10 Tips for Managing a Remote Team
When you’re starting or scaling your business, your first priorities are reduced overhead costs and top talent. Working with remote teams can help you do both at the same time.
However, it’s not always easy to manage people who are scattered around the world.
If you want great team members, you have to be willing to work around time zones, schedules, and motivation. At the same time, you have to make sure that your projects are on schedule.
That’s why we’ve prepared 10 tips to help you manage your remote team and take your business to the next level.
Let’s get going!
Tip #1: Be Clear about Your Expectations when Hiring Remotely
Just because remote work is more flexible than working in an office doesn’t mean you should approach managing a remote team completely hands-off.
Just like any employee or team member, a remote worker needs a set of clear expectations, objectives, and requirements. You can start by defining this in the job description.
List key responsibilities and tasks they’re expected to perform each day. If possible, include examples and make sure you get the remote team members’ feedback to clarify in needed.
Depending on the type of your business, you can also list tools your remote team members should use to do these tasks.
For example, if you’re hiring someone to work remotely as your assistant, you can tell them you use Calendly for bookings and QuickBooks for accounting. This provides them with the basic resources they need to complete their tasks.
Most importantly, being clear about your expectations from your remote workers helps them not only perform their tasks successfully. It helps them perform them in the exact way you expect them to, as well.
Tip #2: Define How Flexible Your Remote Team Will Be
Some business owners treat their remote team as though it’s a team in an office. There are defined work hours, meetings, and people constantly stay in touch with one another.
And when it’s time to clock out, they do.
However, other business owners are more flexible and allow their remote teams to adjust their work schedule to their personal preferences.For example, you may be fully flexible and focus on results only.
Instead of expecting your remote team member to be online and working on your project from 8am-4pm in a defined time zone (e.g. EST), you can establish their goals and deadlines (e.g. finish the presentation by Thursday) and let them work at their own pace.
It all depends on your personal preferences and how virtual you want to be.
However, make sure you define the work hours or deadlines, and discuss the decision with your remote team in order to manage them successfully.
Tip #3: Want to Manage a Remote Team? Communicate
The best thing you can do to make sure you’re successfully managing a remote team is communicating.
We often take communication for granted when we’re working in an office; the colleagues we may need are just down the hall from us. We can get in touch with them whenever. They’re physically there.
However, when you’re managing a remote team, there can be a lot of noise in the communication.
While setting the guidelines and writing down the key things from each meeting that relate to objectives and deadlines can go a long way, it’s good to set up a channel where you can stay in touch constantly.
For example, a lot of remote teams use Slack to communicate on the go.
Email is useful, but it’s clunky. Remote teams can just pull up apps like Slack on mobile or desktop and shoot you or other team members quick questions.
Remote Team Meetings
In addition to being a great way to find the answers as soon as possible, apps like Slack can also help you with meetings.
No one likes meetings but with a remote team that stays in touch, you have a great chance of keeping them quick and constructive.
However, you should have a weekly meeting with the whole remote team and conduct one-on-one meetings. Make sure you set an agenda for each team meeting, as well, to make sure everyone comes prepared.
Managing a remote team means making sure that everyone’s on the same page and that they’re motivated.
The main things you should cover in a meeting when managing a remote team are:
- Goals and deadlines (Long and short-term)
- Feedback on projects
- Issues and highlights
- To-do items (if relevant to the entire team)
Avoid talking about each team member’s goals in a weekly meeting if it’s not directly connected to other team members. That unnecessarily extends the meeting, and the main goal is to keep it lean and efficient.
Tip #4: Communicate Informally, too
In offices, there’s always water cooler chit-chat. The same has to be present in managing a remote team, as well.
Otherwise, team members won’t feel connected or trust each other. And since each project requires a lot of knowledge sharing, there will be information silos you definitely don’t need.
A good way to stimulate good relationships within your team is by encouraging them to chat informally.
This can be done in separate channels in apps like Slack. Start a conversation about what’s happening to you today, about fun or interesting things you’ve seen.
You can also connect your business’ industry to informal chit-chat and encourage knowledge-sharing. This is a powerful innovation motivator, especially if you’re storing the highlights with special Slack bots like Kipwise.
Another important thing is to make an effort for the team to meet in person.
This isn’t easy when the budget is tight in the beginning but with time and growth, you’ll be able to prioritize rewarding your team for all of their hard and efficient work.
A lot of remote teams rely on meeting in person from time to time to both unwind and understand each other better.
For example, companies like Buffer and Zapier spend thousands of dollars annually for team retreats. There’s talk of productivity, but more importantly – there’s talk of much needed relaxation.
So even if you’re managing a remote team, and not a local one, don’t forget that people are still people. They need a break.
And investing into one can bring more benefits than you’ve imagined.
Tip #5: Share the Knowledge
Remote teams have an immense potential for aggregating and sharing knowledge, and you should use it.
Remember: if your team is connected, they’ll be much more motivated to not only perform their tasks, but innovate.
The first type of knowledge sharing you should pay attention to is the knowledge sharing that’s relevant to your business.
This means team members communicating with one another and storing information that’s useful to separate members in a folder where both can access it without wasting time writing messages and replies.
As you scale, you’ll want to create a central resource hub.
For example, if you have a team member who works on graphic design, and another team member is working on your business’ marketing, they need to share knowledge between one another.
And as you work on managing a remote team, you want to facilitate that communication and knowledge sharing.
In the beginning, this may be as simple as creating a Google Drive folder that’s called “Marketing materials,” and making sure both people have access to it.
Then, after the weekly meeting where everyone sums up what they achieved, you can ask them to take down notes on the most important things that are relevant to both team members.
This takes away the need to micromanage your team members’ communication. Additionally, they’ll waste less time looking for information.
Tip #6: Make Onboarding Simple for Efficient Remote Team Management
Onboarding is another reason why you should have a knowledge-sharing system in place. It may sound like a lot, but don’t worry – it’s really as simple as:
- Defining each team member’s job responsibilities (so the new team member knows who to turn to for answers)
- Creating a knowledge base about projects (you can do this with project management software)
- Facilitating collaboration (a Google Drive folder goes a long way)
- Meeting schedules
If your business has a specific way you do things, make sure you write that down and provide examples.
If your systems are simple, that’s great! You can just explain the most important things in a 1 or 2-page PDF.
However, if you have complex systems, it may be better to create a video or a mini-course introducing the new employee to your culture and your processes.
Tip #7: Keep Your Team Informed
A lot of times, when we hire remote teams, we forget that they have a stake in our businesses.
That’s why you should keep your remote team informed on how your business is doing, and what you’re doing.
For example, you know a team member’s progress on a project, but it’s likely that only you know about the results of their work.
Share it with them and show them that they have an impact.
While this is very simple, we often forget about it in the mess of deadlines, meetings and trying to balance our work and our lives.
So make sure your team members have a feeling like they’re a part of your business – not just employees. It’ll do wonders for their motivation, as well.
Tip #8: Use Video and Personality
Even though remote work is great for people who want to be able to set their own schedule and work from wherever in the world they’d like, it can be a bit lonesome.
Any semblance of face-to-face communication is greatly helpful for managing a remote team.
This is why you should do your best to make sure you’re setting up video call meetings (for example, with apps like Zoom) so that team members can see one another.
There’s a big difference between hearing someone’s voice when they’re speaking and seeing their reactions as they speak, and as you speak.
Additionally, this creates connection and improves relationships between different team members. And when you’re managing a remote team, you want to make the experience as human as possible to make sure everyone’s motivated and cooperating successfully.
Tip #9: Use Project Management Principles to Drive Success
There’s nothing like lack of organization to make managing a remote team a lot harder than it should be. And that’s where project management can help.
The key principles of project management that you can apply to manage a remote team are:
- Outlining (and delegating) tasks
- Setting goals
- Establishing metrics
- Structuring a workflow (who does what? When do they do it? What resources they need to do it?)
- Connect across different areas and facilitate communication
- Resolve issues as soon as possible
Having processes and workflows is going to be immensely helpful, especially when you hire new team members.
In the beginning, your workflow may just be three things. But as you grow and scale your business, it’ll be great to have a structure that you can just add to, instead of figuring it all out from the beginning.
What’s even better: your team will already understand the system.
Tip #10: Use Helpful Tools for Managing a Remote Team
While the success of your business relies on the people who are behind it, don’t forget about tools that can help you manage your remote team.
Technology can help you automate many processes.
For example, you can automate your external communication with CRM software (if you’re communicating with a lot of clients) and make it so transparent that all relevant parties know what’s happening at a glance.
When it comes to internal communication, don’t rely on email and Skype. Instead, find a lean solution that most remote workers are already comfortable with (e. g. Slack).
Finally, apply the best of project management principles to tracking your progress.
Unfortunately, a lot of project management software is clunky and adapted to the needs of professional project managers. You should have a lean solution to rely on that performs immediately – without a significant learning curve.
Breeze is a project management software created with business owners in mind. The main focus is on getting things done as efficiently as possible.
With a variety of features, from time tracking and to-do lists, it’ll help you manage your remote team with more ease than before.
After all, remote teams are simple and efficient. Managing them should be the same.