Learning how to manage a remote team has become a common practice for businesses nowadays, and it’s easy to see the value it brings.

With remote work and hybrid options, businesses can reduce overhead costs and access a massive, global talent pool. However, managing a remote or hybrid team presents unique challenges that require a particular skill set.

None of us are Liam Neeson, but this guide will help you understand and refine those skills to move your team forward. Let’s dive in and cover everything you need to know about how to manage remote teams.

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Managing remote teams: Challenges you’ll face

Managing remote workers brings about its share of challenges that any manager or team lead must address directly. That’s why it’s important to take time to craft remote management strategies that tackle the issues that arise.

One of the most common issues is maintaining regular communication. Due to time zone differences and the lack of physical interaction, remote teams sometimes need help with communication. You’ll want to find ways to replicate some traditional office interactions (especially those without a specific work or task focus) to create rapport within your team.

Managers and leaders who don’t offer support or rise to these challenges often create situations that lead to misunderstandings and a lack of clarity.

Another critical challenge is fostering a strong company culture.

Establishing a culture can be challenging when your team spans the globe. It’s a challenge for any remote leader to create a sense of unity and belonging as teams extend beyond the walls of an office setting.

Maintaining productivity as you manage remote workers can also be a struggle. Without the structure of a traditional office environment, some team members might find it challenging to manage their time effectively and stay motivated. However, as mentioned earlier, focusing on results rather than the number of hours worked can lead to better productivity and job satisfaction.

Lastly, ensuring all team members have access to the necessary resources and tech support can also be difficult. From reliable internet access to daily tools, ensuring that all remote teams have the resources to perform their duties effectively is crucial.

Learning to manage a remote team requires a well-thought-out strategy with a robust set of tools and best practices in place. While it may be challenging, the benefits of a well-managed remote team are worth the effort.

Strategies to overcome communication challenges

Overcoming communication challenges in a remote team can seem daunting, but with the right remote management strategies, you can foster open and effective communication.

Here are a few ways to manage a remote team, build rapport, and find success.

1. Asynchronous tools

There are various remote team management software and communication and collaboration tools available. You can use platforms like Slack, Zoom, or Microsoft Teams for instant messaging, video conferencing, and document sharing.

For remote success, you want to use software that supports real-time and asynchronous collaboration from day one. That might come in the form of a messaging tool like Slack or a meeting recording tool like Fireflies. Both will help teams stay in the loop across different time zones.

In many ways, you’re creating content for your team — not just holding a call or running a meeting.

2. Weekly team meetings

Regular team meetings are crucial for overcoming communication barriers.

Conducting daily or weekly meetings can help your entire team show progress, discuss roadblocks, and plan the way forward. Use a mix of video calls, voice-only calls, text, and asynchronous updates to deliver information.

One of the best ways to make team members happier, more engaged, and thriving at work is to have regular (but brief) one-on-one meetings.

3. Open communication channels

Encourage a culture of open communication. Team members should feel comfortable sharing their ideas, concerns, and feedback. Managing remote teams challenges us to create best practices and identify software that makes this possible.

Creating this culture must be intentional. An intelligent way to start is setting up regular one-on-ones and creating a safe space for team members to express themselves.

As a manager, you’re going to need to move into over-communication here. When it comes to PTO, create multiple layers of transparency so everyone on your team knows which employees are available.

You’ve also got to lead by example. When there’s a process you want your direct reports to follow, you have to be seen following it.

4. Time zone considerations

With team members spread across different time zones, it’s essential to acknowledge and respect their local time. Try to schedule meetings at a time that works for everyone. Use remote team management software that automatically adjusts for time zone differences. As long as you set clear ground rules, some remote managers will allow asynchronous working hours.

5. Clear and concise communication

Promote clear and concise communication. Unclear messages can lead to misunderstandings and confusion. Encourage project teams to communicate their ideas and instructions as clearly as possible.

Addressing communication challenges requires ongoing effort and attention. With these remote management strategies, teams can ensure efficient communication, leading to better collaboration and productivity.

Remote management strategies for maintaining motivation

Maintaining motivation can be particularly challenging for remote teams due to the absence of physical interaction and direct supervision. However, with the right strategies, it’s possible to keep your remote team members motivated and engaged.

That means it is time to talk about meetings.

Early remote work talked about being a meeting killer and looked for ways to eliminate these dreaded boring times. However, what ultimately shook out is that remote work has made meetings more useful.

The data shows that remote workers actually have more meetings than in-office teams. However, these are shorter, more focused, and typically more productive. These changes led researchers to find that remote employees are more engaged.

Here are a few things to consider for your management style, updates, and meetings to help you best manage a remote team.

1. Setting clear expectations

Ensure that every team member understands their role, responsibilities, and the expectations associated with their position. Clear expectations can serve as a guide for employees and provide a sense of direction and purpose.

People need to understand expectations in order to be successful. This is a great habit for meetings, too. When you enter a meeting with a clear, concise agenda, you’re more likely to stay on topic and maximize your time together.

2. Regular feedback and recognition

Regular feedback (both positive and constructive) is vital for making team members feel valued and appreciated. Recognition for a job well done can boost motivation significantly. Consider implementing a system for acknowledging and rewarding employees’ efforts and achievements.

A remote employee receiving recognition.

As mentioned above, offering feedback and taking the time to listen to each team member on a weekly basis goes a long way. You can also look for continual opportunities to highlight contributions in ways that the entire organization can see.

3. Providing opportunities for professional development

Offer opportunities for learning and growth to help maintain motivation.

These options could come in the form of online training programs, webinars, or mentorship programs. Investing in professional development shows team members that their growth matters to your organization. People want to learn. Providing these opportunities keeps them happy and engaged.

This is one of my favorite remote management strategies because it helps both individuals and the team as a whole. You’re not stuck looking for fancy tools to manage remote employees to manage difficult expectations. As a leader, you’re just helping people improve and enjoy their work a little more.

4. Encouraging work-life balance

Managers must promote a healthy work-life balance to prevent burnout. Encourage team members to take regular breaks and respect their off-hours. Don’t set expectations of unrealistic work.

Manage your remote team with empathy. When you assess your team’s workload and respect for boundaries, is it a team you’d want to work on?

5. Fostering a sense of team spirit

You can foster a sense of camaraderie and belonging with virtual team-building events. These online events are a great way to encourage social interaction and strengthen rapport.

To be fair, not everyone likes traditional team-building activities. I’m not a fan of many of them because they can put people on the spot and make some feel uncomfortable. Surprisingly, I’ve seen asynchronous versions create better engagement and lead to more joy.

Instead of someone having to pick a favorite food, album, or movie in front of their peers, they can take some time and fill out a poll or add things to a Slack channel. People can then share a clip of what they enjoy. The conversation becomes more about shared interests and less about who is most outgoing.

Your shy team members may enjoy this a little more because they can also engage with others asynchronously. Instead of having to be the center of attention to say their peace, they can add comments or thoughts to a thread when they feel comfortable. It’s a good mix to allow more team members to participate and feel connected to the team.

Strategies and tools to manage remote employees

One of the final aspects of effectively managing remote teams that we’ll mention is fostering a strong sense of collaboration within the work itself. Your team will face geographical barriers and time differences, so managers need to engage in the work to help maintain cooperation.

With the right remote management strategies, it’s possible to create a collaborative environment that can facilitate improved productivity and team spirit.

Try a collaboration or project management tool

One of the first steps in promoting collaboration is using effective platforms. Project management software like Asana, Hubstaff Tasks, Trello, or Jira can assist in project management by helping to distribute tasks, track progress, and manage deadlines. Google Workspace provides a platform for real-time collaboration on documents, spreadsheets, and presentations.

Hubstaff Tasks Kanban boards.

Shared digital workspaces

Creating a shared digital workspace can help the team feel more connected and reduce the feeling of isolation some may experience working in a remote environment. Virtual whiteboards, like Miro or Mural, can be used for brainstorming sessions, planning, or reviewing work together.

Regular collaborative sessions

Organize regular collaborative sessions where your team can share ideas, brainstorm, or troubleshoot. These events help keep everyone on the same page and promote a shared sense of purpose.

Transparent work processes

When it comes to managing employees working remotely, ensure work processes are transparent. Each team member should understand how their work contributes to the overall goals of the project and the organization. Visibility encourages accountability and fosters a sense of belonging. Plus, it’s a great way to reduce the stress linked to absenteeism.

Encourage peer reviews

Encourage peer reviews as a part of your workflow. This lateral review can foster a sense of shared responsibility and show that employees at all levels have wisdom to share. It also enhances the quality of work.

Peers are right there in the thick of it with one another. That means they know tricks, can provide emotional support, and develop camaraderie to keep work enjoyable. Fostering a collaborative environment can increase productivity, morale, and overall success.

Starting your remote management journey

Managing remote employees challenges even the best managers. It can be difficult to start, but it’s ultimately a rewarding experience. Soon, you’ll automatically think beyond tools to effectively manage remote employees and discover opportunities to help people succeed in and out of work.

Effective leadership requires an entirely different approach than traditional office management.

With clear expectations, effective communication, prioritizing people, focusing on results rather than hours worked, and encouraging social interaction, you can build and manage a high-performing, motivated, and happy remote team that delivers results.

Remember, the most successful remote teams have managers who understand that people work differently. Encourage and help them find a path to success in their work styles.

When you embrace your remote working environment and how it differs from in-office work, you’ll start to see the makings of a successful remote team anyone would be glad to join.

Have any tips for building a remote working model? Want to share any tips on how to work remotely or generally adjust to a remote setting? We’d love to hear your tips.

Category: Management, Remote