Managing a remote team is anything but easy. There are a lot of factors that need to be taken into consideration when dealing with remote teams. Such as the distance between everyone, having to schedule meetings, always remaining in touch, or ensuring everyone gets their work in on the due date. Keeping up with each other can become difficult, and when you do manage to get together, stringing some sentences together can be challenging. While the time zones may be different, it can feel like you are years apart.

COVID-19 has resulted in more companies having to work remotely, with a quarter of them of the workforce already working from home. Team managers are already accumulating all sorts of valuable tips that can help upcoming remote team managers instill the best practices in their own teams.

For this article, we are going to go over some of the best tips on managing remote teams, all provided by established remote team managers.

Team-building exercises

team building

Remote working can become a really lonely thing to do for most people. Some people need that feeling of being surrounded by a team of individuals who can assist them in times of need. In some cases, workers will feel like they have become misaligned with the rest of the team, which can cause all sorts of problems to pop up over time.

Without the rapport you would expect from everyday interaction at the office space, remote teams can become disjointed and nonfunctional. According to this study, over 97% of executives and employees believe that the lack of alignment impacts the work overall.

Fortunately, there are ways around this issue, and that is by having your team go through a couple of team-building exercises every once in a while.

Tasia Duske from Museum Hack had this to say on this matter:

“A simple way to make remote work more fun is to incorporate virtual team building activities.”

“For example, you can do Spreadsheet Pixel Art competitions, which is a free game you can play by coloring in cells on Google Sheets. Another example of an online game you can play is Werewolf, which is kind of a simplified and rapid “murder mystery” game.”

“When you make time for fun, your people will respond positively.”

There are several ways you and your team can conduct team exercises with one another, and most of them do not require too much of everyone's time. Online games are an excellent way for everyone to get together and learn more about each other. These team-building exercises will ensure everyone develops a rapport with one another and leads to a team that cohesively works smoothly together.

Conducting these team exercises daily will ensure that your team members are not feeling like they are contributing less or that because they are out of sight, they are out of mind. To implement some team-building exercises that will have everyone feel as they are still part of a team.

Video chat often with your team members

Remaining in touch with your team members is a crucial part of remote working. As a remote manager, you want to make sure everyone remains up to date with any projects or important matters that impact the overall business. Of course, these regular chats do not always have to be about work; it can be about any other subject at hand. The important thing is that you are periodically communicating with each other as often as possible.

However, some experts believe that you should not heavily rely on email or messenger apps to keep in touch with your teams. Preferably, you should be relying on video calls to communicate with your team on a daily basis.

Pete Sosnowski from Zety’s had this to say on this particular subject.

“When discussing deeper or more nuanced topics, use phone and video conferencing to go into pertinent details. Things get lost in translation over text IMs so jump on the call or better yet a screen share to explain more intricate matters.”

“You’ll actually save everyone’s time and frustration, while your workers gain clarity on the next steps,” Sosnowski further explains.

Video chat allows you to communicate and connect with your team on a more human level. By using video chat, you will be able to see nuances that are incapable of appearing in written texts. Communicating through video chat also ensures your company culture manages to remain intact and helps everyone feel connected with each other. It can be difficult for most people to feel like they are part of a team if they are not speaking to each other face-to-face.

Fortunately, there are tons of software solutions out that can help you with video chatting. Zoom has become one of the more popular ones around for most remote workers. So make sure to use video chat whenever possible for either work or casual discussion.

Regularly schedule one-on-one talks

One thing remote team managers will learn when it comes to remote working is that one-on-one talks are crucial because remote requires a higher level of accountability. One of the first things remote managers need to do is check up on their team by consistently reaching out to them for solo chats.

Remote managers can pull this off by setting up a  regular cadence and sticking to it. They should also ask team members to write down the plan when using a shared document and prep for an open-ended question you can ask to uncover problems you can help deal with or to offer more clarification on a project.

Charlène Guicheron of Kreezalid states, “During these calls, you go through tasks and goals. In between the calls, you give people the freedom to execute their tasks without having to constantly be in touch with you.”

“This way, you give them true ownership of their tasks and you show them you trust them while having a clear system for reporting back.”

Devise a rotating list of team members to check up on them virtually. The process doesn’t need to be over-complicated. Merely sending them a message asking how they are holding up can be enough. Sending them a link to something like a song you think they would enjoy or even scheduling virtual coffee meetings can help.

These personal check-ins will mean a lot for not only your employees but yourself as well. It shows that you care about your team and want to make the best of the current situation you both are in. It is up to you as the team manager to provide the chance for a one on one conversation with each of your remote workers. Do not leave it up to them, it is one of your duties to remain in contact with them individually, not just through group meetings.

Discuss other topics besides work

Communication is critical when it comes to running a team of workers, especially when they are remote workers. Checking up on how everyone is doing, what’s on their agenda, and how their day is going so far are all ideal. Even a simple greeting has become a critical part of remote working.  

Remote team managers need to foster a culture of communication among their teams. Having them talk to each other is crucial to ensure the team can become a cohesive workforce. It also allows them to get to know each other better and rely on each other whenever they need help with something.

Encouraging everyone to talk to each other, even for a few minutes about random topics, will allow them to bond over mutual interests. Allowing them at least 30 minutes a day to get to another through video chat will cause trust to develop and foster productivity and collaboration.

As Makensie Thompson from Famoid says, “Make sure you keep the communication going. Just because you aren’t working in an office, it doesn’t mean you should be quiet.”

These casual chats could be done effortlessly by taking the first couple of minutes of a weekly team meeting to casually discuss something or play a game. Conducting a monthly remote happy hour is also an excellent way to have your team connect. If you are incapable of connecting with your team as real people, you are going to experience a challenging time managing them.

Understanding differences

Remote teams are usually spread across different time zones. Every one of them will be dealing with something different, whether it is different tech setups, diverse communication manners, and varying degrees of comfort for visibility. Some of these workers will thrive while working from home, while others will struggle their way trying to figure it out.

As a team manager, you need to understand their differences and respect what they are going through. You need to recognize their attempts at contributing to the team and try not to make unreasonable demands from them.

Asking them to remain online at all times is not possible for them, especially if they have other obligations to deal with. Rewarding people for responding first or immediately volunteering for anything can also have a terrible impact. Try to maintain a balance and consider the long term.

Erin Balsa from The Predictive Index had this to say: “A general best practice for managers is to tailor the way you communicate, give feedback, reward, and coach individuals based on their behavioral needs and preferences.”

“Right now with social distancing mandates in place, understanding your people is extra important. “

Rely on collaboration tools

Since communication is one of the most significant aspects of successfully managing a remote team, companies must implement a communication collaboration tool for their internal communication.

These tools permit teams and individuals to remain connected and benefit from features like text, audio, video communication, screen sharing, and file transfers. These features will ensure your productivity and efficiency increase overall. Project management tools and cloud-based storage tools with real-time update capabilities for everyone involved helps mimic the in-person interaction of working on a task.

Andromeda Booth from Just after Midnight also states: “Use tools such as Sococo, Slack and Zoom or a simple traditional phone call to discuss ideas with other members of the team.”

“You can spend 2 hours stuck on a problem or solve it in 2 minutes after a quick chat with a colleague. You may be working from home, but you are still part of a team.”

There are tons of services out there like Google Docs that allow teams to collaborate on a document. It can be helpful since you can work alongside each other in real-time.

Create guidelines for responding to messages

A tricky business about working remotely is the fact that some things can become easily missed. It is not possible for everyone to casually chat in the break room or even walk across the room to ask questions. Projects can slow down if email messages are left unanswered.

It’s vital to have your team turn on their desktop notification for instant messengers and emails, plus they should make sure they have them enabled on their phones. They need to also be aware of the importance of promptly responding to these messages from coworkers.

Julia Tiedt from SmartBug Media says, “Ensure your team is clear as to what channels are used to communicate what and set expectations for when responses should be sent.”

It can become a real hassle to remain productive and finish any task on time when everyone is busy by tracking people for answers. During an office setting, the person can get their answer in-person by walking to their office.

In a remote setting, everyone on the team needs to make a conscious effort to increase communication efforts and become available. It Doesn’t matter how they remain in communication as long as they do, whether it through phone calls, emails, or chat channels.

Conclusion

There you have it, some excellent tips from remote team managers that have acquired some quality experience managing their remote workers. These tips will ensure you can remain on top of things as you continue to build your own remote teams. Make sure to consider everything and apply them appropriately to your unique situation.