According to Global Workplace Analytics, the number of people who work from home has grown by more than 173% since 2005. There are now over five million remote employees in the U.S.
The emergence of the coronavirus pandemic prompted stay-at-home orders, and work-related tasks have become challenging for those who struggle with managing remote teams.
Some employees find it hard to create a work-life balance now that they work from home. For some, productivity has dropped simply because they can’t get motivated in the morning. These considerations are important because your workforce’s performance will impact your company’s overall success.
While the “office feeling” can cause employees to perform better as there’s little room for distractions, the current environment means there’s a need to learn how to manage a remote team for outstanding results.
The challenges of managing remote teams
As common as remote working is nowadays, team managers still face challenges when managing remote teams.
Several companies didn’t have work-from-home plans on their agenda until the global pandemic caused them to adapt to these new ways of managing their employees.
Here are some of the challenges of managing remote teams:
- Poor communication
- Ignorance of company culture
- No progress tracking
- Lack of trust
- Scheduling difficulties
- Low productivity
- Less work energy
- No live get-togethers
You can solve these problems with the right remote working management practices.
Below, we’ll describe the best practices on how to manage a remote team.
How to manage a remote team
- Set expectations
- Build communication channels
- Schedule daily check-ins
- Provide team access to the same collaboration tools
- Provide resources
- Encourage social interactions
- Show flexibility and empathy
- Be a leader instead of just a boss
- Advocate for mental health days
- Organize regular career catch-ups
- Take breaks
- Label business information for easy prioritization
- Track company progress
- Celebrate success
There are thousands of managers and team leaders who have suddenly found themselves managing remote teams.
Adapting to this new work style can be scary, especially if there isn’t enough time to prepare for the change. However, if you know how to manage remote teams the right way, you’ll get the best results from your remote workers.
Here are our fourteen best actionable tips for effectively managing remote teams:
1. Set clear expectations
Learning how to manage a remote team starts with setting boundaries and work rules your employees should adhere to as they work from home.
Let your team know what you expect from them. These expectations can be in the form of:
- Company culture
- Working procedures
- Project guidelines
- Style guides
- Communication rules
- Relationship building
Just as in a traditional office workspace, managers are expected to keep workers up-to-date on staffing changes and policies. Although it’s essential to see how well team members meet expectations, don’t oversee their actions too closely, as that can breed distrust. Some automatic time tracking apps like Traqq allow for ethical monitoring – captured screenshots and videos are intentionally blurred, so personal and sensitive information cannot be seen.
Another effective practice of managing remote teams is modeling work activities around your employees’ working hours. Keep in mind, team updates may vary based on time zones and preferred work hours, so set expectations for team members in regards to communication.
2. Build communication channels
We can’t overemphasize the importance of communication between managers and remote staff when learning how to manage a remote team.
Create a reliable communication channel for managing remote teams. This will be where you alert your remote workers of important items such as:
- New resources
Perhaps most importantly, consider which communication tool is suited to your company’s needs. For example, should you do video chats, phone calls, voice messages, or simply texts?
While managing remote teams, ensure you find that delicate balance between continually pinging employees and delegating workflow by setting up automation.
The following tips will help you build effective communication channels for managing remote teams successfully:
- Consider your company’s culture
- Use communication channels with good reviews
- Experiment with different channels
- Evaluate your delivery methods, such as video calls, e-mails, or texts
3. Schedule daily check-ins
Scheduling daily check-ins may seem like overkill, but it is vital to ensure workforce performance. In addition, it improves time management while managing remote teams.
When you schedule check-ins, you give yourself a break from constant overseeing, allow your team to be more accountable, and reduce unattended projects. You can use scheduling software to simplify this task.
Your check-ins don’t necessarily have to be daily — schedule check-ins based on what works best for your team, pending projects, and work hours.
Automate notifications to be sent through emails or instant messaging apps like Skype to each member on the specific days they’re expected to check-in.
4. Give team access to the same collaboration tools
Collaboration tools are crucial for managing remote teams as they help your workers communicate, manage tasks, and share project files.
Provide your remote workers access to these team collaboration tools and shared company documents. Some tools include:
To manage a remote team successfully, have your employees use the same tools. Don’t equip one team member with something different if they perform similar tasks to another employee.
Communication issues at work?
"50 Surefire Ways to Improve Your
5. Provide resources
As a business owner or manager looking to learn how to manage a remote team, ensure you provide resources to help your team grow and handle tasks more efficiently.
Some of the essential resources for managing remote teams include:
- Books and e-books
- Blog posts and articles
- Tools and software
With several businesses online, equipping your employees with these resources will set them up for success and increase productivity.
6. Encourage social interaction
Regardless of the physical distance between your employees, social interaction is an effective method to manage a remote team.
You can hold virtual parties, online hangouts, joint brainstorming video conferencing, and welcome sessions to build positive intrapersonal and interpersonal workplace relationships.
Managing remote teams includes creating time for your remote workers to connect and cooperate among themselves. This helps make teamwork effortless and productive, as they build relationships and look out for each other.
7. Show flexibility and empathy
You should understand that your team members don’t all have the same working environment. Some may have spouses and children, and others may not.
Some have standard home offices, and others might work from anywhere — their yard, bedroom, or favorite coffee shop.
Keeping this in mind will help you be more flexible and empathetic in managing remote teams.
If your team members are sick or have a life crisis, you should understand their circumstances. It shows that you’re human and care about them.
Due to business shifting to remote working from the typical office workspace, managers should acknowledge stress, distractions, and rate of adaptability. Then, exercise flexibility in task supervision while managing remote teams.
8. Be a leader instead of just a boss
The best team managers know how vital it is to coach and mentor their employees rather than just manage them. They know how to lead by example.
While it’s essential to set down rules and uphold discipline, your team members should find you approachable too.
Set yourself as a leader rather than just a boss. Leaders carry their followers every step instead of sending their followers to the forefront without setting the pace.
Here’s what you should do as a leader:
- Embody your company’s values
- Show integrity
- Ask for team members’ opinions
- Respect your remote workers
- Show your employees that you value their efforts
- Be flexible and empathetic
- Organize seminars to improve team knowledge
- Hold open-ended conversations with your team
- Request employee feedback and adjust accordingly
9. Advocate for mental health days
The World Health Organization (WHO) found that poor productivity due to anxiety and depression cost the world $1 trillion every year. However, it also found that for every $1 invested in mental health, there’s $4 worth of improvement in health and productivity.
As a team manager, the mental health of your employees should be of utmost concern, especially since they will deliver better results when they have sound health and feel supported.
Our levels of tolerance and adaptability vary, and you should consider these factors when managing remote teams.
While some workers might find it easy to adapt to remote working, project guidelines, and company regulations, some may need more time to get accustomed to how you handle working from home.
Team members who need more time to adjust to the remote environment might deal with mental health concerns if they continue to work under pressure.
Some of your employees might be going through a challenging life crisis and become torn between attending to their challenges and keeping their jobs. This could take a mental toll on them if not quickly and adequately addressed.
How to manage a remote team in this regard is to advocate for mental health days — workdays you set aside to help improve your employees’ psychological wellbeing.
The following are ways you can support your remote team members’ mental health:
- Offer mental health employee benefits
- Encourage open communication and team building
- Have a psychotherapist you can refer employees to
- Use project management tools to simplify tasks
- Share self-care resources
- Socialize virtually
- Send mental health and job stress surveys
- Encourage breaks
- Plan in-person team meetings to catch up (when it’s safe to do so)
- Advocate physical fitness
- Encourage work-life balance
- Be flexible and approachable
- Reward employees’ work
10. Organize regular career catch-ups
Set up one-on-one weekly or monthly meetings with each virtual team member you manage. Jumping on Zoom calls with your employees for career talks is a great way to manage remote teams.
Set up virtual hangouts to chat about how your team members cope with remote work and project management. Discuss how previous projects went, the blockers they faced, how they found solutions, and how challenging or exciting their tasks have been in general.
This virtual face-to-face assessment could be the perfect time to ask for project management feedback and suggestions on how to move forward.
Regular career catch-ups are a results-driven way to manage a remote team as you’re able to build employees’ trust and connect with them on a personal level. Your remote workers, in turn, will be able to share their personal goals and objectives for your brand.
11. Take breaks
As someone tasked with managing remote teams, you probably understand the need for breaks as working long hours can be stressful.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one out of four employees complains that work is the number one stress factor they deal with.
Some of your team members may not complain about this, but stress will reflect on their work performance.
Encourage your employees to take breaks now and then so they can relax and feel refreshed. Taking breaks is one of the simplest ways to keep mental health in check.
Provide breaks to build a happier working environment and encourage successful performance while managing remote teams.
Breaks will help your team members:
- Prevent burn-out
- Improve creativity
- Maintain a healthy work-life balance
12. Label business information for easy prioritization
You’ll be more successful at managing remote teams if you keep things organized. Task management will be easier, and productivity a lot better.
In your project workflow, label tasks based on their priority so your team knows the level of importance and urgency. Label official information and emails for easy prioritization.
Here are some of the labels you can create for your workflow and tasks:
Labels serve as necessary guidelines for effectively managing remote teams. They also ensure timeliness, accuracy, and quickness.
13. Track company progress
Before you can effectively track your company’s progress, you must first evaluate workers’ performance, which begins with properly managing remote teams.
To evaluate your company’s performance to know if you’re successfully managing your remote workers:
- Evaluate your business goals and achievements
- Analyze key performance indicators (KPIs)
- Review customer feedback
- Check your search engine optimization (SEO) rankings
- Check the rate of repeat purchases
- View your financial statements
- Compare with competition
- Identify your strengths and weaknesses
- Develop improvement strategies
Your job as the manager ensures that there is no lapse and work is progressive while managing remote teams.
Remote employees’ performance affects your overall business growth. But don’t be too harsh when you identify problems and make corrections.
14. Reward success
When you achieve certain milestones, find a way to celebrate and reward these successes.
Celebrating your successes — both big and small — is a great way to encourage your remote workers. Not only that, but you’ll motivate them to do their best. More so, it gives your team the satisfaction that their efforts get desired results.
There are several ways you can celebrate your company’s success with your remote team for more productive results. You can:
Don’t postpone celebrations until you have achieved your big, long-term goals. If your employees strive to deliver good results and don’t get to celebrate the impact their efforts create, they might feel discouraged about their performance.
As a manager who knows how to manage a remote team, always remember to celebrate both individual and collective successes.
Final thoughts:14 tips for successfully managing remote teams
Learning how to manage a remote team shouldn’t be as difficult as it might seem.
While many challenges might come up while managing team members in different cities or countries, managing remote teams is a breeze with the right actions and tools.
Follow our list of practical tips for managing remote employees and enhancing your business’s performance and productivity.
How do you manage your remote team? Feel free to share your best practices in the comments below.
Irina, thank you for sharing these useful tips! I feel that in the future, remote work will become increasingly common. However, managing a remote team is a difficult undertaking. I believe that open communication with members is a beneficial method. To motivate team members, the team leader must be flexible while setting goals.
Thank you for the tips, Irina! I agree with Alistar Scott that managing a remote team is challenging but when using the right digital tools for team collaboration (I’d add TMetric and JIRA to your list) and being a good leader, it’s all doable and possible.