Managing a remote team presents different challenges — and opportunities — compared to working in an office environment together. Depending on how you’ve structured your team, remote work can bring communication, collaboration, and cultural challenges.
Company leaders must find ways to ensure everyone is engaged with and included in the company culture, operates on the same systems, and works toward the same overarching strategy. Often, remote workers are in different time zones, making it difficult to check in informally when they’re unsure of something and potentially leading to feelings of isolation.
Luckily, remote work is quickly becoming the norm, rather than the exception. As a result, there are many new apps, platforms, and strategies that managers can use to manage a remote team effectively. Here are a few ideas and tips for keeping your remote team engaged and working productively.
Background: how to manage a remote team
Before we dive into the solutions that can help you better manage a remote team, let’s understand the challenges that remote workers face throughout the workday.
Managing a team remotely requires a high level of communication and collaboration. Remote teams may struggle to communicate effectively when most interactions occur in the digital space.
As Basecamp founders Jason Fried and David Heinemeier wrote in their book, “When the bulk of your communication happens via email and the like, it doesn't take much for bad blood to develop unless everyone is making their best effort to the contrary. Small misunderstandings that could have been nipped in the bud with the wink of an eye or a certain tone of voice can quickly snowball into drama.”
Communication is at the core of many challenges remote teams face in project management, employee wellness, and even completing basic administration tasks like onboarding or recruiting. But, each of these areas can be addressed head-on with the right tools and strategies.
1. Remote communication tools + tips
Establishing clear lines of communication should be the first priority for anyone looking to learn how to manage a remote team effectively.
Offer different communication tools, such as chat, video conferencing, and asynchronous message platforms like Slack to help teams stay in touch easily. Along with creating space for formal and informal communication, specify to your team which platforms are appropriate for which types of messages. For both security issues — which we’ll get into later — and professionalism, having a clear communication protocol will help everyone work productively.
And, it’s not just the method of communication on which managers should focus. This priority encompasses other tools like document sharing, cloud storage, and hardware tools like microphones, laptops equipped for video chat, and a strong WiFi connection. Make sure your remote employees are set up for success by providing the equipment to facilitate easy work and communication.
2. Remote project management tools + tips
The next priority: collaboration. Project management best practices and software can help your team work productively and efficiently, no matter where they’re located.
There are tons of project management tools that can help your remote team collaborate, from Jira to Trello to Airtable to Asana. To explore some of the best tools for developers working remotely, check out our guide, “10 Tools to Help Remote Developer Teams Work Efficiently”.
From a management perspective, it’s important to find the balance between management and micromanagement. Ideally, your team will be able to work without much oversight; but, some team members may appreciate a high-touch management approach. For those who want it, schedule daily check-ins or set up virtual office hours for anyone who needs help with a work problem.
Encourage remote developers to have a separate workspace either in their home or at a co-working space. Creating a different environment can help remote team members shift into work mode and avoid distractions.
3. Remote employee wellness tools + tips
Remote employees often report feeling isolated or lonely. Since the pandemic, some team members may be working remotely for personal or health reasons, rather than by choice. Managing a remote team includes creating a culture that boosts morale, inclusivity, and engagement.
Consider using team-building activities to build a company culture and camaraderie within your remote team. Offer informal lunches where team members can hang out over video chat. Host fun Slack channels for employees with unique interests.
Recognition and rewards can go a long way. Use your Slack channel or other internal communication tools to give your employees a (semi) public shoutout. If you can, help mitigate the possibility of burnout by offering a little PTO to developers who have been working extra hard. If you choose to give away gift cards as a token of appreciation, make them location-agnostic. Remember, every team member might not have access to a Starbucks.
4. Remote administration tools + tips
The less glamorous side of managing a remote team involves the office-related admin tasks: cybersecurity, onboarding, scheduling, payroll, and more.
Cybersecurity is one of the biggest issues facing remote teams at present. Managers are responsible for implementing and enforcing a culture of security for remote team members, especially developers. This means making sure each team member has a secure device, security software installed, and is trained to recognize phishing and spam messages.
Likewise, managers must find ways to recruit and onboard new team members effectively. Onboarding is directly linked to employee retention, according to Glassdoor. Companies that have a strong onboarding process can improve new hire retention by 82%. It can be tricky to onboard a new hire from a distance, so managers should create a 30, 60 and 90-day plan for making sure the new person seamlessly integrates with the team.
Index can help with the remote recruiting side of the equation. We combine in-country sourcing, a rigorous vetting process, and easy to hire business model to help you scale your remote engineering team. By working with us, managers can get back to the important, value-add tasks of running a remote team successfully.