The Extended Manager’s Guide for Managing Remote Teams

Remote working has opened up a global talent pool for businesses around the world. Technology has made it possible to have virtual workplaces, eliminating the need for renting a physical office. The benefits are robust in terms of finances, time, and productivity. However, the lack of face-to-face interactions and having to manage people spread across different time zones can be challenging.

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How well you manage to empower your team to thrive, keep everyone engaged and inspired as well as build a positive working culture depends on your approach. You need to do a lot of strategic thinking, planning, and patience to learn.

What is a remote team? 

If you are to manage your remote team better, it is important to first understand what entails a remote team and remote working. This way, you can be in a position to adopt best practices and strategies in bringing out the best of your remote team.

1.      What is remote working?

Remote working is a style of working that doesn’t tie employees to a single workplace. They aren’t confined in a traditional office and have the flexibility to choose where to execute their projects. This means that they can work from their homes, coffee shops, coworking spaces, or even travel the world with their work.

2.  Definition of Remote Team

A remote team is a group of employees working towards a common goal and for one employer, but with each member working from a separate location. They could be in the same geographical area but not on co-location or spread across multiple time zones.

3.  Remote Working companies around the world

As businesses continue to witness the benefits of having remote teams, more and more companies around the world are rapidly embracing this way of working. Some companies are fully remote and have no dedicated offices, while others are partially remote with some employees working remotely and others in offices. The hybrid companies mostly work on a remote-first basis where they allow staff who want to work remotely to do so. Some examples of companies that have remote teams include Shopify, Spotify, GoDaddy, Google, InVision, Andela, Netguru, Apollo, Facebook, Amazon, and HubSpot among others.

Common challenges of remote work

Integrating location independence in a company isn’t without challenges and the remote employees don’t have it easier either. Here are some challenges that are common among remote workers.

  • Time Management– This is mainly because remote workers don’t follow a set schedule as the case with holding a 9-5 job. The responsibility to structure their workday and manage time without direct supervision can be overwhelming.
  • Overworking– There lacks a visible boundary between work and personal life when working remotely. Most people struggle with logging off from work at the end of the day leading to overworking and burnouts.
  • Team communication – With team members working at different times in a day, maintaining effective communication with colleagues can be difficult. Some factors such as time difference, cultural and language differences make it difficult to understand instructions or get timely answers to questions.
  • Tech and connectivity issues – The internet isn’t always reliable which makes connectivity to the virtual workplace impossible sometimes. This could mean missing out on important meetings or delays in meeting deadlines among other problems.
  • Becoming invisible – Lack of physical closeness with managers often makes remote workers feel unseen by their employers. They feel like the extra hard work they put into projects goes unnoticed especially where feedback is delayed or not given.
  • Feeling like a team – The lack of socialization and watercooler discussions with other team members can eventually result in a lack of team spirit. Remote workers struggle to be a part of a team when they don’t know their colleagues well.
  • Lack of harmony – When team members don’t know or trust their colleagues, it can be difficult to agree on so many things. However, most fear to express their concerns for fear of conflicts but end up finding it difficult to commit to decisions made.

How Managers Can Support Remote Employees

Managers don’t have to sit and watch the above challenges impede remote teams’ productivity. They can rise and support remote employees to mitigate these challenges. Here are some tips that you can try:

  • Choose the right communication toolHaving a communication tool that is right for your team can go a long way in bridging communication challenges. You can choose a tool that ensures that everyone works on the same page.
  • Hire the right resources – For starters, you need to hire people who are cut out for remote work. Secondly, provide them with the required resources needed to do their work such as computers, reliable internet, and office supplies.
  • Encourage accountability – Team members need to be trusted that they can deliver quality work in time. You can foster a culture of accountability by leading by example, rewarding those that show a level of accountability, and using accountability tools.
  • Respect everyone’s time – Stick to the defined work hours when communicating with your team, paying attention to time zones. Give timely responses to avoid employees getting stuck in the middle of tasks.
  • Be clear on the roles and tasks – Communicate your expectations clearly to avoid time wastage when asking for clarifications. Being clear also leads to quality work, as employees don’t have to make assumptions.
  • Schedule your international team – Scheduling employees in different time zones ensures effective collaboration between members. You can move the workday an hour or two ahead or back such that teamwork happens with everyone involved.  Schedule individual work for the rest of the day or when employees feel productive.
  • Track Performance – With the right monitoring tools, you can be able to tell if your remote employees are using their time productively. You can then devise ways to help them use their time optimally.
  • Make everyone a part of the team – Employees work together better when they feel like a part of the team. Enhance employee engagement and commitment by showing value to each member.

Who Should I Hire for a Remote Team?

The remote work setup involves minimal supervision and letting employees structure their day and manage time themselves. This calls for people who are self-commanders and trustworthy. Such individuals don’t need you to tell them what to do and you can trust them to execute their tasks well and in time. They also need to be independent in that they can work alone and find solutions on their own especially when they can’t reach you. 

With everything happening virtually, communication is very important for remote work. In this case, you need to hire excellent communicators in terms of clarity and professionalism in both written and verbal. They should also be tech-savvy to be able to use the communication tools provided. Most importantly, a good remote worker is a go-getter. He or she is committed to success and is willing to learn and grow in their position.

If you need help in finding the right talent for your remote team you can consider seeking help from a global PEO. This company will help you hire new people but also manage the HR department for you. 

How to build team relationships while managing a remote team

Building team relationships in a remote team aren’t that easy, but it is vital in enhancing teamwork, employee engagement, and productivity. You can achieve that with the following ideas:

  • Prepare yearly meet-ups – This gives the team members a chance to meet and interact one-on-one with each other. They get to ask questions that they otherwise wouldn’t ask through a screen, which makes them know each other better.
  • Use technology for you and your teams’ needs – Leverage available technology that aligns with your needs to keep everyone connected. Provide the members with what they need to equip their remote workplaces with the right technology.
  • Make time for socializing and fun – Include icebreakers and watercooler conversations during meetings to loosen things a little. It’s not always about work and no play; start fun challenges and hashtags that employees can participate in.  
  • Schedule a weekly all-hands team meeting – These are important in bringing everyone together to ask questions and share updates. Everyone feels valued and part of the broader mission in such a meeting.
  • Provide tools for all remote manager’s needs – Ensure that your remote managers can connect with employees by providing all the tools they need. They should use these tools to give timely feedback and recognition for outstanding work.  
  • Rethink communication Tools – Choose a multi-channel communication tool for your team. You can create a dedicated socializing channel where employees can tell personal stories or hold other non-work-related conversations.
  • Use planners – Planners help in keeping the work schedule transparent such that members know what to work on, what’s coming and important dates to remember. This eliminates chances of conflicts among members.

Working in alternative workspaces

Most problems that remote workers face crop up from their remote working locations, especially those working from home. Working in dedicated coworking spaces can help mitigate most of these issues. Coworking spaces bring together other remote workers drawn from different professions and companies. This eliminates the feelings of loneliness and isolation when your employees work alongside these inspiring people. 

Commuting to a coworking space helps individuals stick to a routine and structure their day. In addition, these dedicated workspaces are equipped with the technology necessary for remote work execution and communication. If you don’t have the capacity to offer your remote teams the right technology, paying a coworking spaces subscription for your employees allows you to take advantage of the available technology in these spaces.

Tools for all remote manager’s needs

The whole team needs to work in sync so that no one is left behind. In this case, remote managers need to have remote management tools that support team decision-making, documentation, HR management, video conference and events, and a virtual office. The list of tools should also include task planners, communication tools, and collaboration and touch screen tools for enhanced teamwork.

How to protect your team from distractions:

As a manager, you need to emphasize the need to eliminate distractions to your team. Show them the importance of working on their tasks rather than logging in for the sake of being seen. Empower them with tools to schedule non-work-related notifications and train them on the best practices in time and task management. In addition, schedule meetings when it is necessary as frequent meetings take off teams’ concentration from tasks.

Learn it all from a long-time remote team manager

Rather than relying on trial and error, it is good for you to learn the loops of remote team management from people who have gone before you. Find yourself a remote mentor who can teach you the best practices of remote management. However, continue trying out new strategies and see how your team responds to them. Nevertheless, knowing your team’s abilities goes a long way in helping you optimize productivity.

How can leaders build a company culture in a remote workplace?

Building a positive company culture is essential in creating an ideal workplace for your team. Explaining the goals and purpose of the company makes your team feel like a part of the greater good. Subsequently, appreciating the role each member plays in achieving these goals and purpose makes them feel valuable. In addition, encourage members to build connections for a happy working environment.

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