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

Why do we love remote work?

Why do we love remote work so much? At Hubstaff, we have a number of reasons…

  • No cubicles, desks, and shared spaces
  • No more traffic and long commutes
  • Access to global job opportunities 
  • Freedom and flexibility to build our own schedules and find a healthy work-life balance

Take me, for example.

I’m an Australian living in Costa Rica and working fully remote with Hubstaff. My work experience is flexible. I work when I feel most productive. I surf most days and volunteer at a wildlife sanctuary.

None of this would be possible if I worked in an office.

  • I wouldn’t live in the jungle. 
  • Commutes and unpaid overtime would eat up my free time.
  • I wouldn’t be able to make my own hours to surf and volunteer.

The only trade-off? Providing a little transparency.

Of course, I don’t mind it. I feel more empowered to live my life, and my team lead gets to see the effort I’m putting in to help us succeed. It’s a win-win.

Remote work is more than just volunteering, surfing, and making your own hours, though. If you’re leading a remote team, it can be difficult to strike a balance between involved and hands-off.

Fortunately, we’re here to help. Let’s take a look at the five remote-first leadership principles.

Since the pandemic, the popularity of remote work has increased. An estimated 91 million Americans have now been offered remote work.

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Five remote-first leadership principles

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

In other words, you’ll need to shift your leadership style from top-down to bottom-up in order to be a successful remote leader. Here are five principles to help you get started:

  1. Freedom and flexibility
  2. Trust and accountability
  3. Vision and purpose
  4. Motivation and engagement
  5. Async first

Rethink Remote 

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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 remote? 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 normal 9-5 schedule, or are you 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:

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, it’s my responsibility to track my time (using Hubstaff), add daily Stand-ups, and submit accurate timesheets. This 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 it’s controlled by me. This is 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 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.

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

3. Vision and purpose

It’s no secret that people are looking for 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 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 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 employees visualize their careers, you’re more likely to increase trust and improve retention rates.

4. 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%.

5. Over-communication, async first

When managing remote teams, you’ll have to rely on frequent asynchronous communication. Since this communication style is more challenging than direct communication, air 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 going on projects and minimize bottlenecks and frustrations.

Of course, there’s also an option to automate asynchronous communication.

Automating asynchronous communication

Automated daily Stand-ups are another way to communicate asynchronously. Daily Stand-ups provide clear and regular communication on projects and roadblocks. Here’s Hubstaff’s Stand-up template.

A screenshot of Hubstaff's Stand-up template

Remote team experience is everything

As a leader, you are responsible for creating a remote team experience that encourages your team to do their best — regardless of the location or hours they work.

In today’s remote landscape, the only way to do that is with powerful, 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 
  • Focusing on output, not the activity 
  • Providing insights and metrics that influence business decisions 
  • Automating and simplifying repetitive tasks
  • Being intuitive and affordable

We’re in it together

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Category: Remote