Are you struggling with managing remote teams? If so, this article will be a great place to learn how to make use of some of the best practices and tools to manage them effectively. Read on!
Managing remote teams efficiently without any major hiccups is the goal of the majority of managers or leaders in various companies and organizations. The common apprehension that persists among them is how to efficiently perform remote team management?
The fear is not unnatural since you are unable to observe the team at your workplace. You need to rely mainly on their words and the progress they state every day. Though you can communicate with the remote team whenever you want through audio and video calls, still you remain skeptical about their dedication.
The article will share managing remote teams’ best practices for effective virtual team management. It will guide you in ensuring your remote teams work as per your expectations, stay motivated, and deliver quality work.
Also read: How to work from home successfully?
What is a remote team?
A remote team basically is a group of people who are brought together for a unified project. While they all work for the fulfillment of the goal of the same organization, they physically work from distant locations. Different remote employees work from different offices, cities, and sometimes even countries.
80% of managers have at least one employee who sits somewhere else other than the rest of the group. In a remote team, the manager has to remotely manage the team and each employee works under a single manager. They are answerable to the person who does their performance review and has some levels of authority over them.
The biggest challenge about managing teams remotely is that much of the tasks are mediated through technology. If you want to know how to manage a remote team, follow the processes and tips mentioned below. We have also compiled a list of tools that could come in handy.
Also Read: Remote meeting | A comprehensive guide
Key trends and importance of managing remote employees
Most managers these days want to know how to manage remote teams. As per a report by a leading organization Gartner, many HR leaders opined that employees will be allowed to work remotely even after the vaccine will be widely available. Most organizations around the world are managing remote employees.
They look for ways to keep employees productive and engaged. As per a study, by 2025, 70% of the workforce will be working remotely at least five days a month. While most people feel that the culture of managing remote teams will be prevalent only till the vaccine is not available. But, the remote work culture will certainly prevail.
For people who want to know about how to manage remote workers, it is advisable to have clear remote work policies. But, sometimes even after all policies are in place, many managers face issues in remote team management. There are many research-based steps that managers can follow to improve the engagement as well as the productivity of the team.
Also Read: Work life balance | Everything you must know
Challenges in managing remote employees
Following are some of the major challenges in managing a remote team,
1. Communication issue
Communication within team members is one of the major issues that managers face while managing remote workers. Since employees can’t see each other and they can’t check the expression, much miscommunication occurs within the team.
Managers find managing a remote team to be difficult because team members can’t come to the managers and there are fewer chances of support, feedback, and suggestions.
2. Scheduling issues
While many companies opine that team remote workers who work from home offer better productivity, many managers feel that there can be a few hiccups in terms of scheduling. If the employees are scattered across different time zones, managing a remote workforce can be quite a challenging task for most managers.
Coordinating chats as per the timing can also be difficult. Updating teams about important changes can also be full of hassles.
3. Language difference
Another major issue that managers may face while managing remote workers is when they have globally diverse workers. Thus, cultural and language divides can be quite challenging and problematic while managing remote teams.
Managing a remote workforce becomes easy when you have face-to-face interaction on an everyday basis. It is easier to create trust and bond well. But, with the virtual call and meeting setups, many managers feel that there is a lack of trues and cohesion while managing employees remotely.
5. Tracking the performance
While most remote employees feel that if they have submitted a task on time, it’s good measurability. But, for most managers measurement and tracking of the performance of employees become difficult when companies are working with managing remote teams.
Also Read: Organize your life | A complete guide
Problems faced by managers in managing remote employees
Following are some of the major problems faced by managers in managing a team remotely,
- Keeping everybody on the same page – One of the biggest problems that managers face while managing distributed teams is that it gets difficult to keep everyone on the same page. Communication and collaboration are the two biggest hurdles that managers face while managing remotely.
- Tracking progress and productivity – In a typical workspace, it becomes easy to keep an eye on employees and their work. But, in the case of remote worker management, most managers opine that they struggle in ensuring that the team members can remain efficient and productive throughout the day. It is difficult to know if an employee is working with dedication, or he/she is just killing time.
- Lack of employee development – When employees work remotely, most managers feel that the concept of employee development and their growth may be pushed back. In terms of the development of skills and abilities in an employee, remote worker management doesn’t show a great result as per many managers.
- No sense of belonging – Another problem that managers feel while supervising remote employees is that employees don’t get a sense of belonging to the organization when they are working remotely. Thus, at the end of the day project as well as the organization’s long-term goal may be impacted. Going fully remote can also disconnect employees from the broader vision of the organization.
- Managers have to micromanage – If you ask any manager about how to manage a team remotely, most of them would complain about the micromanagement of tasks. Since trust factor gets impacted because of managing from a distance, managers have to check every little detail and they find most of their time getting wasted in micromanagement.
Tips For Effective Remote Team Management
Here is a list of 15 important teams on managing remote teams,
1. Track work progress and productivity
For teams working in an office, it is easy to track their attendance through various attendance tracking software. But in a virtual environment, managing remote teams and tracking their attendance is tough.
It is very essential to understand how long a person operates daily, how much time is spent, and the work progress. It is advisable to leverage robust team management tools and software while managing virtual teams.
Teamwork, Time Doctor, and Hub Staff are some of the popular time management tools available in the market for managing remote workers, their work progress, and the time spent by them on the activities and tasks assigned to them.
The tools are super intelligent in tracking even if the remote professionals are chatting on social media, the time they spent on breaks, and the time spent on working.
2. Maintain overlaps between time zones
One of the key advantages of working remotely is hiring resources with niche skills operating in different regions of the world. While it’s an advantage, it brings in the complexity of managing remote teams in different time zones. One of the remote team management tips is to maintain proper time overlaps for work continuation.
Ensure that there is a proper handover of work between the teams. Meetings and conference calls need to be scheduled at common hours to ensure full participation while managing virtual teams in various time zones. A key recommendation is to draw the working hours plan by maintaining at least 2 to 3 hours overlap between the time zones.
3. Clear Expectations
Setting clear expectations is an important aspect of virtual team management. First and foremost you need to educate the remote team on the company’s mission and vision as part of the induction process. Next is to set the goals and objectives to be achieved by each remote professional. The key focus areas should be:
- The hours of availability
- The scheduled work hours
- The communication method and mode
- The regular meeting schedules and the priority of attendance
- The details of key projects and the deadlines of each project
- Compulsory response to emails and messages
This will ensure remote professionals stay focused on their deadlines and adhere to the expectations. You can measure the performance of the remote team based on the expectations set forward before them.
Dedicated team members would easily be recognized based on their capability to reach the expected goals and objectives. You would be able to enhance your remote management capacities effectively through this practice.
4. Selecting the perfect communication mechanism
Managing remote teams best practices lists the style of communication as one of the important aspects of remote management. Companies are advised to educate their leaders and managers to select the best remote tools and modes while managing remote teams. Some of the key suggestions for communicating effectively are:
- Chats and Instant messaging through applications such as UnRemot or Google Hangouts
- Video conference calls
- Email communications
- Telephonic calls
- Sharing screen captures
- Sharing audio recordings
- Sharing video recordings
You need to analyze the communication medium which best suits you while managing remote employees of varying skills and located in various regions. For people in different time zones, emails are found to be more suitable along with audio and video recordings.
Expecting them to be available at odd hours for chats and instant messaging may hamper their scheduled work hours. Whereas for communicating with teams in the same time zones, chats or phone calls are most suitable and easy.
5. Review teamwork
Reviewing the progress of your team is essential and important to ensure the work is progressing as per the mentioned deadlines. One of the key aspects of managing remote teams is conducting daily status progress meetings for discussing,
- The status of the assignments
- Any risks and issues encountered for completing the work
- Clarifications that need answers
- Assistance and support required on technical, functional, and infrastructural issues
- Share grievances that may hamper the work progress
- Training needs for building competency
- The requirement of arranging any webinars or conferences for knowledge enhancements
It is important to conduct daily meetings at the project level and monthly or quarterly reviews at the senior leadership level. Emergencies or critical issues must be discussed via urgent meetings to de-risk the project and meet the scheduled deadlines.
6. Manage Diversity professionally
Managing remote teams comprise individuals from different cultures and different countries. Managing remote teams diverse in nature is critical to maintaining harmony and unity within the team. Their ways of working and communication may vary a lot which sometimes creates obstacles in the proper functioning of the remote teams.
It is therefore essential to mitigate the differences professionally for better managing remote employees. A common methodology is to spread awareness about the different work cultures and communication etiquettes.
Each country has its own set of customs and traditions which need to be respected too especially the national holidays and festivals. Your workdays must consider the sentiments too to prevent any disgruntle within the team.
7. Regular engagement
Constant interaction and communication are some of the key success factors while managing remote teams. The engagement must not only comprise status updates. The managers must encourage the remote professionals to share any feedback they have on the functioning of the team, any grievances against the team or the company, their interests and hobbies, training needs, etc.
Daily interactions build a sense of belonging among the remote team and they feel a part of the organization. The productivity of the team enhances and they stay loyal to the company. Managing remote workers turn out to be easier and effective once the team is motivated and satisfied.
8. Hiring for short term than full time
To minimize risks in managing remote teams, it is often recommended to test the skills and dedication of the remote professionals by assigning them short-term projects. Once you are convinced of their capability and sincerity then you can start with full-term projects.
One important point you need to remember is, not to delay in confirming full-time deployment once you are convinced with the performance of the remote professionals.
Unusual delays while managing remote workers may unnerve them since they would be worried about their future. You need to balance your needs and the needs of remote professionals to achieve a win-win situation.
9. Nurture a “True Team” culture
Remote management flourishes if you can nurture a “True Team” culture within the individuals working in a remote team. The managers and leaders must strive to imbibe a strong feeling of togetherness among the team members.
The remote professionals must be made aware of the fact that they are not only responsible for achieving the goals and objectives of the company, but they are critical and precious members of the company.
Motivating and inculcating a sense of value are some of the key driving factors while measuring the success of managing remote teams. Let us discuss a few of the critical methods that can be adopted by companies to generate a feeling of “True Team” culture,
- Engage in communications related to hobbies, personal interests, any special abilities other than the regularly assigned work
- Keep all the remote team members involved in special events, conferences, seminars, and critical discussions
- Celebrate birthdays by sending e-cards
- Send small gifts as tokens of appreciation for good performance
- The remote professionals must be aware of the company’s mission, vision, and policies whenever they are amended.
- The performances of the company are it quarterly or monthly, must be shared with the remote team members
- Offer gift vouchers for participation in quizzes or debates
10. Well-defined Onboarding Process
One of the key criteria for managing remote teams from Day 1 is to design a well-defined onboarding process. The roles of remote professionals must be clearly defined and communicated to avoid any ambiguities. They must also be encouraged to provide feedback on the overall induction process and communicate additional requirements for better understanding.
Web-based training programs to educate the remote professionals on the company’s rules and regulations, tools, and software used by the team, and advanced technologies are some of the key aspects of an effective onboarding process.
The programs must be substantiated with videos and animations for the added effects. Ensure the remote team feels the essence behind the company’s objectives and goals. They need to understand the company’s values to perform as per the desired expectations.
Further read: What is remote working?
11. Leverage Project Management software or tools
Managing remote teams via email communication only should be seriously avoided by companies. Deploying project management software and tools available in the market is an essential aspect of managing remote employees.
The systems provide access to the entire team located in different regions. The access restrictions can be imposed depending on the roles of the remote team. The applications can also be hosted in the cloud for better management and control.
Emails lead to mismanagement and miscommunication and hence not recommended as part of remote team management tips. Applications such as unremot, Slack, Jira allow tracking of work status, storage, and exchange of documents, spreadsheets, and presentations with ease. You can even store and record conversations between the team members.
12. Grievance Redressal System and Feedback Mechanism
Working remotely reduces the chances of the employees engaging in regular face-to-face conversations to share feedbacks or grievances. Companies must pay attention to this very important fact and create a grievance redressal system and a feedback mechanism system while managing virtual teams.
While remote professionals enjoy being applauded for their success they also want their managers to listen to their problems and issues. They seek resolution from their supervisors for the smooth and undisturbed functioning of their work.
It is recommended to attend to the concerns of the remote professionals immediately to maintain the motivation level and dedication. One-on-one communication plays a major part in dealing with such grievances efficiently.
Equally important is to gather feedback on the company’s policies, goals, and team activities. Both feedback and grievance redressal systems must be available online to remote employees.
13. Hire the right people as virtual teams
The remote professionals must have the capability to operate in a virtual environment undistracted by usual home chores. Another important factor is the capability to work in an isolated atmosphere. Working out of an office along with peers, supervisors, and a team and working alone in a remote environment is different.
Companies must perform a small analysis before hiring and onboarding the remote team members. At home, there are several distractions to divert the concentration of remote workers. As a manager or leader, you need to check on this aspect carefully by asking tactful queries during the interview process.
You must not risk hiring and onboarding team members who are unable to cope up with the loneliness of working in a remote environment and are constantly disturbed by family, friends, and household chores.
14. Bond and support
One of the best ways to managing remote teams best practices is to establish bonds between employees even if they are remotely located. It is important to get time at the end of the for a casual chit chat through video conferencing.
Empathizing and appreciating the life of employees can help managers in getting more support from the team as well as employees. On the management end, it is important to check frequently on the collaboration tools, shared documents, and spreadsheets.
This way, employees may feel that their work is reviewed. Regular mechanisms of rewards can also boost the confidence as well as the workability of employees. When working with managing remote teams, managers should also try to know about the goals of employees rather than checking on progress and numbers every day.
15. Trust the team
Companies don’t embrace remote working because they are unable to trust the employees. One of the best ways to get rid of the trust issues can be to set up work from home guidelines like emails should be responded to within 5-hours, use of text for urgent matters, and no calls between certain hours. This way, it will also become easier for the manager to manage remote employees.
Suggested read: How To Build And Sustain Trust In Remote Teams
Top 5 tools to use in managing remote employees
If you want to know how to manage a team remotely, one of the best ways is to use the right tools. Some of the best go/remote-toolkit that can be helpful in managing remote employees include,
- Slack: Communication app – This is one of the best communication tools that is used to remotely manage employees. The app allows employees and team members to get instant feedback and connect with their team members.
- unremot virtual water cooler – This is an easy-to-use virtual tool for effective social employee engagement for remote teams. The tool is made with the goal of helping managing remote teams to collaborate and communicate effectively. Some of the best features of the tool include sharing of the screen, task management, calendar, and file sharing.
- Zoom – Zoom is another video conferencing tool that people all over the world are using. You don’t have to worry about frequent technical glitches and frozen video and sound when you are using zoom.
- GitHub – This tool can be especially beneficial for designers and developers. From hosting and reviewing code to managing products to build software, GitHub is one of the best tools that digital agencies need.
- Trello – Trello is the best project management tool that can help managers in managing remote employees’ best practices while working on a project. Trello stands out among other platforms for its simplicity as well as performance.
Suggested read: Synchronous & Asynchronous Communication in Remote Work
After working for long hours remotely, employees don’t get enough time and opportunity for social engagement. In the long run, lack of social engagement can impact employees as well as the organization. Following are some of the best ways that can be helpful in improving social engagement for remote employees,
- Communication network – Setting up a good communication network that can be done through video calls, chats, and emails can be one of the best ways to improve the social engagement of remote employees.
- Community belongingness – It is important for an organization to have a platform where an employee can discuss all types of work as well as non-work-related stress. This will reduce the chances of an employee feeling isolated.
- Flexible approach – Managers need to make sure that workers are genuinely flexible in their approach. Thus, instead of overburdening the employee with lots of deadlines, managers should try to give enough space for flexible working. Workers should also get an opportunity for a vacation.
- Respect time zones – Since different employees belong to different geographical locations and cultures, it is important for organizations to pay attention to cultural significance. Managers should have regard for festivals and holidays.
- Coffee chats – This is a great way in which each employee should go on break at the same time and they can chat with their team members through a video chat method. This way, they can get a break from work and get the needed social engagement.
- Group chats – Group chats should be encouraged when workers are working remotely. Groups must be created for official as well as unofficial purposes. It is not important for managers to be present in all groups. Interaction among teammates can result in better productivity to the organization.
- Visual lunch – Just like virtual coffee, virtual lunch can be another process that can improve the bonding among employees. The process is quite simple as the organization can have group conferences where everyone can eat together sharing jokes while having meals.
- Contests – Unofficial contests for fun can also replace the regular office parties people used to attend. These contests can be played through online platforms and it can enable employees to know each other in a better way.
- Virtual workout – This may seem the most difficult part of social engagement, but it will lead to better mental and physical wellness for employees. Employees can share the number of calories they have burnt, the number of steps they have walked and this approach will help others to have a goal towards fitness.
- Gift exchange – Every month, there should be a gift exchange in the company wherein, employees can send gifts to their colleagues. This will increase the bonding and closeness among team members.
Also read: Best Practices For Remote Onboarding
Managing remote teams by following the above-mentioned methods would turn out to be effective if tried out diligently. You would be able to gain trust in the remote employees and vice versa. It will eventually increase the productivity and achievement of the company’s goals and objectives smartly.