How to manage a remote team

Teams are the lifeblood of every organization. But, as we step into the next decade, teams are evolving into something new.

Remote work is on the rise, as is has been for years. It’s intimidating from the outside looking in, but remote teams are the key to success in the future. Now is the time to get on the boat and learn how to work with remote team members. 

Remote teams are growing in popularity 

In the US, remote work is proving to be a lasting, growing trend. Between 2005 and 2017, the number of remote workers in the US increased by 159%. This statistic is only referring to telecommuters as does not include fully self-employed people, which makes it all the more impressive! 

Whether your office has remote teams yet or not, it’s likely going to in the future. Many employees today are looking for greater flexibility in the workplace, and they won’t all settle for jobs that require full attendance. 

Don’t let the trend towards remote work and flexibility get framed as a bad thing! There are a lot of good things that come along with the changes. 

Three benefits of working with remote teams 

As work shifts outside of the traditional office, the benefits of remote working teams become more apparent. There are benefits for the employees themselves, but here we’re focusing on the benefits for you as a manager.

1) You have more access to talent 

Research by the International Workplace Group in early 2019 showed that flexible work is considered to be the new normal. In their annual workplace survey, 80% of respondents stated that they would prefer a job with flexible hours, and 30% stated they value the ability to choose where they work more than increased vacation time. 

To attract top talent workers in today’s marketplace, flexible work is a must. Workers don’t necessarily need to work off-site every day, but they prefer the ability to choose where they want to work. This makes remote working teams very attractive for many new, highly capable workers. 

Allowing remote work also means you’re not geographically limited in your talent pool. You can hire the right person for the job, no matter where they’re located. 

2) It makes performance-based work easier

Remote workers tend to operate on a performance-based system rather than a presence-based system. As long as they’re meeting their goals and showing up when required, it doesn’t matter how many hours they put in or where they work from.

This is as opposed to presence-based system that requires you to be in the office for a certain number of hours every day. 

Hourly requirements don’t always bring results. Being in the office won’t always lead to the desired progress and can sometimes be a drain on productivity. If employees can keep up with their goals and keep giving great performance, they should be able to work from the places they feel most productive and comfortable. 

3) You’ll improve your employee morale

Employees with more choice in their work tend to have better morale overall. They feel less stressed, have a better work-life balance, and use fewer sick days when compared to employees who are working in the office full-time.

On the flipside, this can present a challenge for managers because remote employees may also feel left out and far away from company leadership. 

How managing a remote team is different 

People are still people, whether they’re working remotely or they’re sitting next to you in the office. The fundamentals of good management still apply. Dealing with remote working is only different because you have to work out team dynamics and stay organized without the benefit of being able to drop in on people at any time. 

Your job changes only because you have to remember to keep your team at the top of your mind. It’s easy to forget or lose track of what people are doing since they’re not in your line of sight on a daily basis. The biggest challenge of managing a remote team is being more deliberate about team organization

How to successfully manage remote teams 

What’s the trick to managing remote teams well? Here are three things you need to focus on.

1) Communication 

There are two parts to good communication with remote teams. The first part is that you need to communicate the right information. This means setting yourself up for success by communicating your expectations from the start. Let all your remote team know what you want them to do and how you expect them to perform for you. If they’re meeting those expectations or if they’re falling short, they should know. 

The other area of communication is setting up efficient channels between team members. Remote should feel local. Encourage conversation between team members, using group chats, VoIP video conferencing, or any other effective method. With remote work teams, you need to encourage work communication as well as personal chats and “water cooler” moments with your team. 

2) Connection

Foster a strong connection between remote workers and the company at large. Let your team know they’re part of fulfilling the company mission and are a valued part of the organization.

It’s easy for local employees to look at remote workers as the lesser performers and for remote workers to feel separate from the company culture and values. 

3) Cooperation 

Dealing with any number of remote workers, it’s vitally important to use a tool that keeps you up to date on every project. You can’t do a collaborative project without knowing what someone else is working on and the progress that’s been made. 

Many VoIP services can be integrated with productivity tools to give you a good selection of features you may need. Mixing your VoIP software with a project management or productivity tool helps you do everything on the same platform, making it easier to collaborate efficiently. Less time training, more time doing. 

Learn how to get the best out of your remote working team, because it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to avoid remote workers for long. Flexible jobs are increasing and it’s time to adapt to a new management style to compensate for it. 

Photo by The New York Public Library