Even if it weren’t for our current climate, it’d be a good idea for companies to consider making the transition to remote operations when possible. Right now, we have the tools and technology to not only create virtual workforces but to inspire and innovate through remote team working.
The amount of professionals that work remotely at least once a week has risen by 400% since 2010. And, 79% of remote employees state they’re more productive when they work from home.
Remote operations can also help to reduce organizational expenses due to overhead savings (e.g. office space rent and furnishings). As an example, Ctrip, a travel service provider, saved $1,900 per employee by allowing their workers to work from home. Remote operations also allowed Dell—a much larger entity—to save a whopping $12 million per year on real estate expenses alone.
Remote team management strategies
For businesses to realize the benefits of moving to remote operations, it’s important to first come up with a plan of attack.
As such, knowing how to create a motivated and cohesive team in a remote capacity isn’t a professional luxury; it’s essential.
Once acclimatized to their new situation, most people will find that they’re indeed more creative and productive. But, remote team management does present its challenges.
Technical issues, as well as potential communication barriers, can cause friction and stunt organizational progress. But, with the right approach and a little perseverance, you’ll make your remote team situation work for you.
To help you on your path to virtual team management success, we’re going to explore the strategies you should adopt.
1. Create a solid onboarding experience
Before you delve any deeper into your remote working journey, you should explore your onboarding process.
You likely have a general staff onboarding process, but as remote working is different from the traditional nine to five office model, you must guide your new recruits through the process.
Examine your existing processes and fill in any gaps by offering steps to success. For instance, you should assign people within your team to provide support to a new remote recruit, covering all bases, from hardware setup to internal systems, communicative processes, and beyond.
You should also provide educational materials that’ll help people troubleshoot issues as they arise, making these resources easily accessible online.
2. Hire the right talent
This is an important aspect of virtual team success, but it’s often overlooked: you should always hire doers.
When hiring new talent, it always pays to ask questions and put tasks in place that’ll showcase a candidate’s ability to self-motivate and remain productive when working remotely.
Questions around remote working experiences, in addition to practical tasks based on producing a piece of work within a specific timeframe will help you reach a suitable conclusion and hire people built for remote working success.
In virtual team situations, trust is essential. If you have any doubts about a potential candidate, chances are they’re not right for the job.
3. Celebrate cultural differences
One of the biggest advantages of having a remote workforce is that you can hire and retain talent from all over the world. And, that’s something to celebrate.
With this in mind, rather than making everyone conform to one set cultural blueprint, you should encourage your team to share their views and learn from one another. Doing so will create a stronger, more diverse, and far more innovative workforce.
To create cultural harmony from a distance, you could create weekly opportunities which give different team members a spotlight to share their knowledge and ideas as well as offer valuable information about their cultural values, both personal and professional.
4. Make time for team bonding
Just because your team is remote, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t bond. By investing time in team-building experiences, you‘ll create a genuine sense of community within your remote work team, which, in turn, will boost engagement and encourage collaboration.
Here are some remote working team bonding ideas for your inspiration:
- Set aside time to enjoy a social hour near the end of the working week with drinks, music, and a chance to talk about non-work stuff
- Arrange a weekly ‘sneak peek’ session, where a team member can give others a tour of their home
- Hold monthly team quizzes, with a different host and theme each time
- Create access to a centralized platform (for example, an intranet), where everyone in the team can share files, text, images, videos, and reward each other for a job well done
5. Set expectations and boundaries
With remote working comes a certain level of autonomy—and so it should. But, without a clearcut set of boundaries or expectations, productivity could suffer, and your workforce could descend into organized chaos.
With this in mind, one of the most fundamental aspects of remote team management is establishing guidelines from the very start.
These boundaries and guidelines could be:
- A minimum of active hours working per week
- Limits on flexi-time or flexible hours
- Clearcut project milestones or deadlines
- Meeting requirements
The point here is: make sure you create remote working guidelines that you’re comfortable with and stick with them. If you want to make tweaks or changes for improvement, do so, just keep your team in the loop.
While it may come across as suffocating in a physical office environment, overcommunicating can actually serve to enhance team working success in a remote situation.
Frequent group brainstorming sessions, one to one catchups, virtual company updates, and open communicative touchpoints (collaborative platforms and tools that people tap into at their leisure) will help your virtual team remain connected, maintain rapport, boost morale, and increase output in the process.
Studies show that many remote workers feel disconnected or isolated. So, if you want to make sure that your team is cohesive, overcommunicating is the way forward.
7. Manage time zones
If you have a diverse, dynamic team from all corners of the globe, chances are that they reside in different times zones.
To ensure complete remote team management success, you must always be mindful of everyone’s work-life balance.
At times, logging into a meeting at an inconvenient hour will be unavoidable. But to keep everyone happy and firing on all cylinders, you should check everyone’s time zone and set meetings, tasks, or schedules that work for everyone, not just some.
Remain mindful of everyone’s schedule, and you’ll avoid creating friction or inefficiencies within your team.
8. Create processes
In the same way, as you would in an office environment, you should look to create and standardize working processes to ensure everyone understands their role and how to approach different tasks in a virtual setting.
Here are some practical process ideas for your reference:
- Create a culture of accountability where everyone's required to update their team of the progress at the end of each week
- Hold weekly one-to-one meetings. It’s a chance to offer help and support while giving your team members a safe platform to voice ideas, concerns, or opinions
- Choose the right tools for the job and make sure everyone knows how to use them. For instance, provide training on a particular piece of project management software you use and the steps required to complete a job or task from start to finish
- Host regular virtual skill or knowledge sharing workshops with various members of your team to maintain a collaborative environment while upskilling your workforce
9. Automate what you can
Despite people believing that automation will steal their jobs, by omitting the need for your team members to perform mundane, repetitive tasks, you’ll help them thrive.
Automation can give your team more time to create, collaborate, and innovate.
The result? A remote team that’s exponentially more efficient and focused on the bigger picture rather than meaningless tasks.
Remote team management technology
Now that we’ve covered the strategies for remote team management success, it’s time to consider the tools at your disposal—starting with project management.
1. Project management tools
When you’re in charge of a remote work team, choosing the right project management tool is essential. Project management tools will enhance collaboration, keep communication open, and ensure everyone can work towards various milestones or deadlines.
Options like Trello, Basecamp, and Proof Hub allow you to break large projects down into individual goals and milestones. Furthermore, project management apps can help with collaboration by allowing everyone in the team to add comments, make suggestions, and share work in one central location.
2. Communication tools
At this point, you’ll no doubt understand the vital importance of communication when it comes to managing a remote team.
So, without further ado, here are the types of tools you should use to improve remote work communication:
Video conferencing tools
While Zoom is a popular choice, several other alternatives might be a better fit, such as
Find an internal messaging tool for on the fly conversations. Popular choices include:
3. Reward & recognition tools
If you want to ensure that employees are motivated and engaged, then it’s important to show employees that you appreciate them. One way to do that is to reward and recognize an employee’s individual achievement as well as team achievements.
Tools like Bonusly and Motivosity can help boost morale and bring everyone closer together in the process, regardless of geographical location.
4. Knowledge management
Knowledge really is power, especially when you’re managing a remote team. And with so much information flowing through your organization, it’s important to find ways to capture this and make it easily accessible as doing so enhances the ability of your team to communicate and collaborate.
You can use a tool like Helpjuice’s knowledge base software to help with knowledge capture and sharing by centralizing all your internal information. You can use Filestage to help with content review and proofing for teams. Hubspot’s CRM software can be used to make it easy to centralize all your customer data.
5. Training and professional development
Give your remote employees the ability to level up their on-the-job knowledge and skills to keep them engaged while also helping them grow.
You can use learning management software like GoSkills or LearnWorld as well as create training webinars with tools like Demio or ClickMeeting.
Remote team management is a challenging venture, but if you invest in the right strategies and tools, you’ll be rewarded.
As the digital age evolves, the way we connect, communicate, and, indeed, work will change exponentially—with more businesses migrating towards geographically diverse workforces.
Strike now, don’t get left behind.