Remote work is a concept that has existed since the 70s but it was never used to its full potential until the beginning of the pandemic, at the end of 2019. Nowadays, you’re able to see ‘remote environment’ everywhere: on job openings, job boards, LinkedIn descriptions while a company culture is defined by remote or hybrid team members.
The entire world has shifted its perspective on the ground rules of work, and while working remotely is a norm for some, in person meetings have become more highly important for others.
So, whether you’re a remote leader, or you’d like to learn about managing remote teams as you’re a part of one, dive in to understand how to do so.
Free eBook: How to plan your team’s time?
Throughout this article, you’ll discover the definition of managing remote teams, its importance, how to manage remote employees, and its challenges.
Managing remote teams implies leading a team within an organization that primarily works off-site from a location, other than a traditional office.
The manager plays a very important role in leading this remote team members, especially when everyone is in different places and even different countries.
Working remotely is challenging, so managing a whole team can be difficult. Focus on the tips you’ll get from this article and pave your pathway toward success while keeping prepared for the challenges.
Track time with your remote team to maximize productivity
It’s established that remote work has come to today’s functioning industries to stay a long time, some might say even forever. And while remote managers learned on the fly how to manage remote teams, by experimenting, the question is, why is it that remote work became so important so quickly?
As a manager, it can be difficult to find the expert profile you need for your team, while also matching criteria such as matching your management style and being on the same page with the company values.
You often experience geographical restrictions to comply with your company policies. With remote employees, you can choose the best person for the role, without necessarily limiting yourself to a certain geo area.
Having a big office can be expensive, especially with larger companies.
Remote work changed this reality as every single team member can work from the comfort of their own home. The only thing managers and team members need to have is the right tools, communication channels and an ergonomic office space overall.
This way, they’ll be able to work remotely efficiently and be productive.
With remote employees from around the world, you not only have different cultures and skills, but you also have different time zones. Of course, it stands also as a challenge because your work hours may rarely meet, but the truth is that it’s great to have this flexibility.
Since remote work became more popular, productivity and efficiency have spiked. However, it’s fantastic to have social interaction during the workday too.
As a remote leader, you have the advantage of having a less/distracted and more productive team, but on the other hand, you’ll have to ensure your remote workers have a good work-life balance and face-to-face interaction, for their social wellbeing.
Explore the difference between productivity and efficiency
Now that we’ve covered the benefits of remote working, let’s jump into the tips to lead a remote team best.
Time tracking is essential in managing remote teams. It helps increase employees’ productivity by providing managers with valuable insights into how their remote employees spend their time on different tasks.
When team members know that their time is being tracked, they become more accountable for their work, which can lead to increased productivity. Additionally, time tracking allows remote leaders to identify areas where employees may be struggling, and provide support and resources to help them be more efficient.
Finally, time-tracking data can be used to identify patterns and trends in work processes, allowing managers to optimize workflows and allocate resources more effectively.
To show the importance of time tracking to your remote team, you can explain how it will benefit them and the organization as a whole.
It is not a measure of micromanagement but rather a tool to help everyone stay on track and be more productive. You can also explain how the data collected through time tracking can be used to improve workflows and allocate resources more effectively.
Encourage your team to use time-tracking tools for remote employees and provide training and support to ensure they use them effectively.
Turn time tracking into a task so easy that your team will even enjoy it
Overall, by demonstrating the benefits of time tracking and providing a good time tracking tool and resources, you can increase employee productivity and help your remote team succeed.
Read also: How to get employees to track time
Free eBook: How to plan your team’s time?
Learn how to boost team time management by leveraging the power of time tracking
While working with a remote team, it’s imperative to schedule meetings and projects ahead as people might not always be available due to time zones or private matters. Ensure to organize your regular conference calls and group meetings ahead.
Are you planning recurring meetings? If so, implement time blocking in your team’s schedule.
Cultural diversity is crucial for remote teams, as bringing together people with different backgrounds, perspectives, and skills, leads to greater innovation and problem-solving. A team that is diverse in culture can better understand and serve global customers and partners, making it easier to communicate and collaborate across borders.
To enhance team collaboration across remote workers from different cultures, managers can organize activities such as weekly team meetings with the entire team. Other ideas can be informal team chats, cultural exchange programs, and cross-cultural training sessions.
Regular meetings as such can help foster empathy, employee engagement, and trust among team members, leading to a more inclusive and cohesive team.
From the get-go, especially in the hiring process, you must be honest with your team members about the company’s requirements and their roles.
If you might have forgotten some aspects related to your internal kitchen, we’d recommend discussing them in one of your first virtual meetings.
It’s crucial to set clear expectations on specific subjects and must-haves such as schedules, meetings, communication, work goals, and working hours.
Make sure that you set up the best kind of communication tools for your whole team. Since you’re managing employees working remotely, you must establish excellent communication, so nothing is misunderstood.
Don’t forget to be clear with everything you’re trying to say to your team and encourage your remote workforce to communicate as clearly as possible.
Many managers forget how essential it is for their remote team members to stay engaged with the job they’re doing and with the people that they’re working with.
Invest in periodic one-on-ones, so you can get a sense of how everyone is doing and if there are any team dynamics to be addressed. When possible, offer your help to solve obstacles and provide guidance even in your team meetings.
It would be ideal that you centralize your tasks, communication, and performance monitoring under one project management platform.
If that is not possible, having a reliable project management software, integrated with another tool such as standalone time tracking software might be just enough.
That way, you’ll be able to track everything efficiently.
As a Manager, you can receive complaints and worrisome facts about the project or the team itself.
There could be an employee who might not feel so good, so it’s your job to listen to them and provide emotional support. With your guidance and empathy, they will feel much more confident and heard, even offering personal life advice in your video meetings won’t do any harm.
To effectively manage remote employees, you have to understand each person’s context, whether that is different backgrounds, cultures, and time zones that have a big impact on their daily lives.
So, it’s important that you understand your employees and treat them with openness to the flexibility of work hours.
When leading remote workers, all their tools are in a virtual environment and must perform at standard operating procedures all the time.
Technology obstacles are a big challenge for remote workers because they are always around the corner. So, get insights from your team members to see if the current tech stack is working or needs an upgrade.
When welcoming a new member to your team, make sure that you give special attention so the new employee feels welcomed and aware of everything that’s going on.
You want to keep your team up to speed and ready to communicate with newcomers.
Don’t try to micromanage your team during the process of your project. You hired this team for specific reasons that would lead you to success. Trust that feeling and encourage team members to grow, make their own decisions, and complete the tasks.
For virtual teams to get along and establish a line of communication during their remote work, it’s necessary to establish rules, so everything runs smoothly. From regular team meetings to periodic one-on-ones, ensure you have a rule for every type of interaction.
For working remotely teams’, there’s a project with a vision aligned. To complete that vision, the team has to understand what it involves, and why.
Only when the team members understand the goals, that’s when everyone is ready to tackle every task and the obstacles that may appear. That’s why it’s critical to set realistic goals: team alignment.
Unfortunately, there are many unforeseen obstacles that cross your remote workers’ paths in one way or another. What matters is how you cope with it, while granting tranquility to a member of your team.
The main goal is to eliminate every possible obstacle that disables your employee’s capacity to do tasks, and the results can only lead to a successful remote team.
When working remotely, sometimes, you may never get to meet some of the members of the team.
Social bonding is deprioritized but should be highly considered for the well-being of your employees.
Set up some online parties, activities, and social meetings that improve the humor of your teammates. At the same time, you’re finding different ways to motivate your team to be more productive.
Managing remotely implies making yourself available for guidance, perhaps more than in a physical workspace . As a good team leader, you represent an influence on your team. Commit yourself to the evolution of their roles in the context of this project.
Because this is a new-ish concept, its definition constantly evolves, and everything changes as we speak. With that in mind, make sure that you update your studies with new articles and investigations on leveraging remote working and managing teams in this setup.
TIP: It might be a good idea to enroll in an online project management course
Do periodic and individual check-ins with your team to find out if they’re acclimating to the rest of the teammates, the project’s goals, and even social bonding. This will impact their work-life balance, too.
Remote working brings a lot of different distractions, some more serious than others.
As a leader, if you want to successfully manage remote workers, we’d recommend too to share a list of insightful tips on how to deflect from those temptations.
Your job might entail a lot of overviewing, and managing relationships and projects, which makes the job of completing tasks extremely hard. We hear you, managing remote employees on top of that sounds like a lot.
So, make sure you delegate tasks that you don’t need to do specifically. By doing it, you’re one step closer to building a high-performing team while you’re improving the productivity of your employees.
You could choose a daily, weekly, or monthly time frame to evaluate the project’s progress within your team’s effort. You can add a time block in your calendar, or just set a task for yourself in your project management tool.
Remote working can be challenging due to the blurred division between private and work life.
As a project manager or manager, it’s your job to make sure that your team has a fair amount of workload, and that they’re enjoying their role.
If something’s bothering a member of your team, it’s crucial that you show emotional support and guide them toward the solution.
TIP: Read our guide on “Managing software development teams“.
Working remotely has many perks, but nothing substitutes real bonds and connections when meeting personally.
Make sure you ditch the remote workplace for at least a day per year to get together and celebrate the bond created throughout the project’s journey.
Although leading a remote team is a standard practice in today’s workplace, it doesn’t come without its obvious challenges.
People are unique everywhere, and management is also different under various circumstances. But you shouldn’t focus only on the obstacles you face while managing your team. Instead, think of a strategy that would eradicate those same issues.
Find out below the challenges you may face throughout your journey as a remote manager:
- Communication: This is a key project management skill within teams that work remotely, especially when they’re spread worldwide, and a communication tool such as Microsoft Teams might not be enough. If you’re missing that element, managing your team will be a much harder job than you think;
- Hiring: Having the opportunity to hire an expert suitable for remote work too, is a great thing but it can be overwhelming to make the right choice amongst the list of qualified potential employees;
- Time boundaries: The whole team might be working in different time zones itself, which complicates the ability to speak about specific tasks at any random time. It could be straightforward to fail and not respect everyone’s time and start talking about a task that they haven’t even begun to act on;
- Tasks and roles might be confusing: Compiling poor communication with a lack of bonding, your team might feel confused by assigned functions and tasks. Like everyone, your team has expectations, and they would think that they weren’t being considered carefully;
- Scheduling: It’s difficult enough to keep up with everyday tasks, so you can imagine when you have to share your schedule with the team. It can be a nightmare only to try and figure out when’s the best time to set up a kick-off meeting, not to mention using project management software.
Read more: Learn how to handle scheduling conflicts.
- Employee performance: As a manager, is a must to perceive the progress of each team member, along with the project. Overseeing your team in their remote work endeavors can be hard sometimes, as you can’t get the authentic feel of everyone;
- Neglect of team members: With everything that you have to pay attention to, from managing to delegation and monitoring, getting to know everyone isn’t a priority. When you leave that for too long, it can be too late to bond with your team;
- Low productivity: Some people thrive on remote work, but for the other part that doesn’t identify with it can be catastrophic, especially if you’re on the other side of the world. There’s a rare possibility of encountering your team members but that’s it. That can really that its toll on the employees, their mental health, and their productivity;
Find how to boost your team’s productivity with these tips.
- Using the wrong work tools: Managing, monitoring, and communicating can be almost impossible if you fail to have the appropriate work tools to help you. So, make sure you choose the best working from home apps;
- Missing collaboration: When there’s no collaboration on a remote team, it becomes very difficult to support and guide as a project manager;
- Managing different personalities: When managing a remote team, you find yourself surrounded by different and unique personalities. Especially from afar, it’s difficult to maintain everything cordial and in harmony, as some people might be more concealing, while other team members might need more coaching from you.
- Cultural elements: When hiring people worldwide, they enrich your team with a new culture and knowledge. However, when working remotely, it can be pretty frustrating when you’re trying to keep up with different boundaries, ethics, and so on; Some video calls to share stuff about their cultures might to wonders for remote teams.
Managing remote employees has come to stay in our midst, with several success cases worldwide. This new normal grants us a unique spectrum of possibilities to improve and transform our daily work.
It’s never an easy adaptation because everything we once knew for many years has evolved into something we’re currently trying to figure out.
Throughout this article, we discussed the benefits and challenges of managing remotely, along with tips and tricks on how to make it a better experience for your employees working remotely. When you know the challenges you might face when guiding a remote team, you can calculate the efforts and outcomes.
With a balance between obstacle awareness and learning insightful tips to help you be the best manager you can be, you’ll be prepared for everything that may come to you, whether it’s a new remote worker in your team or other video conferencing tools.
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