Reports and analyzes

23 June 2021

Remote Leader – Challenges and Solutions

This text is the first part of a broader analysis dedicated to the topic of managing distributed teams. In the second part we will describe our recommendations and suggestions for solutions to the most difficult managerial challenges in remote work.

Key Challenges


Remote work has become the new reality for many companies. Right now, both employees and their managers in many cases work outside the office, from their homes. While some of them are experienced in this area, for majority remote work is an entirely new experience.

The key to effective actions is a conscious approach of the managers to the challenges that they face. It is important to understand how remote work affects the employees and what difficulties it raises. Without that and without considerable care for employees, persons in charge may lead to the situation where employees that are normally involved and full of ideas, do not execute their tasks efficiently and are not as innovative as they were just a few weeks ago. The current business situation is tense and dynamic enough, that is why it is worth working on becoming an effective leader for one’s remote team.

Challenge 1: The lack of interpersonal contact

In the circumstance of remote work, all sides feel the lack of interpersonal contact with their interlocutor. In that situation, the managers are usually worried if the employees will work as effectively as in the office, where they sit next to each other. They wonder if working in a distributed team will not adversely affect business results.

These concerns persist, despite the fact that a growing body of research indicates the significant benefits that implementing work-from-home opportunities can bring, provided the right management is adopted. For example, a two-year experiment conducted on 500 employees of Ctrip company in Shanghai by Nicholas Bloom, professor at Stanford University, has shown that employees who worked from home have enhanced their productivity by 13% and the turnover rate for this group has reduced by 50%.


Challenge 2: Not feeling supported by the Manager

Very often the employees, even when working in the office, feel the lack of support of the manager and the lack of everyday communication. This challenge intensifies when the whole team works remotely. The employees indicate that in such situations managers seem to focus mostly on checking and controlling performed tasks and they are detached from the real needs and challenges that their employees face.

Challenge 3: Difficulties with accessing the information

What might be surprising for both sides is how difficult in remote work it is to acquire the necessary information, which in the office is available immediately. All that needs to be done is take a binder, ask a colleague from the desk beside, walk to a different department. While working in a distributed teams, finding the information and finding the answers, even for trivial questions, can become the reason for additional frustration, or worse, an obstacle that prevents the completion of a task.

Challenge 4: Inadequate methods of distributing information

The frequent challenge facing distributed teams is the initial inadequacy of methods of distributing information in the situation of remote work. In the office, even if some information is provided by the boss to a too small number of employees, it often easily reaches the rest of the team (which sometimes, of course, has its downsides). In remote work, inaccurate identification of the message target group can have more negative consequences. For example, if information does not reach all employees, they often fill in the spaces with their own interpretation, which can turn into gossip and unnecessary speculation.

Challenge 5: Difficulties with recognizing the emotional state of the colleagues

When working next to each other or at least in the same limited area, usually we know about someone’s difficult day at work, rough meeting with the boss or a purely private issue. At daily bases the situational context affects our reception of signals sent by our co-workers. In the case of remote work, we often do not have access to it and our own interpretation of the tone of an e-mail or a message in a communicator that we received is not always in line with reality.

Challenge 6: Ineffective communication of one’s own emotion 

Remote communication, whether be it by e-mail or the so-called communicators, does not allow to fully use 3 key channels for transmitting information, which we use on a daily bases: words, tone of voice and body language. Study conducted by Education First shows that 47% of conflicts in distributed teams is caused by misunderstandings and as much as 39% of employees covered by the surveys wrongly interpreted behaviours of the others.

Challenge 7: Family in the workplace

On the Internet we often see funny videos of employees who simultaneously hold a teleconference and watch their children. Such situations can constitute a big obstacle in effective performance of official duties and can cause additional strains in the work of the team. The best solution would be to work in an empty, organized and sound-proof room, without disruption by the family members. It is the best solution, but is it always possible? It is necessary for both sides, the managers as well as the employees, to show understanding and accept these obstacles as natural things which they have little control of.

Challenge 8: Social isolation

Remote work is often working in solitude for many hours a day. Some people will be in their element, for others it can pose a real challenge. Some people work most effectively in the silence of the locked room, others cannot breathe without the presence of other people who give them energy, help them in resolving the problems and are always around when needed. It is important to remember that isolation can affect temporary well-being and effectiveness of employees, and sometimes may even cause long-term consequences, such as distancing oneself, depressive states, nervous breakdowns. The research described by Professor Adam Hickman of Walden University in this regard seems very interesting. It shows that isolation from the workplace and colleagues can cause decrease in efficiency of the employees as big as 21% and the time between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. is posing the biggest risk for the appearance of feelings of isolation and abandonment. As a result, they can cause not only a reduction in our productivity, but also deterioration of ties with individual co-workers, the entire team or even the organization

We therefore recommend that you actively reflect on this topic and prevent situations where, if you don’t have strong bonds and relationships within your team, it is much easier to start thinking about aspects of your job that you don’t like, because then you are only one step from the stage of active disengagement.

This text is the first part of a broader analysis dedicated to the topic of managing distributed teams. In the second part we will describe our recommendations and suggestions for solutions to the most difficult managerial challenges in remote work.

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