There’s no way we can deny it: In the future, more and more people are going to work remotely. That also means more and more companies and teams will have to cooperate on a remote basis. While in some ways the management of distributed teams is very similar to managing on-site staff, there are also major differences. If you want to run a remote team successfully, you have to make sure you address all of the small challenges that come with a virtual workplace. Have a look at the following list and see what guidelines you can adapt for your own remote team.
1. Hire Carefully
It all starts with the hiring process. While this is important for any job, you have to be even more careful when it comes to remote positions. Most of the time, the interview is going to be via video call, so it’s often harder to evaluate the person.
While skills and experience are obviously essential, too, I personally think that motivation is even more important. If a person is going to work with you, he or she has should have an intrinsic ambition to be part of your success story.
Working remotely can be hard sometimes, so you need to find someone you can trust. Someone who is not just sitting around all day, wasting time, but who wants to have an impact. Personality makes a huge difference here and you should keep that in mind.
It also helps if that person is experienced with remote work. This kind of working style is not the right thing for everyone and having someone on board who knows how to be successful with it makes it much easier.
If you want to learn more about how to hire remote workers, check out the linked article that will teach you the 6 most important steps.
2. Establish an Onboarding Process
Once you have found the perfect new member of your team, make sure you give him or her the right start. We all know: The first impression matters.
It doesn’t matter if you are hiring a remote employee or a freelancer, you should integrate them properly. That means, introduce them to the entire team. Depending on the size of your company that can be during a conference or an email that is sent out to everyone. Welcome the new addition to the team and give them a chance to say (or write) a few words about themselves.
Moreover, you should provide training material or process documentations that help them get started with their tasks.
3. Communicate the Company’s Values
This should be a part of every company’s onboarding process. However, I find it particularly important for remote teams as it helps people understand what the company is about and why they should give their very best to support it.
Explain in detail what your mission and vision is. Help your new team members get into the company’s vibe and get them motivated to strive for success.
4. Create a Team Atmosphere
Only because your team members are spread across the planet doesn’t mean you are not a team. Because you are. Make sure everyone knows that.
Try to hold team buildings either online or offline if possible. Celebrate team success stories, what they have achieved that they can be proud of. You could send out an internal newsletter to inform your employees or freelancers about new team members, achievements, upcoming events, or project plans.
Be transparent with team happenings and try to involve everyone as best as you can.
5. Automate Tasks
Try to automate as many reoccurring or boring tasks as possible, think of chat bots, social media scheduling tools, or data processing programs.
That has two advantages: For one, nobody wants to be bored at work. Give your team tasks that have an impact and that make them feel like an important part of the team to keep them motivated.
And two, that also helps keeping your team small. The more remote workers you have to keep happy and involved, the harder it gets.
6. International Calendar
This is an easy one. If you have a team of remote workers who are based all around the world, make sure to set up a calendar with international holidays. Pay attention to religious holidays, too.
Communicate those holidays with the entire team so everyone knows the availability of the rest of the team. That helps avoid misunderstandings and staffing shortage.
7. Agree on Working Hours
Especially freelancers often enjoy their freedom to work whenever they want. And that is ok! Embrace that! People should work whenever they feel most motivated to do so.
However, it can be helpful for remote workers, if you agree on at least certain time frames. Let’s say your developer in Spain works 8 hours between 9 am and 20 pm CET every Monday and Wednesday. While this isn’t too specific and allows him to keep his flexibility, it is still a guidance for you and your team to see when they can expect them to be available.
It also helps to determine when someone is not available. Having set no-work-hours will help protect their private lives (and sleep!) instead of expecting people to work around the clock. This is particularly important if your team is spread across different time zones.
8. Be Part of the Team
This is again something that is important for any team but even more so for a remote one. Since you are not sitting next door, people can’t simply pop into your office asking whatever questions they might have.
So be active! Ask how they are doing, offer help where needed. Schedule regular (maybe weekly) one-on-one calls with you. Plan quarterly feedback meetings. Promote an open communication so everyone knows they can contact you anytime.
Also share your calendar with the team. This shows transparency. Your team sees that you are working, too, and not just sitting on the beach sipping cocktails. On top of that, they also see when you are available for a quick chat.
9. Don’t Micromanage
On the contrary: Don’t micromanage your team!
You need to be able to trust them – even if you can’t see what they do all day. If you can’t, you probably shouldn’t have hired them in the first place. Give them the freedom to do a task the way they think is right. Focus on the result.
Of course, that doesn’t mean to let them do whatever they want to. Consultations, reviews and feedback rounds are essential. But don’t go too crazy about checking every single detail and tell them exactly what they should do.
10. Reward Good Work
Everyone loves to be rewarded when they did well. You are more likely to stay with a company that appreciates your hard work. Since remote workers often have many other job opportunities, you need to make sure that they are happy working with you.
So just as you would do with any on-site worker, reward their contribution. That could be special bonus payments or you agree on certain targets and reward once these are reached or maybe you come up with an offline gift to thank them for their hard work.
11. Use Neutral Communication
Working in a remote team often means working in a multicultural team, too. It can be hard to tell how different cultures react to a loud or slightly aggressive voice. Plus, on the phone or internet call it’s often even harder to tell what’s behind certain expressions.
Make sure to keep your tone as neutral as possible to avoid an unintended conflict. Don’t use sarcasm or irony as some might not understand it. Also be careful with criticism. Some cultures find it rude while others expect clear constructive criticism.
12. Use Simple Words
Having people from around the world also often results in language issues. Only because someone is fluent in English doesn’t mean he or she also understands every single technical term.
Moreover, some terms have several meanings which makes a translation harder and can cause misunderstandings. Try to use simple words and explain certain tasks or situations in detail to avoid any issues.
13. Manage Projects Professionally
These are very much normal project management methods. However, they are even more important when it comes to remote work because you are missing out on all the small checkups in person and interpersonal communication.
Create clear action items: Who has what to do until when? Write them down and distribute them to your team members.Project management programs like Asana will help you.
Also keep track of the process of these tasks. Is everyone still on schedule? Do you need to adjust your plan or support anyone?
14. Select Communication Channels
Thanks to technology there are literally hundreds of different apps and ways to run a remote team. That is great! On the other side, you shouldn’t try to use all of them.
I’ve seen companies, where not only every single team uses its own channels, but also people within that team preferred different technologies. Every day you had to open about 15 apps and try to remember who likes to uses which one. Super chaotic!
Test and pick the ones that work best for your team. If you decide that the main written communication should be via email, Skype and Slack, communicate this!
15. Careful Email Management
I personally love emails over calls. Simply because I have it all written down and can take my time answering. But it is important to not overdo it. Don’t encourage your remote workers to send out an email to the entire team because of a marginal issue or because of a super complex topic.
Some issues are better clarified via phone. Calling saves a lot of time sometimes.
Also, bear in mind that reading and replying to emails immediately will reduce your productivity since you always need a few minutes to get into the topic of the email and then back to the task you were doing.
I prefer to set times during the day when I reply. I quickly skim the header and if it’s nothing super urgent, it will have to wait until noon or the evening, when I sit down and work through them. My team knows that not answering them immediately isn’t because I don’t like them but because that’s the way I do it with everyone in order to stay more productive.
16. Schedule Regular Meetings
Very important when it comes to running remote teams. Scheduling meetings is even more important when you don’t see each other every day in the office.
You could have one per week with the core team to talk about the tasks of the upcoming days. And one big meeting once per month with the entire team where you talk about the achievements, learnings and new plans.
To keep the transparency up and the information flowing make sure everyone attends these meetings, write minutes and distributes them afterwards.
17. Consider Video Calls
According to statistics by IMCCA, around 90% of questioned remote workers feel more connected to their team members through video calls.
So if there is no chance to meet in person, video conferences are a great way for everyone to meet face to face and to feel the team spirit. When possible, try to implement video calls and conferences to strengthen the social relationship.
18. Plan Offline Meetings
Are your team members based in the same region? That’s great! That gives you the chance to schedule live meetings every once in a while so everyone can meet in person. This is a welcoming exchange and it is always nice to talk to someone directly and see what that person in like in “real life”.
If your team is spread across the world, it makes it more difficult. But if you have the budget, an offline event or retreat can do wonders to the team atmosphere. You could fly your team to a nice location and spend the day or a few days together with both private and business happenings, like team building games, introduction rounds or a talk about the company’s mission, goals and past achievements.
19. Use Remote Work Tools
Again, there are some fantastic tools and apps out there that make managing a remote team a lot easier.
Just think of project management apps like Trello or Asana. File management tools like Google Drive or Dropbox or communication programs like Skype or Slack. And, of course, apps to stay organized like LastPass to save passwords, World Time Buddy to see in what time zone your team members are in, or NordVPN to protect your data when using public WIFI.
If you are looking for time management tools, check out Time Doctor. This app will help you and your team keep track of your daily tasks and increase your focus and productivity.
If you want to find more helpful tools and apps for remote workers, check out the linked post.
20. Provide Offline Tools
This tip depends on your budget again but if you have the resources, it’s always nice when a remote employer or long-term client pays for, refund or lend offline tools and devices you need.
That can be smaller items like a decent headset or a mouse, or more expensive things like a laptop, a laptop stand with an external keyboard or a standing desk. You could also be a bit creative and pay for things like regular massage appointments to avoid a stiff neck.
These kind of goodies make your employees happy and can also keep them healthy.
21. Upskill Your Team
Don’t forget to provide opportunities for your team members to upskill. This can be any advanced training or maybe even a part-time degree. Or you give them free access to online course platforms where they can learn whatever they think is useful to do their job.
Of course, you will also profit from the new skills your employees and freelancers have. Plus, they are happy they got the chance to learn something new. Win-win.
Run Your Remote Team Like A Pro!
As you can see, there are many things you can do to manage a team of remote workers. While some are very similar to the methods you would use with an on-site team, others are very remote specific. You need to pay close attention to these if you want your distributed team to be successful and productive.
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