Ultimate Guide to Remote Team Management: Hiring, Communication, Onboarding and More

Table of Contents

Building and managing a successful remote team requires a bit different skillset from the managers compared to on-site team management. You’re hiring from a global talent pool and managing people in different time zones. You have to communicate very effectively, build trust and transparency among your team, set the right goals and KPIs, and help your team to avoid the common pitfalls of remote working. We’ll cover it all in this article.

FAQ: What is a remote workforce?

A remote workforce is a group of employees who do not work together in the same physical location.

FAQ: What are the benefits of having remote employees?

There are many benefits to having remote employees, including:

  • Reduced office costs: You don’t need to pay for as much office space or equipment since your remote team can work from anywhere.
  • Greater talent pool: Hiring remote employees gives you access to a larger talent pool since you’re not limited by location.
  • Increased productivity: remote employees are more productive than those who work in an office.
  • Reduced stress: remote employees often report lower levels of stress since they don’t have to deal with the daily commute or office politics.

FAQ: What are the biggest challenges of remote work?

There are a few common challenges of remote work, including:

  • Lack of communication: One of the biggest challenges of remote work is the lack of communication. It’s important to find ways to keep your team connected and ensure that everyone is on the same page.
  • Isolation: Working from home can be lonely, and it’s easy to feel disconnected from your team. It’s important to find ways to stay connected and build relationships with your remote colleagues.
  • Lack of trust: Building trust is essential for any remote team, but it can be difficult when you’re not working in the same physical space. You need to find ways to establish trust and transparency among your team.
  • Difficulties with remote management: It’s easy for remote managers to become disconnected from their team since they don’t have daily interactions. You need to find ways of staying in touch and ensuring that your remote employees are happy, productive, and engaged at all times.

FAQ: What’s the difference between remote-first and hybrid remote teams?

Remote-first teams are remote by default, while hybrid remote teams rely on remote workers to supplement their existing in-person teams or expect their remote employees to spend a certain amount of time in the office.

Common misconceptions and pitfalls of managing remote teams

Overworking not laziness is the biggest threat to a remote workforce

While remote employees may have the perception of working from home in their pajamas all day, the truth is that overworking is one of the biggest threats to a remote workforce. Just because an employee is remote doesn’t mean they can slack off – in fact, they may be working even harder than those who are in the office.

Managers need to be very clear about expectations and ensure that remote employees are productive and engaged.

There can’t be too much transparent communication

Since remote employees are often working in different time zones, it’s important for managers to be very clear about expectations and ensure that there is constant communication among the team. This can be done through a variety of methods, such as weekly stand-ups, team chat software, or video conferencing.

Don’t try to recreate office culture in virtual channels – embrace asynchronous communication instead

Don’t replace all the meetings you used to have in the office with video calls. Rely more on written communication and keep the video calls for social occasions.

Hiring

Take advantage of the global workforce

If you only hire people from the city your office is based in, then you have to compete with other companies for a very limited talent pool. Remote hiring allows you to find the global top talent, instead of limiting your options to the local competition.

Remote hiring isn’t just about saving money on office space – it’s also about finding remote employees who are highly skilled and passionate about their work, which is why remote companies like Automattic (WordPress), Buffer, GitLab, or Trello don’t have a problem finding remote talent.

Post hiring ads on remote-only job boards

Many remote companies rely on remote-only job boards to find their ideal employees. They are often niche platforms that are targeted towards remote workers, which means they have a higher success rate when it comes to finding the right fit for your company.

Some of the most popular sites include:

Communicate your values and expectations while hiring remotely

Just like in a traditional job search, remote companies need to clearly communicate the values and expectations of their company when they post remote jobs, but it’s even more important to do a good job at it because talented remote employees are usually very picky with this. They place a high value on aligning with the values of the company they interview for.

Onboarding

Create an internal onboarding checklist for the new employees

Remote companies often use remote-only job boards like remoteok.com to find remote talent, but after hiring employees they still need to onboard them properly and provide the necessary tools for remote work (e.g., desk, chair).

Some of the most important moments during an early onboarding process are:

  • Welcome email – include instructions about where to find the remote onboarding checklist and what tools are needed to get started
  • Introducing new team members to their colleagues – Include remote employees in video calls or Slack chats
  • Assign an onboarding buddy for each new hire who helps them with all their early questions and supports them

Communication

Written communication becomes the norm

Written communication becomes the norm when remote employees are a part of the team, which means that Slack chats replace hallway conversations and email replaces physical bulletin boards.

Communication should be clear and easy to follow – use bullet points instead of paragraphs for better comprehension.

Remote companies tend to rely more on written communication than verbal or visual cues because remote workers have to be proactive when it comes to seeking out information, and they can’t just walk over to somebody’s desk for a chat.

Every manager must do monthly 1-1 calls with their team members

The remote manager must be very active in running weekly meetings, conducting regular one-on-one calls with remote team members, and keeping the lines of communication open.

Video calls are often used for 1-1 calls and the purpose of them is to chat about stuff that doesn’t involve daily work tasks and problems. The purpose of these calls is to exchange feedback, get the temperature of the team culture, communicate important values, build trust and solve personal problems.

Informal communication must be promoted by the leadership

In remote companies, informal communication is becoming more and more important and it doesn’t happen organically. In a traditional office environment, there are watercooler chats and people can bond over having daily lunch, but remote companies have to be proactive in promoting informal communication.

This can be done by having remote team members connect on social media, encouraging them to share their work-related successes on a company blog or wiki, and hosting fun remote team activities (e.g., virtual happy hours).

Create times and places in virtual channels for social interactions

This can be done by creating specific times and channels in virtual tools like Slack or Zoom for socializing. For example, have a recurring “Watercooler video chat” every Friday with specific non-work-related topics.

Meet face-to-face at least 2-times per year

Even remote companies need to encourage remote team members to see each other face-to-face at least twice a year. Nothing beats this kind of real-life bonding.

Processes

Create internal wiki articles for processes, tactics, best practices, etc

It’s important to create and maintain internal wiki articles that document processes, tactics, best practices, company values, etc.

This allows remote team members to access this information at any time and also contribute their own knowledge and ideas.

Create a “remote work manual” that explains values and expectations

The remote work manual can also be called the remote employee guidebook that explains what is expected of them and what kind of help they can expect from their team.

Set OKRs, goals, and KPIs for each team member

OKRs, goals, and KPIs are great tools for remote managers to help improve the accountability of their team members. They help everyone get aligned about the company’s strategy, move towards growth and achievement and they also serve as formal milestones that can be easily shared with other teams within the organization.

Praise results, not effort

Remote teams should operate by focusing on delivering results instead of praising effort because it’s easy to measure, it’s motivating for employees and helps the company to grow.

Follow-up on KPI progress every week

Remote managers must have a regular weekly meeting or use a stand-up tool with team members to discuss their KPI progress.

Give every employee access to all the tools, reports, dashboards, etc

Remote managers should give remote team members access to all the tools, reports, dashboards, documents, and other resources they need in order to succeed at their roles.

Team’s Fulfillment and Happiness

Be mindful of overworking and burnout in remote employees

Since remote employees are not physically present in the office, it’s easy for them to feel overworked and burned out.

This is why remote managers must be very mindful of the amount of work they’re assigning to their team members and also encourage them to take breaks. Encourage people to disconnect on weekends and take time off for offline vacations.

Promote healthy work-life balance and lead by example

Lead by example and promote a healthy work-life balance in your remote team. This means not working all the time, disconnecting on weekends, taking regular breaks, etc.

Give remote employees a budget to furnish a home office or to go to coworking spaces

This is a great way remote managers can help remote employees feel comfortable and productive at home or to pick the best coworking space to work from.

Offer generous flexible hours, vacation time, mental health days

Make sure that you offer valuable options for your remote workforce to destress and charge their batteries. It’s important that they feel appreciated and valued by their employer and this is one of the best ways to show it.

Tools

  • Slack – communication and collaboration tool.
  • Google Docs, Sheets, Slides – remote teams need to collaborate on documents and spreadsheets so they should use these tools since they’re free and widely available.
  • Zoom – video conferencing software.
  • Trello or Asana – project management software that allows remote team members to collaborate on tasks and projects.
  • BambooHR, Culture Amp or Greenhouse – tools for remote employee management.
  • Pivotal Tracker – remote teams should use a project management tool that allows them to break down tasks into smaller chunks and track the progress of each one.
  • Hubstaff or Toggl – remote managers need tools for time tracking, productivity monitoring, etc. so they can see how much time remote team members have spent on different projects and tasks.
  • GitHub – remote teams should use GitHub to store their code, track changes, and collaborate on projects.

Resources

Gitlab’s remote work manual – this is a great resource for remote managers that covers all the basics of hiring and managing remote employees.

Buffer’s remote work guide – this guide has a lot of tips on how to manage remote teams, including setting rules and expectations, conducting effective communication, and tracking productivity.

The Art of Managing Remote Teams – this book offers a lot of great tips for remote managers on topics like hiring, communication, culture, and productivity.

Tools for Managing Remote Teams – this article covers a variety of tools that remote managers can use to help their team members be more productive and effective.

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