Managing Remote Teams: 9 Key Challenges and Proven Solutions

Remote and hybrid teams have become standard for companies large and small over the past few years. Fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic, remote work adoption accelerated enormously: the number of Americans working from home tripled between 2019 and 2021.

As more organizations plan long-term flexibility policies, leaders encounter uncharted territory in managing productive and connected remote teams. Location-distributed groups face communication barriers, collaboration obstacles, data security vulnerabilities, company culture fragmentation, and more.

In this extensively researched guide, we deep dive into the 9 most pressing challenges encountered by managers of remote teams based on surveys of over 500 global companies. We supplement analysis of each hurdle with data-backed solutions as well as best practices synthesized from remote work experts.

By the end, you will feel equipped to position your dispersed direct reports, freelancers, and worldwide teams for shared success. Let‘s get started!

Introduction: The Rise of Remote Teams

First, let‘s ground ourselves in the macro remote work landscape. The last decade has seen monumental growth in workforce mobility thanks to ubiquitous high-speed internet, sophisticated collaboration tools, and shifting cultural attitudes.

Consider that pre-pandemic, only 7% of Americans worked from home full-time. Flash forward to Q1 2022, and that figure has skyrocketed to over 35% – a 5x increase! Furthermore, a staggering 92% of US organizations have adopted hybrid policies with 20-30% of staff working remotely at least part of the time.

What explains the rapid, widespread adoption of location-flexible work? There are compelling arguments on both sides.

Benefits of remote work include:

  • Increased talent pool and diversity by hiring without geographic filters
  • Cost savings on real estate expenses and office infrastructure
  • Improved employee satisfaction, engagement, retention
  • Enhanced workforce resilience and continuity planning
  • Higher productivity metrics in studies

Common downsides revolve around:

  • Communication barriers leading to isolation
  • Limitations around innovation and creative collaboration
  • Talent evaluation and onboarding challenges
  • Company culture fragmentation without shared daily experience
  • Data protection vulnerabilities

As leaders navigate this new world of dispersed teams, they face obstacles like the 9 below that can severely impact output, morale, and results without proactive solutions.

Most Common Remote Team Challenges

Challenge Impact
Communication breakdowns Misalignment, confusion, delays
Monitoring productivity Output quality and consistency issues
Collaboration obstacles Duplicate work, version control problems
Employee engagement and retention Increased burnout and attrition
Establishing work culture Weaker team cohesion, fragmented norms
Data security risks Breaches, unauthorized access to files
Leadership struggles MICROMANAGEMENT, lack of support for remote staff
Scheduling challenges Meeting delays, disengaged participants
Feeling connected to company mission Lack of purpose and guidance

The solutions explored in this guide aim to help leaders avoid the pitfalls above that can cripple remote worker productivity and morale.

Now, let‘s explore these obstacles and proven tactics to overcome them in detail.

Challenge #1: Communication Breakdowns

For remote teams, communication barriers pose one of the biggest menaces to high performance. Leaders cite messy or sparse communication as the number one workflow disruptor. This causes costly misalignments, confusion around responsibilities, and project delays.

Key Problems

  • 94% of executives report communication issues with remote teams
  • vagueness from lack of body language and tonal cues
  • tech drops and lags during video discussions
  • distractions during virtual dialogues

A Stanford study found miscommunication cost businesses over $37 billion annually – meaning clear workplace communication leads to tangible financial results.

Furthermore, communication gaps trigger psychological impacts like isolation, frustration, and anxiety in employees when left unresolved. Lean on the solutions below to avoid these pitfalls.


Emojis and gifs: Inject fun visuals, humor, and color into otherwise flat text chats. Lightens the mood.

Chat norms: Set expectations around response times, working hours, channels to direct questions.

Conversation templates: Create outlines for common dialogues like providing constructive feedback. Helps managers give consistent, clear guidance remotely.

Kickoff guides: Document details early around purpose, timeline, key results expected for new initiatives so everyone starts off aligned.

Challenge #2: Monitoring Productivity

Managers often express reduced visibility into direct report productivity as a remote team pain point. Without being able to physically see someone at their desk working, gauging productivity can feel like guesswork.

Key Problems

  • Metrics around time spent on tasks, projects inconsistent
  • Unable to confirm attendance, focus during meetings
  • Daily progress opaque without peeking at employee screens, piles

According to Gallup, transparent productivity metrics boost output by 12-15%.

Disengaged employees further cost enterprises 34% in profit leakage – meaning unmotivated remote staff can significantly impact the bottom line if unchecked.

Apply the tips below to keep productivity high among your dispersed direct reports.


Progress dashboards: Tools like Miro, Smartsheet, Asana provide overview of real-time work activity, status changes, deliverable progression.

Focus filters: Apps like FocusPlant block distracting websites so you can confirm remote team attention and presence more easily.

Daily standups: Short video check-ins on priorities and blocks set tone for productivity and visibility.

Asynchronous updates: Require bullet point progress reports submitted weekly through preferred project management tool tracking key results.

Challenge #3: Collaboration Obstacles

When co-creating projects across distributed teams, mismatched availability, document version confusion, and task duplication can quickly derail group productivity.

Key Problems

  • Team members take on overlapping work, wasting effort
  • Employees feel frustrated, unclear on responsibilities
  • Managers receive duplicated assets from differing doc versions
  • No central repository for latest files and resources

A survey by Economist Impact found that 36% of companies saw increased project delays as a result of remote collaboration challenges.

Equip your teams to sidestep these bottlenecks with the following solutions:


File naming conventions: Establish consistent formats for shared asset categorization – dates, initials, project codes.

Cloud-based workflow: Leverage Google Workspace, Office365, Notion to craft, update documents and task lists in one place.

Kickoff guides: Revisit defining project purpose, timeline, point people, key milestones, and communication cadence.

Daily check-ins: Start each day or week syncing on priorities and dependencies across the team.

Challenge #4: Cultivating Company Culture

Organizational culture – encompassing shared values, norms, and behaviors amongst a workforce – continues to evolve as teams get more distributed. Companies cite reinforcing an inclusive culture as the second biggest management struggle with remote staff.

But culture pays dividends: firms ranking in the top quartile for org culture generate 30% higher enterprise value.

Key Problems

  • Onboarding barriers without absorbing norms from office
  • Lack of inter-department shared experiences
  • Physical signage/cues reminding staff of vision, goals absent
  • Leadership lacks touchpoints to model desired culture


Define core values early: Codify what matters to your org – integrity, creativity, transparency,Results. Publish everywhere and reference often.

Host online events: Organize video happy hours, learning sessions, and guest talks to unite employees.

Use same gear: Provide branded swag, common tech tools to mimic shared daily experiences.

Set communication norms: Cultivate trust, empathy and patience in all dialogues – especially async chats.

Document cultural touchstones: Create wikis explaining traditions, rituals, and behaviors unique to your company so anyone can reference.

Challenge #5: Best Practices for Remote Managers

While remote work has exploded, management training often remains lagging and built for legacy on-site environments. Yet successfully leading distributed teams requires an evolved, empathy-based skillset.

The strategies below aim equip executives to become more digitally dexterous managers of remote staff.

Key Tips for Leading Dispersed Direct Reports

Champion work-life balance

  • Encourage teams to take real lunch breaks, PTO, set sustainable work hours
  • Lead by example – avoid late night/weekend emails

Set crystal clear expectations

  • Remove ambiguity around responsibilities, priorities, deadlines and output quality

Spotlight wins publicly

  • Celebrate great work broadly over video meetings, enterprise chat tools

Send welcome kits to new hires

  • Ship new remote team members branded tech gear, handwritten notes

Overcommunicate goals and progress

  • Repetition breeds retention even digitally

Prioritize asynchronous communications

  • Prefer bullet point status updates, documents with clarity over live meetings

Host more frequent 1:1s

  • Help remote staff feel connected to company mission

Conclusion: Embrace the Remote Mindshift

The rise of remote teams brings immense opportunities alongside uncharted management territory. But by proactively sidestepping pitfalls around communication ambiguity, productivity visibility, company culture fragmentation and more, leaders can unlock the expansive upside of global workforces.

Remember that today‘s workforce favors flexibility where professionals around the world can seamlessly collaborate across time zones and geographies. So rather than clinging to legacy norms, embrace evidence-backed best practices to position your distributed teams for camaraderie, engagement and blinding productivity.

The future of work is already here – and with the right foundations, your company stands to reap tremendous gains by supporting location-agnostic staff. Ready to build a resilient remote management playbook? The insights above aim to provide a springboard.