10 Best Practices for Effectively Managing a Remote Team

Last Updated: 
January 17, 2023

Managing a remote workforce can be difficult. Feeling disconnected, communication challenges, and cultural variables can quickly complicate supervisory tasks. Fortunately, success is likely if you rely on proven management fundamentals like goal setting, time-sensitive meetings, and clear communication. Recognizing team members' individual and collective talents is also beneficial. Finally, be patient. 

Strong project teams and work groups evolve, but these ten best practices can accelerate the process!

1. Hire the right people

Successfully managing a remote team starts with an effective hiring process. In-person interviews are inefficient and expensive for global talent acquisition; Video meetings are the exact opposite. They're a highly cost and time-efficient way of interacting across the miles. Other digital tools like previewing work samples, verifying references, or conducting background checks online bridge the miles, too.  

Managing a remote team also includes delivering a successful onboarding experience. Remote employees lose the opportunity to learn company norms by observing and talking with coworkers. They miss out on the random conversations or instant problem-solving that can pop up when people work together on-site. Comprehensive training materials, online meet-and-greets, and pairing new hires with experienced team members can mitigate remote onboarding challenges.

2. Set clear and practical expectations

Inter- and intrateam communication is critical for success but not always easily achieved. Remote teams are more vulnerable to these challenges because cultural differences can create unintended misunderstandings or negativity. Plus, performance expectations and styles vary across all types of demographics. 

Set clear and practical expectations to minimize confusion or disruptive consequences. Then document this information, so employees and supervisors have equal access. Ensure all employees can easily view relevant product specifications, assignments, production goals, objectives, and KPIs. Everyone needs to know their role!

3. Clarify roles

Maintain transparency regarding team members' roles and responsibilities, especially for those contributing to or supporting multiple projects simultaneously. Consider posting organizational or team diagrams showing assignments and responsibilities. Maximizing organization and balancing workloads help distributed workers stay on task and connect with the other employees as necessary.

4. Over-Communicate Goals

Over-communicating objectives and tasks can empower and engage remote workers. Use simple and precise wording consistent with company buzzwords and industry terms. Transparency matters here, too. 

Choose a project management software so the team can view milestones, progress, and completed tasks. To build trust, consider results-based evaluations instead of monitoring hours logged in. Focusing on individual group contributions often facilitates the clear communication mentioned above. Team members often exceed minimum requirements when supervisors trust them to perform without reporting hours or daily tasks completed.

5. Provide bonding opportunities

Since in-person meetings are expensive and impractical for global teams, managers should encourage other ways to engage with one another. For example: 

  • Host virtual happy hours or birthday lunches
  • Promote work-friendly social media profiles
  • Organize online book clubs, gaming, recipe swaps, or movie nights
  • Support private chat groups for casual conversations about home, kids, pets, travel, etc.

6. Acknowledge time boundaries

Time differences present scheduling and communication challenges when dealing with multiple time zones across the U.S. or the world. As the person responsible for team output, maintaining appropriate time boundaries can be especially difficult for managers. Similarly, it isn't easy ensuring employees six or 12 hours ahead of you are working if you're sleeping. 

To minimize after-hour interruptions and maximize performance, set explicit expectations regarding work schedules during interviews. For example, ask if they can support the night shift or at specific times. Once you establish the boundaries, respect their time and adhere to the plan. Of course, at some point, various team members will need to start earlier or stay up late. For best results, be the manager who spreads these schedule changes fairly across the team and over time.

7. Schedule structured meetings

Some meetings are essential for communicating project status, resolving roadblocks, and defining goals for your remote team. However, bringing people together without a clear agenda or time limit reduces productivity and increases frustration. Remote and on-site teams function best when well-planned. 

Set the frequency and duration based on the job's nature and the team's demands. Daily meetings can accelerate team culture or build resentment if there's nothing new to discuss every day. If you notice participation in daily meetings dropping, consider weekly sessions instead. Empower your staff by establishing small weekly goals instead of blocking progress by pulling people away from work to check on progress.

Or, twice a week might fit your team and/or projects best. For example, connect on Monday mornings to prepare a sprint or set weekly goals, then again on Fridays to review sprint status. You can also create a weekly feedback loop to address team performance, the most challenging aspect of the week, and plans.

8. Give your team autonomy

The constant surveillance of your remote workforce can be exhausting. Depriving remote workers of flexibility and independence can backfire into lower productivity and higher turnover. 

Of course, you'll want to ask team members about roadblocks and how you can assist. Depending on the project's communication requirements, this could be once a day or twice a week. Avoid micromanaging--it typically leads to low employee confidence, decreased productivity, and dissatisfaction.

You can check in with other team members on various days to verify that no one is encountering a roadblock or in need of assistance. Depending on the project's communication requirements, this could be once a day or twice a week. Avoid micromanaging, leading to low employee confidence, decreased productivity, and work dissatisfaction.

9. Aim for an exceptional team culture

Establishing camaraderie is difficult with remote teams. Similar to #5 above, creating culture starts with opportunities to engage. However, an exceptional team culture goes beyond company-promoted socializing. A strong remote culture respects individuals, recognizes their unique skill sets, and encourages employees to engage with the management, not just each other.

Focus on Results

Some employers examine team activities regularly, track employee internet usage, remotely monitor employees, and supervise when employees are at their tables. More inventive organizations demand an end-of-day summary, task checklists, and trackers to determine whether their employees have completed the job. These employers recognize that productivity is tied to employee mood and that if they can perform their jobs at the end of the day, then that implies that the job is done.

Building and managing remote teams is challenging and potentially highly rewarding. Not micromanaging but checking in regularly is a balancing act. You want to build trust through independence while showing strong support with your consistent availability. 

Start with Worca. Choose our professional recruiting, onboarding, managing, and payroll to build your ideal teams. Expand your talent pool, realize higher productivity, increased employee retention, and significant cost savings by hiring globally.

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