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Managing a Remote Team

Good team management requires new approaches in remote work environments.

Remote teams just aren’t the same as their traditional in-office counterparts.

Yes – most of us agree remote work is better, but remote teams still face a different set of challenges and processes.

So, if remote teams are different, why should we expect remote team management to look the same? It’s time to shake up expectations of what good management looks like in a remote (or even hybrid) work environment. What’s the new on-the-ground reality for managers to keep their direct reports productive, engaged, and happy?

To help you be a better leader, we’ve together some of our top tips for managing a remote team.

Prioritize communication

One of the biggest challenges that remote teams face is communication. You can’t just get up and walk over to your co-worker’s desk in a virtual office. Conversations require a bit more thought and planning in the remote world.

As a manager, it’s your job to help facilitate communication within your team. It’s up to you to make sure that your team is having the discussions and conversations needed to be effective at their jobs.

There are many ways you can help prioritize communication within your remote team:

  • Set communication guidelines – What information should be reported on when and how? What can be communicated via Slack and what should be documented via email?
  • Schedule regular meetings and check-ins – We know that no one loves meetings, but effective meetings are your friend. They give you a chance to check in with your team to make sure they’re set up for success.

Encourage ownership and accountability

We’ve all heard that people don’t leave companies, they leave bad bosses. While this is true, one of the top causes of employee ambivalence and frustration is actually lack of purpose. In fact, this is often the main reason employees move companies.

As a manager, you can make a huge difference in employee engagement by encouraging ownership and accountability. Not only will this provide clarity in their roles, but it will make your team feel better connected to the company’s mission and perform better. Your team is more likely to understand the ‘why’ behind their role and be more productive.

Create remote workplace policies

Policies sound boring but they’re actually extremely helpful when it comes to setting expectations around the remote workplace. A good remote workplace policy should provide basic ground rules for your team.

What are the expectations around working remotely? Are there set office hours? What’s the best way to communicate with you and the rest of the team?Having a documented set of remote-first policies helps your entire organization work together seamlessly and set employees up for success. Without them, it’s easy for teams to get lost in the remote shuffle. Rather than spending your time managing your team’s work hours, you can spend that time helping them reach their goals instead.

Embrace technology

If you’re working remotely, it’s likely that you already rely pretty heavily on technology. However, it’s important to make sure you’re using the right technology to set your team up for success. A remote workplace is only as good as the tools and technology available to the team.

Some tools that make it easier to manage a remote team include:

  • Text communication platforms – these are tools that facilitate day-to-day communications. This includes things like email, instant messaging platforms like Slack, and more.
  • Project management platforms – this includes software like Asana and Trello that help teams manage and share their workflow and processes.
  • Meeting platforms – this includes platforms like Venue, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams that help teams connect face-to-face virtually.

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Offer flexibility

Everyone on your team is working with their own unique set of life circumstances. Maybe your employees have children or they have other responsibilities in life, which is why employees choose remote companies for the flexibility.

A good team leader should be flexible when it comes to managing their remote team. Whether it’s allowing for asynchronous work or even just offering camera-off meetings, a little flexibility can go a long way in managing stress and improving the happiness of your team.

No one likes a micromanager and you don’t want to be one either. So be flexible on the little things, like hours online, and focus on celebrating the successes and output instead.

Make time to bond

One of the most notable challenges with a remote workplace is team bonding. When everyone only hops online for work-related meetings, it can be really difficult to get to know your team beyond the day-to-day work.

As a manager, take the time to schedule coffee chats with your team so you can get to know them outside of work. Whether you chat about the weather or your life story, you’ll be a better leader if you have a connection with your teams.

Even in larger companies, there should be a focus on community building. Platforms like Venue make it easy for large teams to interact virtually, no matter where they are in the world. From Town Halls to company celebrations, these get-togethers are the moments that drive alignment and build company culture.

Many remote teams have also adopted the occasional meet-up to ensure that teams have the opportunity to connect in person from time to time.

Being a better remote team manager

While remote work continues to become the norm, many managers are still learning how to navigate a remote workplace. Managing a remote team isn’t necessarily harder, it’s just different. With a little thought and care (and some of the tips above), you’ll be the remote team manager everyone wants to work for.

Recommended Reading

Building a Remote-First Culture

Vision & Values for Remote Teams

Top 6 Virtual Meeting Follow-Ups