face while working remotely. The most common employee concerns are feelings of loneliness and isolation, overworking, and demotivation. 

Remote work isn’t as simple and glamorous as it may seem. Working remotely doesn’t mean you work in exotic locations drinking margaritas on the beach with a laptop somewhere around you. The reality is that a lot of remote workers often feel isolated, anxious, and unmotivated.

In fact, 22% of remote employees surveyed struggle with unplugging from their work, 19% feel lonely and isolated, and 17% acknowledge communication issues. Around 10% of remote workers revealed issues with distractions at home and difficulties with staying motivated. 

One of the easiest ways for remote employees to avoid the feeling of isolation is to join a coworking space. It offers an environment with amenities of a traditional office which helps to focus on work, and it provides an opportunity to network with other remote workers which gives a sense of community. 

To support remote working relationships, managers need to sustain a good level of communication within a team, provide remote workers with necessary tools that will help employees evaluate their performance, and motivate themselves to work effectively but not overwork at the same time. 

three remote workers at a coworking space

Biggest Challenges Facing Remote Employee Managers

Not only do remote employees face challenges, but also team leaders who manage remote teams. The biggest challenges managers face are communication issues, tracking productivity, employee trust, and maintaining a unified company culture. 

Dealing with team members you see face-to-face is much easier than building effective communication with remote workers. According to Zogby Analytics, 38% of remote workers reported a lack of information from management.

That’s why it’s essential to choose the right set of technology solutions that will help team leaders give effective directions, provide instant feedback, and monitor the progress of team members. Here are our favorite tools to use for remote management:

Сhat apps for communication within a team:

  • Slack
  • Microsoft Teams
  • Google Chat
  • Discord
  • Mattermost
  • Telegram
  • Chanty

Task managers to track work progress and task completion:

  • Jira
  • Asana
  • Worksection
  • nTask
  • Hubstaff Tasks
  • Todoist

Tools for making video calls:

  • Zoom
  • Skype
  • PukkaTeam
  • Whatsapp
  • Outklip
  • Collabify
person looking at phone and macbook

Other tools for remote teams we love:

  • 1Password is a password manager that stores the passwords you use so you don’t have to worry about login or password failure. You can also share passwords with other team members. 
  • Officevibe collects feedback and information from team members by sending out surveys that take a couple of minutes to complete. It helps managers understand their teams more and makes employees feel they are appreciated.
  • Confluence is a platform that allows you to capture project requirements, assign tasks, upload, and share documents with your team.

Tracking productivity is another challenge for remote team managers. It may seem difficult to track how many tasks employees complete daily when you don’t see your employees every day. However, it’s not working hours that matter, but outputs and achieved goals.

That’s why tracking a remote worker’s productivity should be the same as with the rest of the team, including employees who work in the office. With on-site and remote team members alike, it’s essential to establish metrics and goals to estimate effectiveness by their results, not by how long they’re at the office or how hard someone thinks they work. 

woman sitting on the stairs outside while using laptop

Tips to follow for successful remote management 

1. Have a Daily Check-In

The purpose of daily meetings, phone, or video calls is simple — set the agenda and provide the feedback team members need. Make sure these daily check-in meetings don’t last more than 15 minutes. Otherwise, team members will likely feel exhausted and tired rather than motivated. Daily meetings are supposed to cover the following questions:

  • What did you do yesterday?
  • What will you do today?
  • What blockers stand in your way?

Each team member should be quick and concise in their answers and then move to the next person. The manager’s goal here is to make everyone focused on the meeting agenda and dissuade team members from bringing up a subject not on the agenda. 

This constant interaction and engagement will help remote employees feel more connected and included.

2. Set up an employee development plan

One of the best ways to encourage and motivate your remote team members is to set up a personal growth plan with specific goals and key performance indicators (KPIs) to achieve. Make sure your team members understand that KPIs are not a tool to micromanage them – it’s a way to develop their professional growth and empowerment. 

Don’t just set KPIs, but also track these engagement metrics over regular intervals. 

typewriter with a paper that says "goals"

3. Align personal employee goals into the company’s goals 

It is the job of a good manager to help employees meet their own professional goals and understand their contribution towards the company’s overall growth.

One of the best things a team leader can do is to help each team member develop personally while serving the company’s global growth through their individual role. Once employees understand the connection between what they do on a daily basis and the corporate strategy, they are likely to feel more engaged. 

4. Focus on outcomes, not activity

As a manager, you shouldn’t even try to manage every aspect of any team member’s activity, especially when your team is located in different areas. Instead of focusing on the number of hours worked, focus on the results and measure the effectiveness of teamwork accordingly.

5. Be flexible

When it comes to managing remote teams, the key is to be open about allowing employees to work flexibly. Of course, a certain plan is a must, but it will be better for everybody to let employees choose when to put in their working hours. It doesn’t really matter whether an employee is going to work in the morning or evening as long as the work is done and is of a high quality.

three women at a coworking space


The bottom line is there shouldn’t be a strict line between remote and on-site employees. Team leaders should aim to organize the work so that every employee, regardless of where they’re located, feel appreciated, included, and motivated. To approach this, managers need to embrace a new managerial mindset and introduce new, more efficient systems. 

About the Author

Anna Grechko is a marketing enthusiast and knows the field inside out. She is the marketing specialist at Smart IT. Sharing knowledge is a big part of her career, so Anna doesn’t miss any opportunity to do so.