How to Manage a Remote Team

May 17, 2021
Edward Bishop

Because of the global changes the world is undergoing, remote work has turned from a fashionable trend into a necessity. The need to introduce new guidelines and software tools for remote work has become a necessity for most companies, not only in the IT-sphere.

The approach to building corporate IT infrastructure is also changing. Implementing cloud desktops as your IT infrastructure is the easiest way to manage a remote team  There is a growing need for online hosting services.

Analyzing our personal experience and the experience of other managers, we can see that everyone’s vision of the remote team management processes is almost the same. Thus, the basic principles are applicable to different specialists: designers, managers, marketing specialists, etc.

How to ensure the effective work and stability of all systems of the company? We will share some tips and tools that will help you and your business to grow during the pandemic.

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Hire th right remote workers

Of course, the lion’s share of success working with a remote team depends on the members of this team. If you hire employees randomly or use the “like-everyone-else” approach, the following tips and tools will be of little use.

As our team’s experience shows, the search for remote employees for each particular company is an individual process (or an intimate one, if you wish). However, some entry points can be highlighted for everyone. For example:

  • Check aptitude to self-organize; 
  • Recruiting employees from different “sources” has its own nuances. Experience shows that candidates who come, say, from specialized job sites are different from those who “dwell” on freelance sites;
  • Interview in different ways. Simple texting or a test task may not be enough. At times, a face-to-face meeting or a couple of Zoom sessions will be required to see if a remote worker is a good fit for a particular job;
  • Provide as much information as possible so that your candidates could understand whether it’s their thing or not. Better waive” them at the initial stage than after hiring them.

Analyze the needs and capabilities of your company, and you will understand if you can find great employees. To do this, simply answer the following questions:

  • Do you see remote workers as “cheap labor”? If the answer is yes, you are unlikely to be able to attract savvy specialists;
  • Do you have a manager in your company for a remote team? No? Then you should find one first, then hire employees;
  • Are you familiar with CRM? Customer relationship management is a technology for managing all your company’s relationships and interactions with existing and potential customers. If this is something new to you, then first learn the basics and prepare yourself properly for working with a remote team.

All of this is just the tip of the iceberg – every case needs a special approach.

Remote work. Is it challenging?

There’s a challenge, yes, and it’s not just technical. Remote work organization consists of two parts. The first one is the guidelines and organization of the working process. The second one is relevant remote work software tools. The transition to a new model requires not only employee retraining but following new guidelines.

We will address both parts.

Tips for remote work

First, let’s say goodbye to a couple of myths that get in the way:

  • Myth one is that out-of-office employees are bound to slack off. Now, the reality is that if you set the right goals and explain how to work remotely in a new environment, your employees will be much more efficient. This is proven by thousands of companies that have switched to this mode in 2019 or earlier;
  • Myth two is that it’s impossible to organize remote processes without loss of efficiency. In fact, everything depends on the manager. Thus, even manufacturing companies can be largely transferred to a remote mode.

How do you manage a remote team, which can be scattered across different cities, states, or even countries? Let’s see.

Set clear rules and follow them

Remote work is not chaos. It requires self-discipline and conscientiousness from employees. However, self-discipline will manifest itself only if there are clear routines and rules. Think through work routines and rules of etiquette. Make sure that your employees know:

  • What is the timeline of their workday?
  • What means of communication does the team use?
  • How do you ensure effective dialogue during online meetings? What rules should be followed?
  • When can you send messages or make calls? Etc.

Also, the entire team should use a common service for setting and controlling tasks or CRM. Communicating only through personal correspondence and counting on your memory leads to chaos and loss of productivity. Inform your employees about upcoming tasks that each of them is personally responsible for. A remote team that knows its responsibilities will also improve relationships with clients, making client management much easier.

Create a communicating strategy

Let employees know about how often they should file reports (and their format), when general meetings and 1-on-1 meetings are held, etc. Establish guidelines for handling daily tasks. Employees should understand their priorities – this will increase productivity.

Design a process infographic, like this example below, that outlines key steps for employees to follow. Visualizing processes makes it easier for employees to follow and remember guidelines.

the creative design process

(Image Source)

Provide work tools

Make sure each team member has access to all work services they need. The list can be quite large:

  • Corporate email;
  • Document management system;
  • Cloud file storage;
  • Video conferencing service;
  • Work messenger;
  • Task scheduler;
  • CRM account,
  • Time management system. etc.

Don’t forget about integrations. Most of these services can be linked into a common system. Many operations can also be automated. This will save a lot of time.

Focus on company goals

When working remotely, you have to keep your company goals in mind. They must be clear, measurable, and limited in time. It doesn’t matter what the employee does or at what pace – if they (as well as the entire team) meet your company’s goals, you’re doing well. Consider what your clients expect from your company working remotely, and factor the necessary tools and changes in your goals.

Establish informal communication

Give employees an opportunity to talk outside of work. In the office, employees often gather around water dispensers or in smoking areas. Don’t try to get rid of such places when working online. It’s better to create a controlled “chatterbox” for off-the-job topics and jokes.

This will promote team-building regardless of distance. And when the lockdown and forced isolation is over, you can arrange an informal team meeting.

Set clear tasks

There’s always a risk that task accomplishing will turn into a long discussion. So don’t drag out correspondence and phone calls – prepare for conferences and online meetings in advance. Send all emails in the morning, including all the necessary information into one message. Utilize digital transformation to seamlessly connect with your remote team and your clients, plan the use of virtual meetings, project tracking, contactless technologies like QR codes with logos, better reporting for improving efficiency.

Absolute subjection. Do you really need it?

“Let the janitor choose his own broom,” – (c) Howard Behar, former president of Starbucks. You can expect the maximum impact from employees if you show the right direction to them and provide certain freedom in performing the task (even if it’s limited freedom).

There’s no need to force each remote worker to use Time Doctor and similar tools. Approach the question in a balanced way: if it’s hourly pay, then yes, this option can work fine. If you’re paying for a project, let the artist do their thing.

Conduct team rituals

This may seem obvious, but we can’t stress enough how important it is.

Having a team ritual – be it weekly meetings, monthly one-on-one meetings, or any other routine – is absolutely essential. They provide transparency, especially when discussing project statuses and/or progress in other ventures.

Time limit adherence is also crucial because no one is distracted, and everyone actively participates in the meeting. Of course, some meetings are more productive than others, but it’s important to stick to a ritual that keeps everyone on track.

Monitor efficiency

Monitor how each team member is performing. Collect feedback on why certain tasks are not completed on time and establish responsibilities for undone work.

Don’t equate remote employees with yourself.

Divide your efficiency by five and be happy. Consider the following tips:

  • Allow remote employees to work at their own convenience. Keep in mind that some people are owls, some are larks – some have the best efficiency in the morning, while others need to rock up until lunch or evening, consisting in exploring social networks, admiring cats, destroying enemy tanks, etc.;
  • Don’t forget about time differences. If your work team interact with each other, make sure they are aware of their colleagues’ work schedules;
  • Don’t split them into “insiders” and “outsiders.” There should be no gradation between employees working in the office and remotely. Trust us, if a person is lazy, he/she will find how to dodge scrutiny, both working remotely or in the office. It’s vice versa for truly effective employees;
  • Show permanence. If you constantly change requirements, new rules, requirements, and measure, sooner or later anyone will quit;
  • Stay in touch and respond to requests. It’s about the contact, not the control we mentioned above. Your remote employees should be answered promptly. Delaying the response for 1, 2, or 3 days, you’re just wasting your time and the time of your remote team. Again, this can be an excuse to quit for someone.

Motivate your team

There’s no magic recipe for motivating teams, especially when working remotely. We have a few tips, though:

  • Show them your care. Everyone likes and deserves attention. Some more than others. This also varies by culture and personality;
  • Appreciate, be available, and give the necessary time and attention to each team member;
  • Play games. We find that games and challenges work great! Give bonuses and send gifts to your winners!
  • Delegate responsibilities. Another method that we find effective is to delegate specific tasks that can affect the performance of the entire team. Making your team members responsible for certain tasks allows them to be fully engaged and creates a great team dynamic.
  • Praise in public. reprimand in private. When working remotely, you still need to maintain a positive demeanor, even when you notice some mistakes. And this has to be done very carefully in the remote mode. People who get scolded in public subsequently lose motivation. So, the basic principle for us has always been praising in public and reprimanding in private.

Use the theory of multiple intelligences

This model was proposed by Howard Gardner in the mid-80s. It’s something that never fails to fascinate us. In a nutshell, the theory states that we are all born with 8 different types of “intelligence” and a somewhat similar potential for each of them. How we develop one or the other intelligence depends on our genetics, education, and life experiences in general.

Let’s move on from rules to technical solutions.

Tools for remote work

The list of tools and services for effective remote work can vary depending on the specifics of your business. Most often this list includes:

  • Messengers (Telegram, Slack, Viber, etc.);
  • Video and screen-sharing tools (Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype, etc.);
  • Remote desktop access (TeamViewer);
  • Tasking and remote project management systems (Jira, Asana, Trello, Basecamp, Process Street, Youtrack);
  • Cloud services for document storage and work with documents (Google, Microsoft OneDrive, DropBox;
  • CRMs (Zoho, Salesforce, Apptivo), etc.

Slack. If you need a corporate messenger for communication and meetings with integration with more than 100 popular specialized services, you should consider Slack. You can choose a free version for a team of up to 20 people. If you need advanced access settings for each user, more integrations with third-party services, and a larger archive, we recommend switching to the paid version (it’s more advantageous to pay annually).

Google services are one of the best solutions for working with documents. Google offers a free and very convenient set of web services for working with presentations, text documents. and spreadsheets. All of this complements the Google Drive file storage.

Depending on the level of access to your files, users can view, comment on, or edit them. Thus, Google Docs is a great option. No more reciprocal forwarding of docs that can get lost, etc. Here, the entire history of changes is at your fingertips. And it’s free of charge.

Evernote is another convenient place to store your notes. Available as a web service, client for Windows, or an iOS/Android app. Evernote allows you to save text files, web pages, audio files, photos, and other types of files. The service provides backup and synchronization functions when working from different devices.  Also available as an extension for Chrome

Asana is a very handy project management system that is suitable for complex projects. It’s user-friendly and easy to learn. Some describe it as designed “for the lazy ones who appreciate order.” The service makes strategic planning and long-range project management a breeze.

You can structure your task flow in different ways, divide all of them into large groups/projects. Choose from different templates – it can be a content publishing calendar, website work plan, or schedule for various reports. The free version of Asana is suitable for teams of up to 15 people.

Trello is an easy and convenient cloud-based small group project management software service based on Kanban methodology. According to the latter, every task goes through several stages, e.g. Planned, In Progress, On Approval, Completed. This idea makes the workflow clearer.

Timely is a time tracker to evaluate the productivity of your employees. You need to know how much each team member spends on one task. Timely integrates with Asana, Trello, or other similar services. The service then provides analytics on employee actions with their tasks.

TimeCamp is a PC timer app for teams no matter of size. It tracks time automatically and assigns time entries to the specific projects, leaving more time for what really matters for your business. Features like robust reporting, invoicing, attendance module and billing hours help streamline the tedious processes for your business. It integrates with various tools like Asana, Trello, Clickup, Jira, Salesforce and many more.

Conclusion

Personally, we believe that the future of remote work is a complete disconnect between the job and its actual physical location – there’s nothing surprising here.

Moreover, if there’s one thing we can learn from this current crisis, it’s that digital collaboration solutions have become an incentive for business continuity and allow managers to better control their teams.

Soon corporations will realize that remote working should be encouraged, managed, and seen as a strategic approach to business continuity. As Stephen Hawking once said, “Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.” We think it’s time to prove how agile we can be as organizations, and how much smarter we can grow as individuals.

Of course, all of these above-mentioned tips and tools are not the only things that make a difference. If none of these work for you, you can always find alternatives – we’ve listed solutions that work for us mainly.

The transition to telecommuting is a difficult but solvable task for a business. By choosing the right tools and setting up the process, you can save on many items of expenditure.

Good luck with your remote team, and may it be productive. We hope that this article was useful for you and wish your team success and stability in this difficult time.

Edward Bishop
Edward Bishop is a content writer of Corecommerce and content-strategist of visualmodo. He worked in different companies and got a lot of experience. Edward is focused on making a difference with content he develops and curates.

About the Author

Edward Bishop
Edward Bishop is a content writer of Corecommerce and content-strategist of visualmodo. He worked in different companies and got a lot of experience. Edward is focused on making a difference with content he develops and curates.