Best Practices: A Guide for Managing a Happy Remote Team

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Working from home is a dream come true for many people. You have the freedom to work when you want, where you want, and no dress code! But with this newfound independence comes new challenges in leadership and management. In order to be successful at remote team management, it’s important to understand the best practices for leading your workforce remotely. This blog post will cover all of the ins and outs of managing a remote workforce so that everyone gets what they need out of their job while still accomplishing company goals!

The challenges of managing remote workers

Communication breakdowns and bottlenecks

There are a few key challenges that come with managing remote workers. The first is communication. Without the ability to walk over to someone’s desk and ask them a question, managers need to be especially diligent in creating clear lines of communication. This includes using tools like video conferencing, chat programs, and email for regular check-ins as well as scheduling one-on-one meetings with each team member on a regular basis.

The second challenge is that of information overload, or “silo syndrome” as it’s sometimes called in the remote world. When you have everyone working remotely from different locations, there are often many people who are not privy to all the latest updates and decisions. This can lead to communication breakdowns and bottlenecks, as people try to duplicate work or make decisions without all of the necessary information.

How to overcome these challenges

Fortunately, there are a number of ways to overcome these challenges. For communication, it’s important to use a variety of tools that allow for different modes of communication – Zoom, Slack, Discord, etc.

For information overload, it’s important to set up processes for sharing company updates and decisions so that everyone has the same information at their disposal and isn’t duplicating work or making uninformed decisions.

Finally, it’s important to foster a sense of community among remote workers. This can be done through things like company-sponsored social events and online forums where team members can chat and collaborate.

Lack of face time with coworkers and supervisors

One of the biggest challenges remote workers face is a lack of face time with their coworkers and supervisors. This can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness, which can have a negative impact on both work productivity and job satisfaction.

How to overcome these challenges

There are a few ways to mitigate this challenge. First, it’s important to create opportunities for team members to connect with each other online. This can be as simple as a weekly online chat where everyone shares what they’ve been working on and asks questions, or it could include an internal forum to discuss company challenges.

It’s also important to schedule time for one-on-one check-ins with each team member at least once per month so that you have the chance to connect in person. Whether you use video conferencing or just talk over the phone, getting face time with your team is important for establishing rapport and trust.

Surrounding distractions

Working from home is a dream for many, but it can also be a nightmare when you have to constantly deal with distractions. Whether it’s the neighbor mowing his lawn or your kids running around while trying to write an important email, focusing at home can often prove challenging.

How to overcome these challenges

There are several ways that remote managers can overcome these challenges. First, it’s important to provide a budget that can be used for setting up a dedicated workspace at home so that they have an area where they can be productive without distractions.

If they don’t have a space for a dedicated home office area, then you should offer your remote employees a monthly budget that they can use for working from coworking spaces. This can be a huge help by giving them the ability to work in quiet environments without interruptions.

Loss of direct supervision and feedback

The biggest challenge remote workers face is the lack of direct supervision and feedback. Oftentimes, managers only hear about problems or frustrations after they’ve been repeated several times by different team members. This can make it difficult to pinpoint who’s responsible for what, as well as how you should handle future situations that arise from similar causes.

How to overcome these challenges

The best way to overcome this challenge is by instituting a remote employees’ feedback system. This could involve setting up regular check-ins with team members, or it could be as simple as having an online form that workers can use to report issues and give feedback.

17 Best Practices For Managing Remote Teams

1 . Find and hire the right people

If possible, hire people who have previously worked remotely and know how to manage their own workloads and how to communicate effectively in a distributed work environment.

Quick tip:

Post your hiring ads on sites that focus on remote-only positions, for example Remoteok.com, We Work Remotely, Remote.co.

2 . Focus on communication

Remote workers need to know that they’re constantly heard and valued, so it’s important for managers to prioritize communication.

Quick tip:

Make sure everyone has the same tools available so you can stay in contact no matter where you are or what time of day it is. This includes major social media platforms like Slack and Discord, as well as video conferencing software like Zoom.

3 . Set aside specific days, times and methods for team interaction

One of the most important aspects of remote work is to set up specific times and days that everyone can use to connect with each other. This doesn’t necessarily mean doing daily stand-ups, but it does include regularly scheduled check-ins where you discuss your workloads and ask how everything’s going on their end.

Quick tip:

If you have a virtual team, try to set up at least one time per week where everyone can get together for an hour or two on video chat.

4 . Encourage social interaction outside of work

Remote workers need to feel like they’re part of a team and not just working by themselves. Encourage people to interact with each other outside the office, whether it’s starting an online group chat or simply asking inside jokes during stand-ups so everyone can join in on the fun.

Quick tip:

If you’re working with a team that’s spread out all over the world, try to have one or two team-building events per year where everyone can get together in person. This could be something as simple as a weekend retreat or a day spent at an amusement park.

5 . Create a virtual water cooler

Similar to the previous point, managers should create a space for remote workers to chat about anything and everything. This can be done in the form of a virtual water cooler, where team members can post about their weekends, funny things that happened at work, or anything else that’s on their minds.

Quick tip:

If you’re using a chat-based platform like Slack, consider creating a specific channel for this type of discussion.

6 . Create well-documented procedures

Remote employees should be able to look back at past projects or old procedures and know exactly how things were done. This will help them complete tasks more efficiently, as well as give you a chance to compare what was previously documented with what actually happened during the project’s execution.

Quick tip:

Create checklists that are specific to each position, and make sure to update them as new procedures are put into place. Use tools like Notion or Google Docs to document internal processes.

7 . Set clear remote work productivity standards

Just like with in-office employees, remote workers need to be held accountable to certain productivity standards. This could involve tracking time spent on tasks or setting specific goals that need to be met each week.

Quick tip:

Use tools like RescueTime or Toggl to track how much time your team members are spending on different tasks and set quarterly OKRs for each team.

8 . Gather feedback regularly via 1-1 chats

It’s important for managers to gather feedback from their team members on a regular basis, and this is especially true for remote employees. One way to do this is through one-on-one chats, where you ask about how things are going, what the person’s working on, and if they have any suggestions or ideas.

Quick tip:

Use tools like Asana or Trello to create tasks that can be connected to team members, and then use those same tools to track feedback over time.

9 . Be sensitive to overworking and overloading your remote team

Even though remote employees are independent contractors, managers should still be sensitive to the fact that they can easily overwork or overload their employees. Make sure you check in with your team members on a regular basis and don’t hesitate to give them time off if needed.

Quick tip:

Create an employee handbook that outlines how long people are expected to work each day/week, and make sure to stick to it. Follow the same guidelines as a manager to set a good example.

10 . Determine Outputs, Set Clear Goals and use OKRs

A manager’s goal for the remote team should be determining outputs, setting clear goals, and using OKRs. The outcome of this is that everyone will have an understanding of what is expected from them and their work will be aligned with the company’s objectives.

Quick tip:

Use a tool like Weekdone (for OKRs) to set measurable goals for your team and track their progress over time.

11 . Get the team together physically once in a while

Since team members are located all over the world, try to have one or two team-building events per year where everyone can get together in person.

Quick tip:

Organize events that don’t require everyone to travel, like a meetup at a city where most of the remote employees are based at.

12 . Identify and provide the right tools and resources

Just like with in-office employees, remote workers need the correct tools and resources to do their job. This includes things like software, hardware, and even just a quiet place to work.

Quick tip:

Take a look at your team’s needs and provide a budget that they can freely use for all the tools that they need to do their best work.

13 . Celebrate successes together

When a remote team member achieves a goal or completes a task, make sure to celebrate it with the rest of the team. This could be done through a group email, chat message, or even a phone call.

Quick tip:

Include a video chat session as part of setting and evaluating your team’s quarterly or annual goals. This will allow people to celebrate success in person and build a stronger relationship with their teammates.

14 . Offer flexible work hours, vacation time, and paid leave for holidays

Just like any other employee, remote workers need the option to have some flexibility in their work hours, vacation time, and paid leave for holidays. This helps to create a better work-life balance and makes them feel appreciated.

Quick tip:

Make sure you have an HR policy in place that outlines all of the employee benefits that remote workers are entitled to. This will help ensure that everyone is treated equally.

15 . Be available and responsive

Since remote team members can’t just walk over to your desk to ask a question, it’s important that you be available and responsive. This could mean having set office hours where people can chat with you, or being easily reachable through email or chat.

Quick tip:

Create documents like a FAQ or glossary of terms that team members can refer to when they have questions. This will help you stay organized and responsive.

16 . Trust your employees

One of the best things about remote team management is that managers can trust their employees to do their job without micromanaging them. This builds trust and a sense of responsibility in team members, which can lead to better work.

Quick tip:

Make sure you set the tone from the beginning by being transparent and communicating your expectations clearly. This will help team members feel comfortable taking ownership of their work.

17 . Be prepared for remote team culture shock

Just like with any other change, there may be some bumps in the road when managing a remote team. This could be things like team members feeling disconnected or having different communication styles that you aren’t used to.

Quick tip:

Be patient and give your team time to adjust. There may be a learning curve at first, but it will get easier over time.

18 . Embrace working asynchronously from different time zones

Since all employees aren’t always available at the same time, it’s important to embrace working asynchronously from different time zones. This means that you’re not expeting work to get done when team members are asleep or on a different schedule.

Quick tip:

Make sure that every team member has access to all the tools and information that they need to work independently and wouldn’t need to pause their workday in order to wait for your permission or information.

19 . Cultivate a culture that embraces failures and taking risks

Since remote team members don’t have the office culture or environment to rely on, it’s important that you cultivate a culture and work environment where failures and taking risks are encouraged. This will help build strong problem-solving skills for your employees, increase trust and growth.

Quick tip:

Encourage every member of the team to take initiative with their projects by giving them the autonomy to be creative with their work. This will help them learn by doing and experience challenges that come with taking risks.

Must-Have Tools for Successful Remote Work

Slack – a communication app used for real-time messaging and sharing files with your team.

G Suite – an online suite of tools including email, calendar, docs, sheets, slides. These are great for collaboration on projects as well as organizing events or meetings from afar.

Google Hangouts – a video and voice chat app that can be used for team meetings, one-on-one chats, or even just to keep in touch with friends and family.

Zoom – like Hangouts but with more features, such as the ability to record calls. This is great for team training sessions or larger meetings.

Asana – a project management tool that lets you create tasks, track deadlines, and assign team members.

Trello – another project management tool that uses boards and cards to help you visually organize your work.

Basecamp – a project management tool that includes features like messages, to-do lists, schedules, files sharing, and more.

Toggl – a time-tracking app that lets you see what projects members are currently working on and how long they’ve been at it. This is great for staying organized with work hours, billing clients, or getting accurate data around your team’s productivity.

Airtable – a spreadsheet tool that lets you create databases to organize your projects, team members, files and much more.

Loom – a video recording app that lets you record your screen and your voice, great for giving walkthroughs or demonstrating how to do something.

TeamViewer – a remote desktop access and support tool that lets you control someone else’s computer as if you were sitting in front of it. This can be helpful for troubleshooting or providing support to team members who are struggling.

Notion – a collaboration and productivity tool that lets you create notes, tasks, wikis, and more.

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