A remote team is a group of professionals working on a single project from different time zones, with different skills and cultures. Each team member works from a different location, in different cities, and across time and space. Managing a remote team is a difficult task. Read more to know about 10 best practices for managing your remote team effectively.
When you say the word ‘work’ or ‘office’, people immediately imagine employees garbed in professional attire sitting in cubicles or at an office desk. However, the times have quickly evolved and the global pandemic has brought to light the many advantages and benefits (i.e. reduced operation costs and access to top talent from around the world) of working in distributed teams.
That being said, managing a distributed team can be quite challenging given the distributed locations of your team members, the remote nature of the work, and even cultural working differences. It will take time, patience, maybe some trial and error, and lots of practice before you can get into the groove of things. But if you’re looking for a few tips on how to start, here are some best practices to help you manage your distributed team efficiently.
Remote work best practices
1. Hire the right people
Believe it or not, managing your team begins during the hiring process. Hiring talent from across the globe can be trickier than hiring someone from within your area as the opportunities for physical interaction are scarcer. Set up a video interview with your potential employees to have a bit of human interaction. You can also ask for some sample works, check their references, and even do a background check to see if the person is reliable and trustworthy.
Besides being someone you can trust, you also have to make sure that the person is self-motivated enough to work remotely and is a good fit for your company. As dataPlor CEO Geoffrey Michener says about the hiring process, “[it] requires a delicate balance of experience and cultural fit.”
Once you choose your new employee, another crucial part of management is the onboarding process. In a traditional work environment, new hires learn the ropes by observing their other colleagues and asking questions and receiving answers from the people around them. While this will prove to be a challenge for distributed teams, other ways they can onboarded are by providing thorough training materials, having a video meet and greet, and even assigning a mentor to help the new employee out.
2. Set clear and realistic expectations
Communication is essential to a team’s success. However, distributed teams can encounter obstacles such as language barriers, cultural barriers, etc. While simple misunderstandings can happen in an everyday physical office, remote teams with employees that are thousands of miles away from each other, are more susceptible to this.
To prevent misunderstanding and miscommunication, it’s always best to set clear and realistic expectations. Whether it’s deadlines, deliverables, comments, goals, KPIs, etc., try to note them down in an easily accessible document or platform so that everyone in your team can understand and see what they are doing and in charge of.
3. Hold structured daily and/or weekly meetings
It’s easy to feel isolated when you’re not surrounded physically by teammates, and when you don’t have the opportunity to meet or bond with them face to face. To help combat this, set up structured daily and/or weekly meetings within your team.
You can have a daily one-on-one meeting for half an hour to go over the day’s tasks and deliverables, and have a weekly meeting with the whole team to catch up on what’s happening in the company. You can always adjust the frequency of your meetings to meet your team’s needs.
Another key thing to point out is that these meetings must have structure. No one wants to join a meeting where they have no idea what’s going on, or worse, don’t even need to be there. Have a clear agenda before each meeting and a notetaker on hand to take the minutes of the meeting to make sure everyone’s time is accounted for.
4. Respect time boundaries
One other unique facet to factor in when it comes to distributed teams is time. If your employees are spread throughout the globe, finding a common time to meet can be quite challenging. If they work in a time zone that is opposite from yours, set clear expectations of your working timetable before you hire them. Are they okay with possibly working a night shift? Will they be available on call during certain hours? Once you have set those expectations, make sure to respect their time and stick to your given timetable.
There’s no way around it. Some sacrifices will have to be made by the team. There will be team members who will have to start earlier or stay up later, but as long as everyone understands and agrees to this, and as long as you try to accommodate and be respectful of everyone’s time, everything should go smoothly.
5. Take advantage of technology
Nobody, whether you work in a physical office together or a remote team, likes inefficiency. Why suffer longer processes when they can easily and efficiently be managed with technology? Finding the right tools and software is key here. Whether it’s productivity tools, team or project management tools, collaboration software, or video software, there is a myriad of tools and software available for you. You can even get recommendations from your employees on software they have used in the past and which tools they prefer.
6. Have a multi-channel communication environment
We’ll say it now: You cannot rely purely on email when managing a distributed team. Consider messaging apps like Slack, Microsoft Teams or Workplace by Facebook for faster communication. You can also check out project management tools like Asana, monday.com, or ClickUp to keep your team organized. You can even create a WhatsApp team chat or a Zoom conference room to initiate calls between team members. To help lend some structure and organization to your communications, you can set rules for which types of communication go on which platform.
7. Encourage video interaction
It can get quite monotonous and dull to be staring at your screen for eight hours a day. Now, imagine talking to your computer screen with nothing but a black space staring back at you. Not exactly appealing, right? Seeing people’s faces – even on screen – will be a refreshing sight for tired eyes. Make it a habit and practice for your team to enable their videos during meetings. Even if they aren’t speaking, it’s always nice to see someone else on screen. It definitely adds a more human element to your interactions and may lead to more meaningful and engaging conversations within the team.
8. Don't be afraid to overcommunicate
It’s better to be safe than sorry. Misunderstanding and miscommunication can happen at any time, and while this can be helped by setting clear and realistic expectations, don’t be afraid to overcommunicate. Overcommunication doesn’t mean using a lot of words to get your point across. It simply means being as clear and precise in your wording as possible. Distance and even cultural differences can make it difficult for employees to understand what you’re saying, so the clearer you are the better.
9. Create a unique team culture
Another challenge when it comes to distributed teams is having that sense of team camaraderie. How do you create a team culture when your employees are scattered around the world and can’t physically meet each other? The answer: persistence and technology. It’s not going to be easy to get people to bond virtually, but that doesn’t mean it’s not possible.
Get your creative juices on and organize virtual online game nights with online game platforms. You can also set a time to have a team lunch or team drinks where you let your hair down, chat about your lives (not work!), and get to know each other better. You can even book an online experience for the whole team via Airbnb for something different too. There are so many resources online for fun ways to bond, it just takes a bit of research and execution.
10. Provide resources and incentives
Getting your employees motivated may be tougher for distributed teams, which is why it’s a good idea to provide them with the necessary resources – such as company manuals, training, and online tutorials – and incentives. If they don’t have access to a stable internet or a good computer, you can provide these benefits for them. If they have difficulty focusing at home, you can provide them with a monthly plan to a co-working space.
Other incentives you can provide are health insurance, vacation leaves and sick leaves, and perhaps even a transportation allowance if they want to work in a coffee shop or are meeting with clients. It’s also best to make sure you are complying with all the local labor laws to save your employee and yourself from risks in the future.
Paying your remote team on time and reliably helps you develop a good image and recruit better employees.
You can use Professional Employer Organizations (PEOs) like Multiplier to help get your employee set up and ensure that your employee is well taken care of and that they get the benefits that they deserve.
An Employer of Record (EOR) enables the company to hire legitimate, full-time employees in a foreign country, state, or province.
The EOR bears the responsibility of local legal obligations to ensure that the client company may hire local staff.
At the end of the day, managing a distributed team can be quite the challenge. However, with persistence, patience, and a few best practices, you may very well see a successful and flourishing distributed team working effectively for the benefit of your company.