In the larger narrative of corporate evolution, remote team collaboration has emerged as a crucial factor for success. Organizations have transcended geographical constraints to lead global teams in recent years, fueled by technological advances and the pandemic’s disruptive impact. 

This shift underscores the resilience and adaptability that define the modern business landscape.

When it comes to remote team management, there are a few questions remote leaders ask:

  • How do I know if my team is working? 
  • How do I know what my team is doing if I can’t see them? 
  • How can I simulate the office experience?

The answer to all of these questions is simple: you can’t.

Remote team management is not about simulating the office experience. To lead a remote team, you need to focus on trust. That starts with change management.

In this article, we will help:

  • Shift your leadership mindset from top-down to bottom-up
  • Understand what working remotely means to you and your team
  • Create a new remote team experience built on trust and accountability
  • Give your team the freedom to live the life of their dreams

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Remote Team Collaboration Best Practices

When you lead a remote team, there isn’t a straightforward list of dos and don’ts. Embrace the remote-first mindset by asking questions, listening intently, and learning about your remote employees.

In other words, you’ll need to shift your leadership style from top-down to bottom-up to be a successful remote leader.

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1. Freedom and flexibility 

Step one in remote team management is understanding the kind of life your team members want to live. Start by asking your team these questions:

  • How do you define remote work? Is 3-4 days a week of working from home enough to warrant the title of remote work?
  • Why do you work remotely? Are you working from home, starting a family, or touring the world as a digital nomad?
  • What are your ideal hours? Are you looking for a typical 9-5 schedule or hoping to work in an asynchronous work environment?

That last question is the most important. Let your team work wherever and whenever works best for them.

This flexibility may be scary at first, but the numbers don’t lie:

63% of job seekers are looking for work-life balance.

It’s unrealistic to expect your remote team to work 9 to 5 every day. Instead, have them keep track of their time.

Take me, for example.

At Hubstaff, I’m responsible for tracking my time (using Hubstaff), adding daily Stand-ups, and submitting accurate timesheets. Time tracking is how I get paid and how my team lead knows when and what I am working on.

This way, my team operates with complete transparency, but I control it — a nice segue to our next point. 

2. Trust and accountability 

The only way to find success with your remote team is to create an atmosphere of trust and compassion. To change your culture for the better, you can start by:

  • Making remote employees feel valued and comfortable in the organization. 
  • Fostering trust amongst peers and encouraging sharing of knowledge. 
  • Creating psychological safety by developing a culture of honesty and trust.

According to this Great Places to Work study, businesses with high trust outperform the general market by approximately two to three times. When you trust your team, you can trust that results will soon follow. 

3. Vision and purpose

It’s no secret that people seek a purpose in their lives and at work.

Show your team members that you are on the same mission. Help them understand their place in the organization and how they contribute to your organization’s shared goals.

If you’re encountering remote employees that don’t understand their role in the organization, you can start a dialog by finding out:

  1. Why they joined the company
  2. What ways do they show leadership and their peers their contributions and commitment to meeting the goals of the business
  3. If they’re getting to work on what you promised they would in the interview process
Career vision

People with a purpose are more productive, healthier, and loyal to the business. When you help your remote workers visualize their careers, you’re more likely to increase trust and improve retention rates.

4. Provide adequate training on remote tools

Ensuring that your team is proficient in their tools is crucial for seamless remote collaboration. Offer comprehensive training sessions on the various tools and platforms your team relies on, covering both basic and advanced features. 

Provide documentation and resources for reference and establish a support system for troubleshooting common issues. Continuous training is essential, especially when new updates or features are introduced. By investing in your team’s skill development, you enhance their efficiency and confidence in utilizing remote tools, ultimately contributing to the overall success of remote team collaboration.

5. Motivation and engagement

Regular engagement (i.e., a weekly one-on-one) is essential to remote team management. During this time, listen and look for ways to remove obstacles and connect team members. 

  • What can you do to keep your team happy and motivated?
  • Is there anything blocking their progress or professional development? 
  • How can you support the team and find a solution?

Your role is to coach, educate, and motivate your team to do their best work. Research shows this leadership method can increase job satisfaction by 83%.

6. Celebrate achievements virtually

Remote work can sometimes lead to a need for more visibility when acknowledging individual and team achievements. Counter this by creating a virtual celebration culture. Recognize accomplishments during team meetings, use digital platforms to share successes, and encourage team members to applaud each other. 

This not only boosts morale but also reinforces a positive team dynamic. Virtual teams can celebrate in various forms, from shout-outs in group chats to themed virtual parties. By actively celebrating achievements, you contribute to a positive work culture and motivate team members to strive for excellence in their remote roles.

7. Over-communication, async first

You’ll have to rely on frequent asynchronous communication when managing remote teams. Since this communication style is more challenging than direct communication, err on the side of over-communication whenever possible.

It may sound excessive, but overcompensating for the challenges of async communication keeps teams from feeling isolated and keeps team leads informed about business decisions and activities.

As a remote, hybrid, or distributed team lead, you can benefit significantly from the ability to hand over work across time zones. Asynchronous communication will keep the momentum of projects and minimize bottlenecks and frustrations.

8. Utilize remote collaboration tools

Effective virtual collaboration hinges on the use of remote communication tools. You can encourage a transparent and open company culture by using collaboration tools for remote teams.

Invest in reliable platforms like video conferencing, project management, and messaging apps to streamline communication. Platforms such as Slack, Zoom, or Microsoft Teams enable real-time interactions, file sharing, and seamless collaboration. Regularly update and train your team on what successful remote collaboration looks like to maximize their potential and keep everyone on the same page.

9. Set clear expectations

Setting measurable goals and clear expectations for remote team members is essential for maintaining productivity and accountability. These goals provide a roadmap for remote employees and help them understand what is expected of them. 

Here are a few different ways you can set goals for your team that are measurable and transparent: 

Setting measurable goals and expectations for remote team members provides a clear path to success and aligns individual efforts with organizational objectives. It promotes accountability and motivation, increasing engagement and productivity among remote teams.

10. Be mindful of time zones

Managing a remote team usually means dealing with diverse geographical locations and time zones. Respect different time zones to avoid scheduling conflicts and ensure everyone can actively participate in meetings and collaborations. Use tools that display multiple time zones and establish a clear understanding of the core working hours for essential team activities. 

Encourage asynchronous communication when possible and prioritize flexibility in work hours to accommodate various time zones. By acknowledging and accommodating time zone differences, you promote a more inclusive and considerate remote work environment, fostering a sense of unity among team members regardless of their global locations.

11. Incorporate regular check-ins

Managers holding regular one-on-one meetings with remote team members to discuss their progress is invaluable for their success. Frequent communication fosters a sense of accountability. 

Research by Gallup found that remote team members with regular check-ins with their managers are almost three times as likely to be engaged in their work.Automated daily Stand-ups are another way to organize regular check-ins asynchronously. Daily Stand-ups provide clear and frequent communication on projects and roadblocks. Here’s Hubstaff’s Stand-up template.

A screenshot of Hubstaff's Stand-up template

12. Build a company culture based on open communication

In a remote work setting, cultivating a positive company culture becomes challenging and necessary. The absence of a physical workspace can make it more difficult to foster the same sense of community and belonging in traditional office environments. 

Here are some essential tips to build a company culture based on open communication:

  • Prioritize inclusive, open communication: Communication lies at the heart of any company culture and is even more critical in a remote setting. Managers can encourage open and inclusive communication by providing various channels for interaction, such as chat platforms, video meetings, and email. 
  • Establish company values: Clearly define the company’s expectations and mission and ensure that these are shared and understood by all team members. This alignment helps remote employees feel a sense of purpose and direction in their work. 
  • Encourage social connections: Building a positive culture includes creating opportunities for social interaction and team bonding. A Harvard Business Review study found that employees with solid workplace friendships are more engaged and productive

In a remote work environment, a positive company culture doesn’t just happen; it must be cultivated deliberately. 

13. Focus on work-life balance

Maintaining a healthy work-life balance while working remotely is crucial for your well-being and overall productivity. 

At Hubstaff, we use principles to help our team build a healthy work-life balance:

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  • No-meeting day: A no-meetings day means you must prioritize your available meeting time more carefully. A study found that CEOs spent 72% of their work time in meetings — resulting in an average of 62.5 hours weekly. At Hubstaff, we all set one weekday when meetings cannot be scheduled. 
  • Add focus time to your calendar: Adding blocks of “focus time” to your calendar each week helps your team know they shouldn’t schedule team meetings during this time slot and allows for uninterrupted work. At Hubstaff, we add two four-hour “focus time” blocks to our weekly calendar.

Remember that achieving a healthy work-life balance is an ongoing process, and it may require some experimentation to find what works best for you. By following these tips and regularly reassessing your approach, you can enjoy the benefits of remote work while maintaining your overall well-being.

14. Emphasize personal and professional development

Remote work offers unparalleled flexibility and autonomy, making it an ideal personal and professional development environment. Whether you’re a team member or a manager, fostering a culture of continuous learning is pivotal. 

  • For remote workers, it’s an opportunity to expand your skill set and adapt to the ever-changing demands of the digital age. Remote work provides the space and time to upskill, take online courses, and pursue certifications that can enhance your career prospects.
  • For managers, encouraging and facilitating continuous learning among remote team members is equally essential. It boosts employee morale and ensures your team remains competitive in a rapidly evolving job market. This approach is vital in retaining top talent, as remote workers are likelier to stay with an organization that invests in their professional growth.

By nurturing a spirit of continuous learning and career development, remote workers and organizations alike can thrive in the dynamic landscape of the digital age.

15. Build in opportunities for honest feedback

Feedback is the cornerstone of effective remote team management, which fosters growth and improvement. Constructive feedback becomes even more critical for remote teams without physical proximity. 

To gather it effectively, leaders should encourage open lines of communication, making team members feel comfortable sharing their insights. 

Here are some ways you can gather feedback as a remote team leader:

  • Regular one-on-one meetings
  • Team check-ins
  • Anonymous surveys

Equally important is providing constructive criticism with empathy, focusing on actionable steps, and recognizing achievements. When harnessed correctly, feedback identifies areas for improvement and boosts morale, engendering a culture of continuous growth within remote teams.

Tools to Enhance Remote Team Collaboration

Leaders must implement robust data security protocols, educate team members on best practices, and use secure tools and networks to safeguard sensitive information.

Additionally, emphasizing the importance of digital privacy awareness becomes crucial in fostering a secure remote work environment.

The only way to do that in today’s remote landscape is with robust, remote workforce management solutions. The right technology helps you reach new heights as a manager by:

  • Enabling employees to work in ways that work best for them 
  • Providing insights and metrics that influence business decisions 
  • Automating and simplifying repetitive tasks

Here’s our list of recommended tools that can empower leaders and teams to navigate the complexities of remote work, organized by the remote work practice they can improve.

Communication tools

  • Slack: For team messaging and collaboration.
  • Microsoft Teams: An integrated communication and collaboration platform.
  • Zoom: For video conferencing and virtual meetings.

File sharing and document collaboration:

  • Google Workspace (formerly G Suite): For cloud-based document collaboration.
  • Microsoft 365: Provides cloud storage and collaboration tools.
  • Dropbox Business: Secure file storage and sharing.

Task and time tracking:

Hubstaff time tracking
  • Hubstaff: For time tracking, remote management, and productivity analysis.
  • A work operating system for task tracking.
  • Asana: Project management tools help teams organize and manage work.

File security and password management:

  • LastPass: For secure password management.
  • 1Password: Another excellent password manager.

Feedback and survey tools:

  • SurveyMonkey: For creating and sending surveys and questionnaires.
  • Typeform: A versatile survey and form-building tool.

These tools are crucial in bridging the physical gaps between team members and enhancing communication, collaboration, and productivity. 

Remote team experience is everything

As a leader, you create a remote team experience that encourages your team to do their best — regardless of location or hours. 

By prioritizing clear communication, trust, and the right tools, leaders can set their teams up for success. Embracing a flexible work culture, nurturing social bonds, and adapting management styles are crucial to unlocking the full potential of remote teams. 

Learning how to manage a remote team isn’t an overnight task, and it’s important to research current trends. As we navigate the ever-changing work landscape, leaders must continuously refine their strategies and remain open to innovative solutions.

With these actionable steps, remote team management can be effective and a catalyst for achieving greater heights in the modern professional world.

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Category: Remote