Spotify recently announced its “work from anywhere” policy. It joins other companies — like Airbnb, Meta and Dropbox — in adopting a remote-first approach to work.
Remote work has several benefits including flexibility, no commutes, high productivity, and high staff retention; but it can be hard to pull off. You might wonder how to get your messages across. Supervision and productivity could be tricky. How do you handle the different time zones? Track deliverables? How do you even know if the team is working?
Managing remote teams is undoubtedly challenging, yet it is being done successfully by companies of all sizes around the world. Here are some tips we use to manage remote teams that can help you too.
Trust Your Staff or Don’t Hire Them
Trust is the foundation of successful remote team management. Without trust, you will keep second guessing yourself and your team members will be less likely to stay. No one likes micromanagement or suspicion. Your team needs your trust to flourish.
Hire motivated people with a track record of excellence and trust them to do the work. Devote time to onboard new members properly, so they are equipped to succeed.
Provide incentives for great outputs. Let every team member know what success looks like in their role and how they can achieve it.
Ask for regular progress updates, but otherwise, stay out of the way and let people work.
Have Clear Processes and Structures
Another important thing you need for managing a remote team is clear directives and processes. There should be standard operating procedures, clear lines of command, and a structure. Everything should be documented and cohesive. Team members need to know what they are to do, how and when they are to do it and to whom they need to report.
Communicate and Keep Communicating
This cannot be overstressed. Without communication, you don’t have a team, you have a mini tower of Babel and you won’t be able to achieve anything. Early on, you need to establish communication channels. You also need to decide how often you will communicate and how soon you expect responses.
Once that is clear, you should keep your team informed every step of the way. Let them know when they are doing well and also tell them when things aren’t so rosy.
If you are ever in doubt, communicate.
It’s hard to over-communicate, but too little of it can lead to a certain crisis.
Use the Best Tools Available
Also known as your tech stack, tools are essential for seamless remote collaboration. There are paid tools and free ones, but you can’t get the best from your team if there aren’t solid virtual project management and collaboration spaces.
A few of the tools we utilize here at Unpluggd are:
This suite of tools is free to use and easy to integrate and share with just about any other program. Docs and Sheets have been immensely useful to us managing large amounts of content from remote teams and contractors.
You can hop on a quick call with Google Meets to discuss a thorny issue.
You can collaborate on a thought leadership piece on Google Docs.
Material, guidelines, and samples can be shared on Google Drive.
An all-round excellent free tool for teams.
This is a personal favourite. With this tool, you can work with people all over the world in one place.
You can hop into a huddle to discuss a thorny issue or to celebrate a quick win.
You can separate projects into different channels of conversation so that all relevant discussions and information is in one place.
Using your admin privileges, you can decide who needs to be part of a conversation and who doesn’t. You can also mention specific members of your team in the discussion channels to assign and share tasks.
Airtable is a project management database tool that is especially useful for organizing and tracking lots of moving parts with your teams and projects. It helps us visualize all our data and we love how customizable the table views are, allowing us to arrange information in a way that fits our team and our workflow.
You can assign tasks, supervise and leave comments for your team.
You can link records to help create associations between different
You and your team can also move tasks along the pipeline toward completion, so you always know the status of any given project or task.
Other project management tools you can explore are Asana, Jira, and Monday.com.
Trello is another project management tool that we use, mostly as a running to-do list. It is clean and simple and lets us set deadlines, create checklists to track progress of individual tasks, and stay on top of what’s important.
Here’s a bonus for you. We haven’t added this to our stack just yet, but it may be helpful for your situation.
One reason why many managers hate remote teams is because they lack the personal touch of face to face interactions.
Loom is a screen, video, and voice recording tool that lets you share your thoughts with an asynchronous audience.
Using Loom, you can add a personal touch to presentations — almost as if you were right there.
Invest in Team Building and Developing a Company Culture
Even with the best tools and stellar communication, your team won’t excel until they learn to work together. That’s why you need to invest in team building.
One way to do this is to schedule real-life meetings for team members to get to know each other. You can also schedule virtual team-building events. Another way is to encourage team members to interact with each other. Some teams encourage each remote worker to have a buddy, so they don’t feel isolated. Consider not operating with teams of one. That way, the team members in every role have someone else they can collaborate with or bounce ideas off of.
Be Committed and Care About Your Team
It’s easy to fixate on the stats and the revenue, but if you don’t care about your team members, you are likely to keep losing them. Take a moment to understand each team member’s personal situation and look for ways to support them.
Don’t be a boss or slave driver barking out instructions and pressing towards deadlines. Be a leader and a friendly guide, helping your people to excel.
Dylan of Hey Digital said in his mini ebook, ”There is no one secret to building an effective remote team that works for all.” and he is right. Managing people (in person or remote) is no cakewalk. People are complicated and unpredictable. But with determination and best practices, you are much closer to success than failure.
Have you ever managed a remote team? What tips can you add to this list?
Have you been part of a remote team? How did it go? What worked and what didn’t?
Let us know in the comments.