How to manage a remote team
Remote work was once seen as a trendy perk, a benefit for those at tech companies or sales jobs. Recently, everything changed. Before the coronavirus pandemic hit the U.S. in March 2020, only 10% of employees worked from home at least one day a week. At the beginning of 2021, that number jumped to 23%. Managing a remote team has become an essential skill at many businesses – one that you may need to master.
Challenges of managing remote employees
There are unique challenges of managing remote employees that come along with this rise in remote work. Identifying these issues is the first step to successful remote teamwork.
- Communication. Communication is always the key to a successful team, but it becomes more of a challenge when there is no dedicated office space where employees can interact.
- Team building. Communication is also the foundation of effective teams. Building trust in the workplace often starts with team building activities, but these are more difficult to organize for remote teams.
- Creating company culture. Your company culture is essential not only to create fulfilled employees, but to attract raving fan customers. Remote workers must feel included and valued.
- Employee morale. Managing a remote team requires you to get more creative than pizza lunches and ping pong to boost employee morale.
- Technical difficulties. Internet outages. Zoom malfunctions. Downed Slack servers. User error. Technical difficulties can take away from employee productivity if not managed efficiently.
- Different time zones. If you have employees in different parts of the country or world, scheduling can become difficult.
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How to manage a remote team
The best tips for managing a remote team focus on building a foundation of trust and honesty. Only then can teamwork – and productivity – thrive.
1. Set expectations
One of the challenges of managing remote employees is ensuring that everyone at your company is playing by the same rules and contributing equally. Adapt your onboarding process for remote work by adding virtual meetings with the C-suite so they can communicate the values and vision of the company. And always provide a detailed company handbook.
2. Model the behavior
You cannot expect your employees to abide by the rules if you don’t. Modeling the behaviors you want to see is essential to great leadership and to managing a remote team. Work hard. Be honest. Be empathetic. Be respectful of employees in every position. Practice gratitude and your positive energy will automatically affect everyone around you.
3. Be adaptable
Every business needs ground rules and standards, but remember one of Tony’s favorite sayings: “Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach.” While company values like honesty and accountability aren’t negotiable, managing a remote team requires being adaptable when it comes to when, where and how the work gets done.
4. Measure outcomes
Focusing on the “why” instead of the “how” doesn’t mean you stop tracking productivity. It means that instead of setting benchmarks that don’t really tell you anything – like demanding every employee check in with you at 9am and 5pm – you focus on outcomes. Are your employees producing high-quality work on time? Are your clients and your business seeing results? Ultimately that’s what truly matters.
5. Don’t micromanage
Tony also says that “80% of success is why, 20% is how.” Resist the urge to tell employees exactly how to do their jobs and instead give them a strong “why.” Discover where their true passions lie – family, career growth, financial freedom – and determine their work style: independent or supportive are two examples. Managing a remote team is about rewarding employees in a way that inspires them to do their best work.
6. Rethink meetings
Scheduling difficulties and distractions always play a role in how to manage a remote team. Long meetings may not be workable for some team members, and time zone differences must be considered. A 3pm meeting may be convenient for you, but dinner time for other team members. On the flip side, short, daily standups are must-haves to keep communication flowing.
7. Have an open-door policy
The door may be virtual, but it’s especially essential to be available when managing a remote team. Schedule one-on-one meetings at least once a month where employees know they can bring any concerns about both work and life.
8. Improve your communication skills
Communication is one of the biggest challenges of managing remote employees. It’s easy for remote workers to feel isolated and left in the dark about what’s going on at the company, so communicate often. Give positive feedback and be honest about difficulties. Working on your emotional intelligence will go a long way toward remote employee retention.
9. Use technology
AI has been impacting our work for years, but the recent push toward remote work has accelerated this digital transformation. Technology is more available than ever, from Slack and other chat programs to Zoom, virtual document signing, time-tracking and password-saving. Ask around your industry if you’re not sure where to start using technology for productivity on teams.
10. Have fun
One of the best tips for managing a remote team is also one of the easiest to forget during challenging times: have fun! Set up a channel on your chat software just for fun articles or stories. Hold a short, weekly company meeting with trivia or other games. Host virtual holiday parties, award ceremonies and other events to celebrate success. Teamwork is vital to business success, and it starts with common experiences.
Ready to master managing a remote team?
To successfully manage a remote team, you must know yourself first. Take the Leadership Style Quiz to determine your management style.