3 Tips for Managing a Remote Team

Working remotely is all the rage these days. When moving into the digital space and abandoning traditional offices, a new style of management is necessary.  These modern working arrangements apply to many industries, like media, tech, communications, and even language learning. The freedom and flexibility provided by remote work is refreshing and enjoyable, but these aspects present their own set of challenges to tie everything together.

Follow these three steps to effectively manage your remote team.

1.   Build an effective team

Running a successful remote business is all about having the right team. Because you’re not in the office together each day, you need people who are independent, and who are self-starters. Someone who is easily distracted by social media or the temptation to pop in a load of laundry mid-meeting won’t be the most effective remote worker.

An effective team member is one who eliminates trust worries. If you find yourself wondering if your staff is working when they’re supposed to be, or whether they’re actually following your company SOPs (standard operating procedures), it’s a clear sign that they may not have been the best hire.

It’s important to clarify a candidate’s experience and suitability for remote work during the interview process. I’m all for giving someone a chance if they’re up for the challenge. However, sometimes it’s best to limit your interviews to people who already have experience in working remotely. This is particularly important for management positions. While an entry-level remote position can be learned, managing a remote team is a whole other ballgame.

2.   Give your team the right communication tools

Yes, the team is remote, but communication is everything. When you can’t bump into someone at the watercooler, it’s critical that your team feels that they are exactly that—a team. Tools like Slack and Notion help team members communicate effectively throughout the workday. These tools also keep team-wide tasks manageable by people in different locations.

Encourage small talk between team members. Consider setting up a #watercooler channel in Slack (or whatever communication tool you use) for staff to share jokes, tell stories of their weekend adventures, and generally socialize about non-work matters. This keeps people engaged with their job and their team, and in the long run, keeps them around longer.

Another effective tool for remote teams lies in dedicated apps that help remote staff track down work-friendly cafes to work from. Sitting in the same home office day in, day out can feel so mundane. And then there are the temptations of cleaning, watching television, or the dreaded couch. Sometimes, a fancy coffee to drink and an afternoon in a coffee shop is just what the doctor ordered for increased productivity.

3.   Communicate regularly — and not just via Slack

One of the biggest complaints of remote employees is that they don’t feel like they are part of the bigger picture. Each staff member wants to feel important and that their work is contributing to the progression of the company.  This is difficult to achieve without being able to see what everyone else is doing.

So, it’s on managers to communicate regularly about projects and keep everyone up to date and motivated. Weekly team video calls are very effective.Regular calls allow everyone to see each other face-to-face and invites more personality into a meeting.

Some companies opt to send out a quarterly company update, allowing each department a chance to share what they are working on. It’s a great chance to highlight big accomplishments made by team members.

And of course, the annual retreat is highly encouraged, if that’s something that is in your company’s budget. There is simply no replacing the benefit of face-to-face time, especially when combined with a couple of beers with coworkers who rarely get the chance to bond together during happy hour.

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