Working from home (WFH) gained traction even before the pandemic. Yet, it catalyzed this approach, and WFH became largely widespread. Companies have adapted to the new context, so more and more employees can work from the comfort of their homes.
Working from home has many advantages, but it comes with disadvantages, too. Managers developed strategies and procedures to guide employees working in the same space. These were refined over years and have passed the test of time.
Managing a remote team presents new challenges to managers due to the lack of experience and strategies they have with this approach.
We don’t have any solution, but to embrace remote work! It’s a context different from the “classical” office, and we need strategies and tools to perfect WFH management.
Here is a list of tips and tools much needed to manage a remote team.
Tips to Manage a Remote Team
Managing a remote team requires a consistent endeavor of the manager. A remote team may be widespread all across the globe and it comes with unseen issues, like:
- Different cultures and working mentalities
- Different time zones
- Lack of cohesion and social interaction
- Unavailability of the team members.
Management of remote teams is in its early phases, so all the strategies are far from perfect. The following tips worked for most team managers, so you should take them into consideration to efficiently manage a remote team.
Be a Leader, NOT a Boss
WFH is challenging for managers and employees alike. As a team leader, you must always make decisions for other people. You have accurate feedback from employees when the team works in an office. You notice the non-verbal and unconscious messages of team members in face-to-face meetings.
It’s harder to do all this in a Zoom meeting; you have almost no chance of observing the body language of your team members. This is only one subtle problem for managers of remote teams.
The importance of a manager grows in a worldwide distributed team. The number and significance of these decisions largely remain the same, but managers have less usable data available.
Under these circumstances, only real leaders shine — those people who feel the problems of their colleagues and wisely calculate any decision.
Set Up Internal Procedures
The existence of a few internal procedures is a sign of business maturity. These procedures have the role to guide people in fulfilling specific tasks in the most convenient ways. This streamlines recurrent problems and saves precious time.
For example, it’s highly advisable to have an internal procedure for new members.
Working in a shared space implies the help of co-workers in difficult situations, but this is not the case for a remote team. Established procedures may limit the number and intensity of such problems. Besides, a procedure may be used by multiple coworkers multiple times.
Alongside procedures, clear communication is a key factor to good management of a remote team. Conciseness and clarity are must-have traits of good communication.
Employees don’t like meetings and this will never change! Therefore, do your best to communicate everything as clearly and concisely as possible.
Common Working Timezone
A common working timezone is another secret of a productive remote team. It’s nothing extraordinary for a small agency to be made up of individuals living and working on different continents and timezones.
The role of a skilled manager is to mediate and find a common working timezone. Indeed, that timezone might be too early in the morning for some and too late for others.
In extreme scenarios, it’s okay to have just a few hours a day when everyone is up for work. It might be too long to wait for a colleague to respond without a common working timezone.
Time Management is Critical
Time management is critical for remote teams. Sometimes, a consensus is required or a project needs a last-second modification. These are normal for any agency working with many clients.
In these cases, wise management of resources—time and personnel—is what sets great managers apart. Luckily, you have a plethora of tools to manage time, assign tasks, and measure productivity.
Empathy, Respect, and Flexibility
Working remotely isn’t as simple as it might look at first sight. We all have ups and downs, families, personal issues, and other problems. More or less, these problems affect the effectiveness of your employees.
You must be extremely receptive to managing a remote team. Empathy and respect for team members are of vital importance for a positive working environment. Also, flexibility is another factor to consider to preserve a good working climate.
Perhaps, a problem with a team member slows down productivity or delays a project. These negatively impact the team short term’s results, but empathy and flexibility strengthen your team cohesion in the long term.
Social Interactions Matter
The lack of social interactions is one of the biggest drawbacks of WFH. Willing or not, chit-chats, team buildings, and evenings out with coworkers have a positive impact on our mental well-being. It’s near impossible to have social gatherings with a team distributed on different continents.
Online meetings can’t replace social interaction, but it’s a step forward. An informal meeting creates the social cohesion needed for a productive team. Try to create quality time during these meetings because it helps team members get to know each other and collaborate better in the future.
Tools for Managing a Remote Team
It’s great if you stick to the above ideas, but it’s not enough to manage a remote team. These are strategic ideas, but you have to put them into practice.
The following management tools can be a great help for professionally managing your remote team. These tools have the potential to improve the productivity of your team in no time with limited financial investment.
The market is full of competitive alternatives, so you may choose whichever product you prefer. What really matters is using these tools to increase the productivity of your team.
All lists featuring tools to manage a remote team include Trello—a second-to-none visual work management tool. Use it to create projects, assign tasks, set up deadlines, and provide resources to your staff.
Its interface is simple, so even less-techie people will quickly learn how to get the most from it. Team workflow is displayed on a board where every member has access to the necessary tasks.
The pricing plans are also affordable; individuals and small teams have a dedicated free plan. Try it for your team without paying anything!
Slack is another frequently used tool for remote teams. It’s a simple and convenient way to communicate with coworkers. The essence of Slack is the usage of channels for each organization.
It varies with team size and activities, but a simple channel is enough for the basic needs of a team. Instead of long email threads, a Slack channel is more attractive and effective.
Bonusly – People are subjective by nature and, as a team leader, you have to evaluate team members’ activity. The differences may generate frustration and conflicts. Individuals working together in the same space have a clear idea of each other’s contribution. Transparency reduces subjective opinions.
Working remotely limits team members’ ability to evaluate themselves and each other. Lacking data on coworkers’ work increases bias. Bonusly is a great tool to offer feedback and rewards to the most active employees. All you have to do is to be transparent, fair, and clear when people are rewarded.
Bonusly is cheap, simple to use, and has the potential to boost the employees’ productivity.
Time Doctor – You considerably reduce friction within your team by making data-backed decisions. For instance, track the billable hours of each employee and reward the one that worked the most.
Time Doctor is an excellent solution to track the time worked by each employee. It provides a complete perspective of the activity of all workers, so it’s ideal if you pay employees per hour.
Google Drive or Microsoft Office Online
You can’t work remotely without a powerful and secure file-sharing system. Microsoft Office Online and Google Drive don’t require any introductions; most remote teams use them.
Use them to create written content and presentations, and to visualize data. The free plan is enough for startups and small teams. Whichever plan you choose, you get real value for your money.
All the above tools are almost irreplaceable for a remote team. While Pizzatime isn’t a tool you will die without, it will boost team morale, for sure.
Pizzatime delivers pizza, salad, or burgers to your remote location at a specific time. Consider holding an online meeting and having Pizzatime deliver the pizza at the end of it. This works even if your team is spread out across the globe.
It’s a relatively cheap method of surprising your team, so you should give it a try!
Over to You
Working remotely is advantageous for everyone. The employer doesn’t need to pay the rent for a working environment and employees are happy they won’t waste time commuting.
However, the remote format doesn’t have only benefits; there are a few drawbacks. Managing a remote team implies reducing the negative aspects of remote work.
It’s not simple, but the above tools and tips to manage a remote team will help you.
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I’ve been working remotely since before the international health crisis, but I changed my job a year ago and I must say it makes a world of difference when everything is well organized. I can’t highlight enough the importance of social interactions with other team members and the rest of the company. It is the first time I actually feel like a part of something bigger, even though we only communicate through Teams. Frequent videocalls are an important element, I really appreciate the daily morning calls we all have where I can see the rest of the team. At first I was not so sure about the importance of these, but now I cannot imagine not having a morning call, just to see everyone. You get used to that, and there is no stress involved, I don’t think anyone feels uncomfortable with those meetings, even I don’t despite being an introvert. Communication and a sense of community are key in remote work in my opinion. There needs to be the right balance of these, not to be too intrusive, but not to leave people alone at the same time.