Managing remote teams involves tackling many challenges. Some struggle to maintain company culture. Others find it hard to foster open communication. While for some, it’s the tracking of work and productivity that’s most pressing.
Despite these challenges, the hybrid workforce comprising remote teams and in-office teams will be the norm in the future. As believed by every 6 out of 7 managers (85%). Hence managing remote teams very well seems a permanent reality.
But managing remote teams isn’t easy for managers trained within the limits of handling a physical workforce. They need to find out the right strategies, so they would be able to bring the best out of remote teams.
So let’s delve into 7 such strategies that’ll help you manage remote teams
7 Strategies to Manage Remote Teams
- Hire self-motivated people
- Focus on Output and forget about activity
- Automate management tasks using remote tools
- Create clear communication guidelines
- Create well-documented procedures
- Work on maintaining strong team bonds
- Daily check-ins
1. Hire Self-Motivated People
The most important yet well-ignored aspect of managing remote teams is to hire self-motivated team members. Those who have a positive attitude towards work can manage themselves.
Maybe a team member doesn’t possess the right work ethic or doesn’t follow company values or they aren’t as skilled as they confess. Whatever the case, a weak link can affect the entire team negatively.
But hiring the right people remotely requires a different approach than the traditional ones. Because you won’t be able to assess them based on their previous companies or institutions as you won’t recognize those. Moreover, coming from around the globe, the candidates may have different work ethics. They may have a different attitude towards carriers. Their approach to their work day can be quite different. So a typical CV and cover letter become obsolete. And video interviews have their limitations.
So you have to develop ways to let your candidate show their real character traits.
For example, you can gauge their traits by asking them complete assignments. Or you can involve them in working for a week with a team. In this way, you not only let them display the “why” of their working for your company but get to know important traits of their personality.
2. Focus on Output and Forget About Activity
The best way to ruin remote work is to ask your remote team members to report on every little task, no matter how mundane or useless they’re. It’s also a problem when you aren’t happy with the “it’s going fine” reply on a progress report. As employees are compelled to go over their work to give a detailed answer. Meanwhile halting the main work.
This impulse to micro-manage your remote team creates extra work for everyone. Clearly reflecting your lack of trust in your team members. So the work environment becomes toxic and counterproductive. Badly impacting morale and hurting productivity.
So instead of micromanaging, assign goals to your remote team members. Allow them to freely work in their own style. Just hold them accountable for the end result.
However, some standards should be set to measure and focus on productivity.
1. Defining KPIs: For example, a certain word count from a content writer in a week.
2. Milestone setting for tasks or overall projects: Helps in collecting data and future planning.
3. Automate Management Tasks Using Remote Tools
It’s no secret that tools help to automate manual, repetitive, and time-consuming, with your most minor intervention. For example, resource load monitoring software can give you an automatic alert when your employee is overloaded. So you don’t need to review the resource loads of every employee of your remote teams throughout the day or week. The saved time can be used on more valuable work by you and your team.
Despite the clear advantage, only 25% of organizations use project management software. So use remote team management software and function more efficiently.
These remote team management software will help to:
- Track productivity
- Track evolution of projects
- Interact across various time zones
- Communicate with scattered remote teams
- Have discussions
- Handle tasks on a task list
Lastly, choose a few remote tools and use them well. Because overloading your remote team with technology won’t be that productive either.
4. Create Clear Communication Guidelines
It’s pretty easy for your remote teams to operate independently. In managing remote teams, communication can easily fall by the wayside. But with a lack of effective communication causing most workplace failures you shouldn’t let it happen.
So you need to create a virtual remote team with an open communication channel. Here all important discussions and decisions would take place in front of the members of your remote teams. Moreover, the channel would act as a record of how everything occurred and why.
The guideline would reduce conflicts and misunderstandings in the long run.
Now clear communication guidelines would mention-
- The preferred channel of communication by remote team members. Whether it’s a text message, email, chat, phone, or video conferencing.
- The preferred time of communication taking well care of different time zones
- The expected turnaround time of email or other communication channels. So that other team members can know when to expect a reply from a team member.
The best time to share your communication guidelines during the onboarding process of new hires.
5. Create Well-Documented Procedures
Your remote team members can’t walk over to another team member’s desk asking how they should do something. Or just come to you every time they face an issue. If they do, your time will be spent on unproductive babysitting. And you won’t be able to concentrate on tasks that can grow your company.
Hence, you have to ensure that well-documented procedures are in place for every damn thing. And your remote team members should know where they can find these documents.
That being said, you can’t go documenting the standard operating procedures (SOPs) for your employees. Instead, let members of your remote teams create and continuously update it as things tend to change.
For remote & geographically distributed teams, you need a 24/7 internal help desk. Your in-house IT help desk team may be well geared to manage 24/7 support. In such a case having an outsourced help desk can work wonders.
6. Work on Maintaining Strong Team Bonds
Strong team bonds connect people on a more personal level. Forming a support system around employees. As a result, they feel empowered and able to share their ideas. These lead to better communications, and enhanced collaboration.
But an annual face-to-face get-together is not enough for team-building. Neither is a monthly coffee catch-up. The chances of physical teamwork hosting are also limited. So you’ve to find ways to engage and connect your remote team members. For example, you can create virtual break rooms for people to catch up during lunch or tea break.
But that may not fit well in asynchronous working. Because team members are working in their preferred time keeping an eye only on the outcome. In that case, you can ask them to choose a fun activity before the weekly meeting starts. Like taking a short tour of their remote working space over a video.
On the other hand, teams that communicate in informal situations show the best team performance. For this informal bonding, create Slack channels about music, food, books, and what to watch on Netflix next where they can go off work
Now coming to the most important factor in team building is how you interact with each member of your remote team. Whether you just ask about work updates, or first genuinely say hi and ask how they’re doing. In response, if they add one or two lines about how they are doing, it’ll help you build a solid team.
Lastly, don’t forget to celebrate their victories. Even a simple GIF, email, or notes of appreciation for their work will go very far toward your team-building efforts.
7. Daily Check-Ins
Suppose you have sent an urgent task to your remote employee. And it affects their other deadlines which ends up that member getting overloaded. So, they develop stress and burnout.
But if you do regular check-ins then your remote employees will be comfortable calling you up. They’ll discuss the affected deadline and ask for more time to avoid such burnout.
Similarly through regular check-ins managers get to know more about how things are going with remote team members. It helps managers understand their aspirations. So the members get a sense of being heard and feel secure and cherished.
Regular check-ins also ensure that the team and individual goals aren’t miscommunicated. So each remote team member understands what they’re trying to do. This, in turn, helps build high-performing teams with great teamwork.
Finally, the daily check-in medium shouldn’t be traditional texts, emails, or phone calls. Instead, use the method of video conferencing. It would increase face-to-face interaction which is lacking in remote team interactions.
So the best way to manage remote employees involves doing a host of things right. You start by hiring the right people. Then you use remote tools for more efficient remote team management. And give more focus on team building among other things. But in the end, the most important thing is to give freedom to your employees. So that members of your remote teams can fit their work into their personal life. Helping in transforming ordinary remote teams into super collaborative high-performing remote teams.