Managing remote teams

In today’s business landscape, the 9 to 5 office grind is going the way of the rotary phone and fax machine. It’s no longer standard to expect employees to work five days a week from the office. Companies ranging in size and maturity from start-ups to industry titans are increasingly embracing remote and hybrid working models. 

Team members may be expected to come into the office on a regular basis, such as once a week or month, while some employees might be located in a different state (or country!) and will never meet their manager or colleagues in person.

Leading your remote team when your employees could be located in geographically disparate areas, with minimal face-to-face interaction, requires a different set of skills than is needed for in-person management.

How to be an excellent remote manager

Giving your employees the flexibility and space they need, yet remaining approachable and on top of their progress, is a major part of being an effective remote manager that delivers results and is well-liked by your team.

Even though you won’t be interacting with your employees face-to-face on a daily basis, you can still regularly be in touch with them, monitor their activity, and ensure that they have everything they need to do their jobs well.

Stellar remote managing starts with an understanding of each employee’s individual work style, strengths, and areas where they could improve while setting clear expectations around performance and availability.

Pros and cons of remote management

Managing remote employees is a relatively recent development in the workplace, and it comes along with both benefits and challenges.

Pros

A very significant advantage of managing virtual teams is that leaders can hire the best people for the job, regardless of their physical location. If an Austin, Texas-based business is in need of an awesome graphic designer, they can recruit the best candidate – even if that person lives in Palo Alto, California. With a little wiggle room around time zone differences, companies can enjoy access to a wider pool of potential employees, with geographic restrictions no longer an issue.

Cons

Although there are numerous positive aspects to hybrid working, the challenges of managing remote employees are very real. Some managers struggle with the lack of visibility that comes with being unable to interact face-to-face with employees. this could result in poor communication. both on personal and professional levels.

Pros

One of the biggest advantages of leading remote teams is that the manager doesn’t have to physically be present in the office in order to check in on employees and projects. Thanks to lightning-fast instant messaging programs and video conferencing software, a manager can get a swift update about exactly which tasks an employee is working on at any given moment.

Cons

Teams might feel disconnected, siloed, and less motivated to collaborate with each other, due to the lack of in-person connection. Managers may struggle to find ways to effectively track and monitor employee performance and contend with conflicting time differences, and communication nuances that are clearly understood in person may end up slipping through the cracks over text and virtual conversations.

How to hire remote workers

Finding the right people for your team when you aren’t meeting them in person can feel challenging. However, there are a number of effective strategies you can leverage to hire remote workers who will be a good fit with your existing team and who provide value to your organization.

Establish a specific and clear job description

When looking for a remote worker to fulfill a specific position at your organization, it’s crucial to be as clear and straightforward as possible in your job description for the role. Don’t be shy about highlighting precisely what you’re looking for, and if you’re worried about weeding out too many potential candidates, you can break up the description into requirements and preferred qualification sections. List the responsibilities of the job and the skills that a successful candidate will possess, along with any required levels of educational attainment or previous experience in a similar role or industry.

Leverage social media and networking sites

Depending on the role that you’re seeking to fill, social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram can be a helpful place to locate potential candidates. For example, many graphic designers, video editors, and others who work in creative positions post their finished products to their social media accounts. You can get an overall idea of what’s out there, from trends in the industry to the overall quality of available candidates, from scanning social media and career-focused sites such as LinkedIn.

Seriously weigh references and word-of-mouth recommendations

Before publicly posting your job opening, you may consider asking current members of your organization if they have any recommended candidates. Similarly, if you’re on good terms with your counterparts at other companies in your space, if they have anyone in mind who could be a good fit for your position. While you still need to thoroughly screen all candidates, reaching out to a person who comes recommended by an industry colleague or employee within your business can be an excellent starting point.

Give candidates a practical, skills-based test

After the initial interview process, you should put your potential new team member’s abilities to the test with an assignment that sees them complete a task that will be part of their everyday job. Consider consulting with your team and letting them view the assignment or contribute to its development so that the candidate who’s hired will provide the right skills and benefits to your existing employees. Be sure to check legal requirements in your area around compensation for the assignment, as some jurisdictions mandate that applicants be paid for the time they spend completing the tasks.

4 tips for onboarding remote workers

While often overlooked in the excitement of filling an open position, the onboarding process is a critical factor for the integration and long-term success of a new employee within your organization. 

Onboarding is the first impression that a team member will experience of your company’s internal operations, so it’s important that you set the right tone and make them feel welcome, as well as demonstrate that your company is organized and well-run.

Take care of practical and logistical concerns in advance

One of the main goals of onboarding is to ensure that your new employee has all the tools they need for success from day one. That means taking steps before their first day so that there’s no confusion or time wasted once the employee is officially on your team. Having them wait around until they’re provided with the resources they need for their job is unacceptable.

Make sure that your onboarding plan’s timing ensures that your employee has a company email address ready to go, a laptop shipped to their home in advance, and that they have permissions and access to the applications they’ll be using, on their first day. This is critical for saving time and resources and demonstrating competence on behalf of your organization to the new team member. 

Introduce the new employee to the existing team

The addition of a new person to your team warrants more than an email announcement – you should schedule a Zoom meeting where everyone can meet (virtually) face-to-face. During the call, introduce your new employee to everyone they’ll be in contact with as part of their role. You may even consider organizing one-on-one introduction sessions with their counterparts in other departments.

Offer tutorials and practical training sessions

Your new employee could be unfamiliar with everything from how your company’s internal systems operate to applications that will be an essential part of their everyday workflow. Providing your new team member with practical training sessions and tutorials that teach them how to use your company’s programs is key to helping them get up to speed. These resources will also show your employee that your organization is dedicated to their success.

Regularly touch base and offer praise

Checking in with your new team member within the first few weeks of their onboarding is critical for detecting potential problems before they happen and making your employee feel seen and heard. During these sessions, you should proactively ask their employee about their onboarding experience and inquire as to whether there is any additional support you can offer them. Listen to your employee’s feedback on the process, and be sure to compliment them on milestones such as finishing their training sessions.

Watch this thorough video tutorial on remote management: The 21 Rules for Managing Remote Teams

Video by running remote

12 tips for effective remote teams management

Remote managing requires a different skill set than is needed for managing teams in person. 

Here are 12 remote teams’ best practices that can help you lead your team in an effective, results-oriented, and people-first way.

1. Optimize and streamline your onboarding

Introducing new employees to your team and providing them with the equipment, access, and technical support they need to do their jobs is a critical part of managing hybrid teams. As we mentioned earlier, ensuring that your onboarding process is smooth and hassle-free is important for both building trust with your new employee and ensuring that their time and manpower hours are used as efficiently as possible.

2. Regularly check in with employees

Without the ability to approach your team members in person by simply knocking on their office doors, you need to take proactive measures to make sure that your employees are doing well, working efficiently, and have the resources and tools they need to succeed. You should schedule one-on-one meetings on an ongoing basis, during which you ask them questions about their recent projects and if you can offer them support if need be.

3. Encourage collaboration and partnership

Your people are your strongest asset, and making sure that they feel comfortable to reach out to each other with questions and can collaboratively work on projects is extremely important for your department’s efficiency and performance. Be sure to publicly highlight individual employees’ skills and areas of expertise in group meetings, so that team members can understand which colleague to turn to when they have a query about a particular aspect of a project or system.

4. Provide your remote team with resources for success

Each of your employees has their individual strengths, solid skill sets, and areas in which there is room for improvement. Make sure that all your team members have access to resources and assets, like tutorials, training programs, and ongoing education, that can help them develop new skills and improve their performance in areas where they need additional support.

5. Set clear expectations for employee availability

Managing remote teams’ best practices will vary by individual company culture and industry, but establishing straightforward guidelines around what you expect from your team is fundamental. Perhaps your company doesn’t run on a strict 9 am to 5 pm schedule, but you expect your employees to be available for eight solid hours each day. 

Maybe signing off in the afternoon to pick up kids from school and cook dinner, then signing on later in the evening and resuming their work tasks, is acceptable within your organization. If that’s the case, make that clear. Don’t force your employees into a situation where they’re playing a guessing game about what times they need to be available.

6. Prioritize communication and accountability

An open line of communication with your employees can make the difference between a potential crisis and a challenge that can be solved before it spirals out of control. Be the kind of manager that your team members can approach if they’re struggling with a project or unsure if they’ll meet a deadline – be sure your responses are solutions-oriented, rather than judgemental or punitive.

7. Transparency and trust are critical

Be straightforward with your team about your expectations for their performance, as well as shifts throughout your industry and upcoming changes within the business. Create a culture of transparency and trust, in which you treat your team members as respected colleagues rather than subordinates, and your employees are likely to reward you with better communication and feel motivated to perform according to your expectations.

8. Utilize team-building activities

Even if your team members are located in geographically disparate areas, you can still use team-building activities to foster a stronger bond between colleagues. Whether it’s a Zoom session celebrating a team member’s birthday or a once-a-month in-person lunch for your department, bonding activities are a strategic asset for powerful remote managing.

9. Offer periodic, personalized feedback

Don’t keep employees in the dark when it comes to their performances, and whether they’re meeting your expectations. Whether an employee is bringing stellar results to your team or they’re struggling to reach targets, you should take initiative and give them solid feedback on how they’re doing. There’s no need to wait for quarterly or biannual performance reviews – if you are either concerned about an employee’s performance or feel they’re in need of praise, schedule a meeting with them and let them know how they’re doing on a regular basis.

10. Leverage technology 

There are a number of tech solutions on the market that are specifically geared towards remote managing, and these programs can help make your life easier. From workplace-focused instant messaging applications to project management software and even email signature management. the collaboration between teams and managers plus visibility improvements ie: Email signatures into performance and daily workflows, can be made much simpler. Your managing remote workers toolkit should include standard tech solutions used by your industry and general tools for bringing your team together and viewing their activity in a single source of truth.

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11. Mentor and guide your employees

Rather than thinking of your role as a manager as primarily based on being a taskmaster and authority figure, you should imagine your relationship with your employees as similar to a teacher or coach. You can provide extremely important guidance and mentor to your team members on the best ways to do their jobs and move ahead in your company, as well as counsel them on how they can continue developing and thriving in their chosen career paths.

Establishing yourself as an experienced guide who is interested in seeing your employees perform to the best of their abilities, and offering them resources, assets, and tips to make that happen, will instill a sense of loyalty within your team and likely boost their overall performance.

12. Stay mission and outcome-focused

One of the reasons why your remote team loves working outside of the traditional office environment is the freedom and flexibility to work in the way that’s the best fit for their personalities. An essential part of managing teams remotely means acknowledging this reality and accepting that the outcomes and fulfillment of your department’s mission are more important than the minutiae of how things get accomplished.

Generally speaking, micro-management isn’t a wise strategy for leading employees, and because this management style is far less feasible in a remote setting, you should shift your mentality to embracing and celebrating results – even if the process to get them isn’t 100% aligned with your personal preferences.

remote management pros and cons

Managing remote workers the right way: mission critical for success

In today’s landscape where hybrid working and remote working are par for the course, managers have to learn and adopt a new set of skills for guiding and leading employees who are not physically located in the office.

From establishing clear expectations around employee availability, leveraging tech solutions for collaboration and visibility into workflows, and regularly scheduled check-ins, there are practical techniques that leaders can use for managing remotely in an effective, smart way.

It’s clear that remote working is here to stay, and leaders must adjust their management styles to fit this reality. With the right approach, a suite of tools and technology, and planning, you can manage remotely to benefit your employees, department, and company.