If you have a remote team, you’ve probably run into some issue when it comes to managing them. It’s tough to keep everyone on the same page when they are scattered across the country.
But managing remote teams is totally doable and can have some real benefits, such as happier employees and lower costs. It just takes some extra work when it comes to communication and team building. And from a management perspective, it can be hard to know who is really doing their work and who isn’t.
The key to all of this is using the proper tools to keep track of everything and working hard on good communication.
Set Clear Expectations
The first step to managing a remote team effectively is to set clear expectations. Let each team member know what is expected of them on a daily or weekly basis.
Be sure to let them know what you expect from them when it comes to performance and communication.
Clear expectations help immensely with communication issues that can arise with remote teams. Everyone will know exactly what their responsibilities are and will have the opportunity to ask any questions.
Hold Your Team Members Accountable
Once you’ve been clear about your expectations, it’s important to hold your team members accountable. Follow up with them regularly, and address any lack of productivity or missed assignments quickly.
The sooner you address any issues, the less tedious any necessary fixes will be. Be clear that accountability is a required best practice for all team members.
This will help focus your employees who get distracted easily at home. They know you are keeping track of things and will be held accountable if the work isn’t done on time. Meanwhile, those who have no problem staying focused and getting work done will enjoy knowing you are paying attention and will give you an opportunity to praise them for staying on top of things.
Hold Video-Based Teaching And Coaching Sessions
Another way to help manage your remote team well is to hold teaching and coaching sessions. You can create your own session, or have the group watch a TED talk or similar video and discuss the content afterward.
The teaching sessions can be about business, teamwork, life improvement, or any number of topics. The goal is to combine learning with fun and camaraderie.
Provide The Right Tools And Technology
Your remote team members will find it easier to communicate and stay focused with the right tools.
- Zoom — for easy video chats
- Asana — for project management
- Trello — for project management
- Slack — for communication
- Teams — for communication
- Google Drive — for document storage
- Loom — for recording your screen, perfect for creating training videos
Another interesting service is Bonusly. Each month, every team member is given a set amount of points to award to others for work well done. Team members can then redeem their points for gift cards. This is a fun way to create an appreciation system within the company.
One of the challenges here will be to ensure that people actually use the tools you provide. Anytime someone steps outside of the tool give them a gentle reminder to communicate via the appropriate channels. For example, if someone emails you that they have completed their work say something like “That’s great! Please update that in Asana for the team.”
Eventually, everyone will get on board.
Have Regular Video Chat Check-ins
Communication with remote teams is one of the biggest struggles. It’s easy for a quiet team member to feel disconnected when working from home. They do their job, all the while forgetting that their activities impact many others.
One way to keep everyone on the same page is to have regular meetings set up to check-in. These could be weekly team calls, or even daily check-ins every morning.
These could also be a one-on-one or with the whole team.
Try out a few different styles to see what works best. You may also have different setups with different team members. Some people may need a 10 min chat every morning to stay on task while others can be left alone.
Do whatever works best for your team.
Trust Your Team
Lastly, it’s vitally important to trust your team. It can be easy to micromanage when you can’t see what your team members are doing and you have no idea if deadlines are being met and work is being done.
Most managers have some level of need to control things in them (speaking as a manager); that’s part of what makes them good managers.
However, one of the very best managers I ever had was largely hands-off. Dan would simply let us be, and let us do our work.
When a co-worker asked Dan at a group event why he felt confident enough to leave us alone so often, he answered, “I trust you. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have hired you.”
That statement did wonders for the self-esteem of every team member. Instead of taking advantage of our unsupervised time, we were more motivated than ever to produce spectacular sales numbers. We wanted to prove Dan right when it came to being able to trust his team.
So when it comes to your team, don’t focus on activity — or perceived activity. Instead, focus on outcomes. Pay attention to whether deadlines are being met and the necessary work is being produced well and in a timely manner.
If it is, let your team members be. If it’s not, have that talk with the low producers about how you can help them to be more diligent with their workload.
Respect Time Off
A big challenge of working from home is being able to disconnect from work. Respecting your team’s time off goes a long way to helping them get the rest they need to put in 100% while they are on the clock.
You can do this by having set working hours and not emailing or pinging them outside of those hours. You may think you are just sending a quick email and don’t expect a reply, but your team will see that email and their brain will switch to work mode — even if they wait until Monday to reply.
Even worse are the communication tools like Slack or Teams. They will ping your team member’s phone and the last thing they need is a notification from work while they are trying to recharge.
Plus, you need time off too! So save those communications until proper working hours. This helps everyone set clear work/ home boundaries. You’re doing everyone a favor.
How To Keep A Remote Team Engaged
Along with managing your team well, there are things you can do to help keep your team engaged and avoid the “island” mentality. Here are some ideas for keeping your team engaged.
Work On Partnership Goal Setting
One way to help your team feel connected is to set partnership goals. A partnership goal is a goal that needs two or more people to be accomplished.
Your team can create partnership goals with yourself as their manager, or with fellow team members.
For instance, your goals as a team manager are directly connected to your team members’ individual performance. Let’s say you’ve got a goal to reach $100,000 in sales next month.
Have a meeting with your sales team, and ask them to help your team reach that goal. Ask for ideas on how to reach that goal. Ask each team member what number they feel confident in setting for their personal sales goal for the month.
When people partner with others in achieving goals, they can feel more invested in the goal. They can also become more motivated, not wanting to let the other team members down.
Provide Emotional/Familial Support To Keep Your Team Feeling Bonded
Another key to helping ensure your team feels connected is to provide and encourage emotional and familial support. Ask about their partner/spouse/kids.
Encourage occasional after-work gatherings if it’s feasible. Acknowledge team member birthdays. Send balloons or a cupcake. Or celebrate the month’s birthdays at team meetings. Have cupcakes delivered to each team member so they can all feel included in the celebration.
Treat your team members like family, and encourage them to do the same with each other.
Staying encouraged while working remotely can be a challenge. For that reason, rewarding and acknowledging successes is important.
Look for team members who:
- Reach or exceed goals
- Go above and beyond in any capacity
- Help a fellow team member
- Do something extra for the team
Or other activities that show a commitment to your group and to their job. Then reward and/or acknowledge them accordingly. You can add their name and accomplishment to an online “kudos” board your team shares, such as with Bonusly.
Or, you can send them a gift card to a local coffee shop. Get creative. You don’t need to spend a lot of revenue to encourage your team members; they simply need to feel valued.
As someone who works remotely, I can say that it’s always extra special to get a physical item in the mail. Even if it’s just company swag, such a mug or t-shirt. With so much of our lives in the digital space, it feels good to have something tangible.
Encourage Conversations And Social Activities — Even If They’re Online
We talked earlier a bit about using online social activities to plan challenges and games. However, you can do this just for fun as well.
Throw an online birthday party. Have a beer or wine tasting event and have team members share their reviews of different types of specialty beer or wine.
Do an online movie night, and have team members be prepared to give a mock professional review of the movie afterward. Or start an online book club.
The goal is to have the group share activities that will help them connect outside of work responsibilities.
One company I know had a virtual Christmas party. Boxes were sent to each team member ahead of time with goodies, such as a funny hat, Christmas lights, cookies, etc. Then they all got on a Zoom call and played games and hung out.
Create Social Media Private Groups and Pages
Private social media groups and pages can be another fun idea for creating online social connections with your team. My real estate office (I’m a real estate agent) has a designated private Facebook group page simply so the group can share fun, personal stuff with the rest of the group.
People share photos of home improvements they’re doing or they share their kids’ accomplishments. It’s a great way for us to feel connected even when we’re apart.
Plan Community Giving Events
Community giving events are another way your team can feel engaged and connected. For our real estate group, we’ve done events such as food drives and online fundraisers.
Even if your team isn’t all in the same city, you can pick an organization that has special meaning to one of your team members to support.
Other online community events could include:
- Online fundraising your team does for a good cause
- Sending letters or cards to seniors by adopting a nursing home
- Sewing emotional support blankets for Binky Patrol
- Recording audiobooks for LibriVox
There are dozens of ways you can participate in online community events. These types of events will help your team feel engaged and make a difference in the world at the same time.
While managing remote teams can present its challenges, there are steps you can take to maximize teamwork and connectivity. Using the right tools, setting clear expectations, and checking in regularly will let your team know they are not alone.