Challenges of managing a remote team
With COVID-19 introducing a number of restrictions on how we lead our lives, remote work is becoming a new default at many companies. And while it’s easy to introduce in some sectors - IT, for one, has always been fond of the flexibility of remote collaboration - suddenly having to manage a team without regular contact in person can be a shock.
But there are multiple side benefits for you to enjoy. A remote team makes you not limited to a local market - you can hire talent from all over the world. Having a remote team reduces costs and is eco-friendly. It is also confirmed by research that employees of remote teams have better productivity. These are some of the benefits of remote work that made it popular among companies worldwide. Sadly, great solutions often require effort and bring new challenges.
A remote team is harder to manage than an on-site one. Distance causes trouble with efficient management, as well as seamless cooperation and communication within teams. How should you deal with those issues?
Management in a remote team - setting rules
To efficiently manage remote teams, some principles should be applied from the very beginning. First of all, you should set clear, realistic expectations, so your team - wherever i’s located - is aware of what goals it should achieve, both individually and collectively. You have to check and track progress on tasks and regularly ask for feedback. You need to clarify how-to’s and make them available for new hires - anticipating recurring questions and issues can save you lot of time.
Also, develop the habit of documenting everything and become a fan of time tracking tools to gather insights useful for workflow improvement. Make sure your organization has its own work culture and principles that each of its members is aware of.
Communication in remote teams
Scheduling communication is also very important - even more for remote teams than for on-site ones. You have to use various channels for different types of communication, such as a chat or Slack for stand ups and daily issues, Skype for longer sessions or 1-on-1 meetings, phone calls for urgent and important cases, e-mail for reporting, etc. Apart from online communication, it is vital to meet in person with your team at least once per year.
Your remote team have to be mindful of the bigger picture. It is hard for employees to feel part of a team and know their place when they don’t meet their peers and manager in person each day. Thus, a remote team manager’s main job is to make sure everyone does see eye to eye. And frequent, honest communication is a good basis for that.
The trust factor
You won’t go far in a remote organization without trust. Your main task as a manager is creating an atmosphere of trust in different relations:
- Between you and your team. The clue is in finding balance between giving your employees freedom and tracking what they are up to. Also remember to encourage self-awareness and giving feedback, support talent and help team members improve on their weaknesses.
- Between you, your team and your clients. Be open and communicative, share reports on progress of projects as often as it is required, give your clients information about who would be working on their project from your side, what is their experience, etc.
- Inside your team. To develop healthy and friendly relationships between team members, try to encourage them to learn more about each other. Plan bonding exercises and activities for face to face meetings and make sure to add a personal touch to some of your communication.
Performance management in a remote team
Managing performance of your remote team is strictly connected to communication. To efficiently manage your team members’ performance, develop their talents and outline strategies and goals for the whole team and each individual, you need to schedule regular touch points, feedback sessions and review meetings.
We recommend to plan and hold:
- **Daily touch points:** scheduled for every day in the morning to let your team members know that you are interested in how their work is going; each teammate should inform you on a Slack channel, for example, on what he is going to work on that day, more or less.
- **Weekly feedback:** to get greater insight into how projects are going, encourage harder work, praise for progress and have good transparency; it can take place via Slack or email.
- **Monthly teleconferences:** to outline strategies, brainstorm new ideas, introduce new members to the team, give updates on ongoing projects or introduce new ones, and celebrate milestones.
- **Quarterly reviews: they** facilitate developing and nurturing talent-driven and goal-oriented remote teams by giving in-depth personal reviews and feedback on the whole team’s performance on a given project; to be conducted by Skype, for example.
- **Yearly sum-up**: best to be done during a meeting involving the entire company in real life, to sum up what the company has achieved in a given year and set the roadmap for the next one. It’s also a great opportunity for bonding and integration, as well as for acknowledging accomplishments, both on a personal and team level.
Resource management in a remote team
Resource management should start from hiring the right people - and this is important both for remote teams and on-site ones, but it matters more to have the right people doing the job in remote environments. Look for people with a history of self-management, freelancing experience, remote work experience or entrepreneurial experience. You need people that are doers, that are trustworthy, and that don’t rely heavily on others in completing tasks.
It is also essential to have team members with the ability to communicate and write in a clear and straightforward manner - as he or she would mostly communicate with you and other team members via chat or emails. Also make sure that your potential candidate won’t miss the social part of working in the office - social animals can burn out quickly without the ability to directly interact with their colleagues.
Useful tools for remote team management
Apart from introducing a working policy and developing good habits, technology can be very useful in managing a remote team. In fact, without specific tools for communication, planning, collaboration, performance tracking and resource management, you might end up entirely lost.
What types of tools do you need?:
- Project management tools (Trello, Asana, Jira),
- Software project repositories (GitLab, GitHub),
- Time tracking tools (PM Sentry),
- Cloud storage tools (Dropbox, Google Drive),
- File collaborations tools (Paper Dropbox, G Suite),
- Team communication tools (Slack, Skype, Hangouts),
- File sharing tools (WeTransfer),
- Security tools (1Password),
- Employee appreciation tools (WooBoard).
Those are only a few examples - you have to do your own research and find out what is perfect for your team. If your business involves unique processes or challenges, you can also consider having a custom solution - an internal app - built for your team. Companies’ needs vary depending on their industry, size, workflow, etc. This could mean none of the available solutions fit your needs, while a custom tool could offer a multitude of benefits, such as:
- Improved employee efficiency,
- A more comfortable work environment,
- Cost reductions,
- Better communication,
- Clear and concise automated reporting,
- Efficient analytics,
- Task automation,
- Access and resource management,
- Monitoring with real-time alerts,
- Custom integrations of various solutions, including 3rd party software.
There’s no limit to what you can do by building custom software that will fit your specific needs. You can take a look at some examples, such as the case of one of our clients where a custom shipping integration made all the difference. Or you can talk to us directly - we’re always happy to offer consulting and advice on how to solve business problems with technology.