How to Manage a Remote Team: A Survival Guide

how to manage a remote team

With advances in technology making it easier to stay connected no matter where you are, working from home has never been easier. But to manage a remote team can be tricky – whether you are new to the world of remote work or not. You can’t simply transplant a traditional office dynamic into an entirely virtual one. You need to adapt to maintain productivity levels and connectedness among team members.

If you’re a manager of a remote team, you know the struggles of trying to keep everyone on track. It can be tough to stay organized and motivated when your team is in office, let alone when your team is spread out across the country (or even the world) and you don’t have a chance for face-to-face conversations. But don’t worry – with these tips, you’ll be able to successfully manage your remote team like a pro.

Ten Golden Rules for Effectively Managing a Remote Team

Here are ten rules that will serve as your guide to succeeding at managing a remote team:

Establish Clear Communication Protocols and Stick to Them

The days of office chats and leaving notes on someone’s desk are over. With teams spread across so many different locations, it is crucial to have clear communication protocols. Create guidelines for how often team members should check-in with the group, what chat apps everyone should use for communication, and how you’ll communicate with each other. Even though this may be obvious, trust us – you’ll want to have these laid out as early as possible to avoid confusion.

Instead of using email to communicate, try an instant messaging app. It’s easier to keep track of conversations when everything is in one place instead of trying to follow an endless email thread.

Additionally, be sure employees know when they can contact you and when you are checked out for the day. Because separation between office and home is non-existent, it may be difficult to set boundaries. Work and home can easily blend into one – the fastest road to burnout. As a remote team leader, it is your responsibility to model these boundaries for your team to follow.

Make Sure Team Members Have the Tools They Need to Do Their Jobs Effectively

There is officially a tool for everything these days. Finding the ones that work for your team can be challenging so it is important to do your research. Try out a few until you find the ones that meet your needs most efficiently. But be careful – with all of these interesting tools it can be easy to get “shiny object syndrome” and end up complicating operations with unnecessary online softwares. More tools definitely doesn’t mean increased productivity. We recommend booking a demo with a representative and exploring any resources available on the tool’s website so you and your team can integrate it into your process as soon as possible.

Schedule Regular Video Meetings to Ensure Everyone Is on the Same Page

Many companies are turning to remote work as a way to cut costs and increase productivity. But with so many people working remotely, it can be tough to ensure that everyone is on the same page. That’s where regular video meetings come in. 

Hearing someone’s voice is much more reassuring than reading an email, especially when that voice comes from a manager. If your remote team is scattered across the globe, or even just in different time zones, it’s important to schedule regular video meetings in order to ensure everyone is on the same page. 

Obviously not all communication can be done via video (and sometimes it’s just not practical), but try to use video for as many team updates and conversations as possible. It may seem like a waste of time at first, but again, trust us – regular video meetings ensure that everyone stays connected and informed. And since there’s nothing quite like seeing someone’s face to clarify what they’re saying, you’ll also find that video meetings help improve communication overall. 

Set Tasks and Goals Using a Project Management Software

Are you constantly wondering what your remote employees are working on? Do you feel like you need to micro-manage them in order to ensure they’re productive? There’s a better way. A project management software can help set tasks and goals for your remote employees, so you can rest easy knowing they’re being productive. Plus, using a project management software can make your team more cohesive by providing a central location for all tasks and communication.

Encourage Team Members to Take Breaks and Move Around

Working from home can sometimes mean less moving around and less time outdoors. Encourage your team to take breaks throughout the day, go on a walk, or grab their laptop and brainstorm in a coffee shop. This change of scenery can help boost creativity and concentration, so encourage your employees to step away from the computer occasionally.

Celebrate Successes Together, No Matter Where Everyone Is Located

Celebrating successes within the company (however small or insignificant they may seem) is a great way to give employees a sense of purpose. When employees feel like what they do contributes to a success, they feel like an important part of the team. It also models good behavior for the rest of your employees, demonstrating that everyone deserves credit when success is achieved and when someone goes the extra mile, it will be recognized and rewarded. Not sure how to give employees the recognition they deserve? Check out these employee recognition ideas.

Allow for Flexibility in Your Work Arrangements

This obviously sounds like a no-brainer for managing a remote team, but it’s important to remember that not everyone works better or more productively at all hours. Even though you may feel some stress when an employee isn’t working during “office” hours and/or taking too many breaks, this flexibility helps employees work at their best and most productive, which means things will be easier for you to manage. With the right structure in place, the benefits of a flexible work schedule are endless.

The key to success is preparing goals and expectations ahead of time and allowing your team the freedom to achieve them. It shouldn’t matter how or when something gets done, as long as quality work is delivered on time. Even though working as a team is very important, you don’t want to fall into micromanaging your employees. Being too strict will make your team feel like they are being controlled or watched by their boss constantly. It also limits creativity and productivity as no one wants to be told how to do everything right all the time. So let them do their job with some autonomy but keep an eye out for potential miscommunications, projects going off track, etc., so you can help prevent any hiccups from spiraling out of control later on down the road.

Address Issues Promptly and Openly, Before They Become Bigger Problems

When problems do arise, be sure to handle them as quickly as possible. It’s best for everyone involved if issues are solved in real time. If an employee is underperforming, let them know about their performance and come up with a plan to address the issue. Communicating through messaging most of the time means misunderstandings are more likely to occur. Focus on solutions instead of punishment. Keep the lines of communication open by asking neutral questions like “How do you think it’s going?” or “Is everything okay?” rather than accusatory ones like “Why haven’t you finished this yet?” or “What happened here?”

Schedule Virtual Team Building Activities

Having a team that is united is a huge plus when it comes to employee satisfaction and productivity. A team that feels connected will collaborate more efficiently therefore be more productive. When things don’t go as planned, having a team that gets along may save a lot of time and energy in resolving conflicts. After work activities like virtual drinks or an online yoga class can be just what your team needs to bond.

The importance of online team building is often overlooked, but the benefits will undoubtedly come in handy when something goes wrong.

Create a Company Culture People Want to Be Part Of

Believe it or not, a strong company culture can increase productivity and employee retention. It is important to make your team feel like they are part of something. The easiest way to do this is to give them a voice in your company. The more they feel like they are contributing, the closer they will feel to your mission. Ask for their opinion. Welcome feedback. Ask them how they are feeling. Take time to get to know your team members and encourage them to socialize. The best way to get people excited about working for a company is by creating a culture where they feel part of something greater, their input is valued and their successes are celebrated.

Successfully Leading a Remote Team Doesn’t Have to Be Difficult

Remote work is a trend that has been gaining steam, and for good reasons. Regardless of whether you are new to the world of remote work or not, it can be tricky to manage your team remotely. However, if you are able to successfully manage a remote team using the right software and methods, you can have all of the benefits of an in-office job with none of the drawbacks. 

Surprise! We have one more bonus tip for you guys and arguably one of the most important – hire the right people. That includes the right employees and the right executives. Not sure where to start? Jennings Executive Search can help you find the best candidates, build successful teams, and generate value for all stakeholders. Reach out today to learn more about our recruiting services.

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