Managing Remote Teams: Project Manager’s Challenges & Solutions

Managing remote teams: project managers' challenges and solutions

In the past 3 years, the world of work as we know of has completely changed.

The old beliefs of working in close proximity, especially for knowledge-based working environments, have been severely challenged.

New paradigms have been set.

One of the main changes has been working remotely.

And the biggest brunt of this challenge has been felt by managers.

  • How do you ensure every team member is supported to work efficiently?
  • How do you ensure a seamless flow of information?
  • How do you avoid communication bottlenecks?
  • How do you conduct meetings efficiently?
  • How do you arrest productivity dip?

I can see you nodding your head.

Well, almost. 🙂

While there have been certain benefits of this – such as reduced overhead costs, time saved in daily commute, ability to work undisturbed, and so on – none of these are the benefits for the manager.

And the problem gets only worse for two reasons –

  • As a manager you are always in a sandwich position – you need to manage the expectations of the management as well as your team members.
  • Your performance is inseparably tied up with that of your team as well as your project.

In this article, let us look at some of the challenges associated with managing remote teams you face on a daily basis, and how you can overcome these:

  1. Communication glitches
  2. Time zone struggles
  3. Lack of accountability
  4. Cultural barriers & individual preferences
  5. Information gaps

Do you want my PMP launch course ($27 value, free today)?

1. Communication glitches

When you have a remote team, even if some of the team members are working remotely, communication is the key to success.

The ability to effectively communicate with your employees is essential for building trust and accountability within the project organization, as well as across it.

A good manager will always keep this in mind as he or she designs their and their team’s way of working.

There is one way you can increase the natural propensity of people to communicate well:

By building an environment of trust.

How do you do this?

You can personally do this in 2 ways:

  • Be available when a team member needs you
  • Take time away from your regular schedule to talk to each

You can also do this by setting up a few team rules:

1. Have common working hours.

For example, if office time is say 9 am to 6 pm, then ensure that the whole team is available from 11 am to 4 pm. This enables you and others to set up meetings, 1-1 calls, brainstorming sessions, and so on – where collaboration is required.

2. Have weekly and daily task goals. This is a no-brainer if you are project has an agile team. Most of the agile approaches work with a planned scope and schedule.

3. Have short all-hands meetings. Again, for most of the agile teams, there is some sort of meeting where work and challenges are discussed. If not, you need to have a 5-minute daily meeting and a 15-minute weekly meeting where people talk about their progress and challenges. Any help needed is identified and taken up separately with concerned people.

Creating an environment where people can grow together by trusting each other is essential.

And that is one of the primary responsibilities of the project manager, more so as the remote working culture is becoming a norm.

2. Time zone struggles

Time zones are a challenge.

It could be between the project team and clients.

It could be also a planned team strategy where the best of the talent is picked across geographies.

How to overcome time zone challenges?Timezone differences

1. Have minimum overlapping hours

The most undesirable timezone difference is 12 hours – when one team ends the work, the other team starts.

Even here, you can slightly adjust the team’s working hours to provide a couple of hours of overlap between the teams once in 24 hrs.

If the timezone difference is lesser then it is relatively easier to provide overlap for a few hours.

The only rule to bring in here, if necessary, is to make the overlapping hours mandatory for all team members to be available.

This helps hold hand-over meetings, depending on the nature of work, or provide support, again, based on the nature of work.

2. Set up special communication arrangements

Fishbowl window is a concept where you set up long-lived video conferencing links between the various locations from where team members are working.

People start the link during the overlap people and retain it throughout. This speeds up communication and collaboration.

The remote pairing arrangement is another strategy where people can use virtual conferencing tools to share screens, including voice and video feeds.

This could be almost as effective as a face-to-face pairing.

Get the top 5 popular articles to help you pass PMP with confidence:

3. Lack of accountability

Lack of accountability is a common problem for managers. This can be caused by several factors, including:

  • Lack of clear expectations and goals
  • Lack of communication between manager and employees or among employees themselves

The solution is straightforward.

Set clear goals and expectations for your team members so they know what they need to do in order to progress toward their desired outcomes.

Ensure these are S.M.A.R.T. goals, in the sense, they are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

The team members should know the expectations from their roles, from other members of the team, from the manager, from the client, and from the management.

There should not be any confusion or contradictions here, they should all be aligned with the goal the team members have for themselves.

Goal and expectation-setting meetings are held not just once a year. They are held periodically and revised if and when needed.

These mutually agreed-upon goals are then shared with the team member, manager, and the Human Resource dept. So that there is no misunderstanding or confusion.

4. Cultural barriers & individual preferences

With remote teams, cultural barriers could become a common issue.

As a manager, you may find yourself dealing with cultural barriers as you lead your remote team.

Cultural differences can lead to misunderstanding and confusion on the part of your remote employees.

In order to overcome these challenges, you need to understand the culture of your team members and help everyone understand the cultures of all the members.

The first step in overcoming this challenge is knowing who they are and what motivates them.

For instance, some people like working at home because it allows them time for other activities outside their regular workday, such as exercising or spending time with family. While others prefer office environments because they’re more familiar with colleagues there than if they worked remotely full-time.

Another way that managers can address this issue is by ensuring everyone feels included in meetings or other events where decisions are made. If someone doesn’t feel comfortable speaking up during these meetings then they probably won’t participate as much either!

Get 5 recent PMPs’ strategies to help you pass PMP:

5. Information gaps

Information gaps are one of the biggest challenges for remote teams.

They can be caused by a number of factors, including poor communication between members and managers and a lack of training on how to work together effectively.

However, there are ways to overcome this problem:

1. Make sure everyone knows what’s expected from them in terms of their role in the team and company.

The project team charter helps them know what’s expected in the team environment.

Organizational policies shared with them help understand expectations from the organization.

2. Encourage senior employees to share their knowledge with junior members.

This helps that they may become more familiar with certain processes or procedures that might be new territory for someone just starting out at your firm. This will also help prevent information gaps.

3. Encourage people to speak up.

Whether in a meeting or during 1-1 with you, people need to feel free to share what’s on their minds.

Helps them voice concerns, share suggestions for improvement, or even tell you just how they feel working with the team – all help them feel that they are heard and their voice matters.


In this article, we talked about,

  1. Communication glitches
  2. Time zone struggles
  3. Lack of accountability
  4. Cultural barriers & individual preferences
  5. Information gaps

While many of the issues are probably familiar to you, seeing them spelled out in such a clear way can help you be more aware of your team’s challenges and how to overcome them.

There could be more challenges that you have felt that is not often talked about.

Share a unique challenge you have faced as a manager of the remote team(s) and how you have overcome them, or need help with, in the Comments.

Shiv Shenoy, PMP

(Connect with me on LinkedIn)

When you are ready, here are a few ways I can help you enjoy your PMP prep and pass the exam with ease:


Blog image photo by Andrea Piacquadio:

like the post

<-- Liked this post? Help your friends by sharing this using social network buttons. Thanks for being awesome!

OSP sidebar

PMP Study Books

Help Run This Blog At No Cost To You.. Use this box to search and purchase your stuff on Amazon. Thanks!

{ 0 comments… add one }