6 Tips For Managing Remote Teams

To help you navigate the remote frontier, here are some tips to help you and your team go remote.

by Nadia Boegli, January 3, 2018
Remote work

From time to time, we probably all dream of combining work with some exotic adventure. Imagine sitting in your little bamboo bungalow, looking over the turquoise Indian Ocean and planning your next task or being in team meeting on Skype. Doesn’t feel like work anymore, right? And yet, if done correctly, it might allow for greater productivity than any office ever could. 

Remote work is becoming more and more established around the world; some of the greatest and most successful companies have implemented remote work schemes. It offers numerous benefits; access to a greater talent pool, reduced rental costs, greater flexibility and employee satisfaction. Virtual meetings and project planning tools allow employees and employers to work from wherever they want. That said, sending your employees off to the hidden corners of the world can feel scary. And rightly so! It shouldn’t be taken lightly. Managing a remote team is a whole new ballgame. 

To help you navigate this new frontier, here are 6 tips to help you and your team go remote. 

  1. Above all, trust your employees. If you don't, reconsider whether you should be working together at all
  2. Manage expecations and set clear goals
  3. Ease yourself in and start working with remote structures before you go entirely remote
  4. Become a communication pro and make the most out digital communication tools
  5. Maintain the feeling of culture and connection between all team members
  6. Feedback, feedback, feedback. Giving and receiving feedback is even more important during remote work, because there is a lot of potential for misunderstanding, unspoken assumptions and thus conflict.

Trust your employees

This is the most important! Remote work can be a very stressful process if you don't trust your team members. Be aware that employees who work remotely are mostly independent and you might have to let some of your control habits go. While trusting your employees is good for your own sanity it also increases their motivation and hence their productivity.

Essentially if you feel like you need to be hovering around your employees desk in order to ensure their productivity, maybe you need to reconsider whether you should be working together at all. Sure it sounds harsh but at the end of the day, whether they work in the office or not, you need to be able to trust your team. 

Expectation management

In order to manage a team that works remotely, it is important to outline and clarify your expectations using clear KPIs so that both you and the team have a way to measure achievements. Make sure everyone in your team understands each others goals and is on the same page. And above all, make sure people are involved in defining and setting their own targets and ask them to commit to these before the work starts.

People who have been included in decision-making are much more likely to feel accountable for meeting goals that they have agreed to. At the end of the day, it’s the work that matters and not when or where it was done. 

Ease yourself in

Remote work is guaranteed to fail if you send one lone soldier out into the wilderness and expect them to fend for themselves. In order for remote work to succeed, the company structure needs to accommodate remote work for everyone. That sounds huge, but in a lot of ways most companies already have a lot of the necessary structures in place. Start small - allow employees to do home office a few days a week or work with freelancers outside of the office. You'll notice that you’re actually already pretty good at accommodating team members who are outside of the office. Once you’ve taken these baby steps, it will be easier to tweak things to allow someone to be outside of the office for an extended period of time. 

Make use of communication tools

Communication is always the most important part of teamwork. When you have people working remotely, it is vital to have clear communication and an effective way of using communication tools. Define what tools you want to use and how you want to use them. Chat is great for urgent questions but can be distracting when overused. Maybe a quick daily team check-in call is easier than struggling through 10 emails each day. It is critical that you determine when people are online and available, particularly if you’re working in different time zones. 

You might have to think outside the box and try out tools you have never used before, for example video conference tools like Zoom or project management tools like Trello. Having a virtual workplace immediately brings a sense of transparency to your work. Regular check-ins and updates can be a good way of keeping everybody up-to-date and accountable.

Maintain the feeling of culture and connection

Team members who work remotely, and often by themselves, may start to lose connection to the rest of the team and maybe even their purpose. It's important for you to maintain and nurture this connection by encouraging them with a clear daily structure. Try to have a schedule that allows regular breaks, but also promotes accountability. Have regular interactions with your team members and create a way for the whole team to have check in’s. Make sure you personally also stay connected to your team. 

Feedback, feedback, feedback

You might already have a great feedback structure in place, make sure this one also works “online”. Giving and receiving feedback is even more important during remote work, because there is a lot of potential for misunderstanding, unspoken assumptions and thus conflict. If you don't have a working feedback culture yet, try out 360-degree feedback. Make sure to do this on a regular basis and encourage your team to also give feedback amongst themselves. 

Now who's ready to hit the beach?

Originally published on February 8, 2017