With proper remote team management, your company can capitalize on the many advantages of a hybrid working model, increasing productivity and positivity amongst your workforce. Stay ahead of the curve and get started with our ultimate guide to managing remote teams.
This is your guide on how to manage a remote team.
But what are the benefits of a remote workforce? What are the toughest challenges of managing remote teams? And how do you solve them?
By this point, it’s clear that remote work can create significant operational advantages and cost efficiencies. But some challenges have cropped up, too.
While every company is different, there are seven potential hurdles that businesses of all shapes and sizes should expect to encounter when managing a remote team:
No spontaneous connections - Every meeting has to be scheduled and formal, and you miss out on the magic of 'water-cooler' talk where people from different departments, backgrounds, and experiences can come together to innovate.
Establishing clear lines of communication - Clear communication keeps your teams working toward the same goal in harmony. But messages can become lost in translation with remote workforces, especially for new employees during onboarding and training.
Lack of face-to-face interactions - Humans are social creatures. How we understand one another isn’t just conveyed via words, but also through tone of voice and physical cues. While emails and texts can help facilitate communication, they’re still susceptible to being missed, misread, or misunderstood.
Fewer one-on-one check-ins - Regular one-on-one meetings allow both the manager and employee to set expectations, discuss work performance, and address existing problems. Employees can feel valued and heard. But when regular check-ins are rare, small issues tend to snowball, leading to negative consequences.
Tracking work and productivity - As a manager, creating accountability was simpler when your team was a short walk away. You could quickly pop in to see what they were doing or request a status update. Now, managers must embrace new tools to create visibility, rethink how they gauge productivity, and shift toward outcome-based metrics.
Informational constraints - Along these lines, if an employee had a question in the past, they could walk over and ask it. Now, team members may not know where to go to find information.
Fostering company culture from a distance - Fostering an organizational culture can be difficult when employees don’t share a workspace. Businesses now need to be more purposeful about instilling and modeling their culture.
Social isolation - For many, the workplace was a place of social interaction. Both work-related and casual conversations forged bonds between team members. And when workforces were gathered in person, it was easier to build a sense of camaraderie and shared purpose.
Despite each of these challenges, remote work opens up a world of possibilities. But to thrive in the decentralized workforce, you must address those obstacles head-on. So how can you do that?
Remote teams will inevitably face communication problems. However, many of them can be mitigated or eliminated.
Researchers at MIT discovered that successful teams tend to share the following characteristics when they communicate:
They all talk and listen in roughly equal measure, with contributions being to the point.
Members face one another and are engaged.
They connect directly with one another, and not just with the leader.
They have back-channel or side conversations with other members.
If necessary, members will go outside of the team to acquire information and then bring that newfound knowledge back to the team.
After in-person communication, the next most valuable communication tool at your disposal is videoconferencing since you can still virtually meet face-to-face.
With that said, the more people present on a traditional video call, the less effective it’s likely to be. That’s what makes Teamflow such a top-notch solution for the hybrid workspace—we’re anything but traditional.
Having regular team meetings is one of the important ways a business can ensure everything is in order. However, many managers and business leaders make the mistake of having too many or too few meetings.
Either option can cause problems: Back-to-back Zoom meetings are ineffective and lead to a slow workflow and fatigue, while a lack of meetings can leave team members feeling directionless and unmotivated.
The ultimate goal is the Goldilock zone, which involves enough meetings to provide guidance while still providing enough time without meetings to encourage a “flow-state.”
One way to move toward the Goldilock zone is to schedule regular weekly or monthly meetings with team leaders. These managers can then set up their own team meetings to relay that information to their people in a specific, highly-targeted way.
Here’s the takeaway: While regular virtual meetings are important, they shouldn’t come at the expense of spontaneity, which is essential for collaboration and productivity.
Remote work would be impossible without technology—SaaS applications like Zoom and Slack have helped mitigate workplace issues throughout the pandemic. Plus the use of such technologies has shortened the average daily commute from 27.6 minutes to a few seconds.2
But to address the challenges of a remote workplace, Zoom and Slack aren’t enough. You need the right digital tools.
For that, look for an all-in-one collaboration hub for remote teams, like TeamFlow.
These tools give your team a virtual office space that they can use to collaborate, meet, brainstorm, and socialize from anywhere in the world, at any time. Typically, features include:
The most productive time is actually the time between meetings. In a physical office, your team huddles both before and after a meeting to both prep and debrief. This time allows for both spontaneous collaboration and greater synergy amongst team members. Tools like Teamflow allow us to replicate this aspect of a physical office, virtually.
And even if you’re anticipating a massive return-to-the-office movement, technology will still play a part in the workplace of the future. Remote work isn’t going anywhere—82% of American workers want to work remotely at least once a week, pandemic or not. As such, now’s the time to embrace technology to the fullest.
In the office, forming a loose circle for a short, informal team chat used to happen on the regular. In a remote or hybrid setting, you’ll have to be intentional in making space for these team touch-bases.
Depending on the size of your team, a recurring 10- or 15-minute video call should suffice. On these semi-structured calls, you may want to ask your crew:
Virtual video check-ins like these are handy, but they come with two challenges:
1. Deciding who goes next – In person, you can easily see whose turn it is to talk by standing in a circle. On a video call, you might end up with awkward pauses or employees speaking over each other.
2. The ability to break off and solve problems – Gone are the days when two employees can duck out for a quick sidebar. In a virtual meeting room, there can only be one conversation at a time.
At Teamflow we solve this with the standup feature, where you can arrange your team’s avatars in a circle to make a clear speaking order—no talking stick required. And when one team member has a solution for another’s blocker, having the two of them split off into a separate room is effortless.
To bring everyone in the company together, try scheduling an all-hands meeting every month or so.
When you bring the whole organization into a virtual room, it’s easy to share company-wide updates on important topics like:
Sure, all of these details could be an email, but exciting news is much more fun to share live.
An in-the-moment all-hands also gives employees a chance to ask their burning questions. Time permitting, try to allow around 30 minutes of Q&A time during every organizational meeting.
At TeamFlow, we offer a virtual theater setting for your all-hands, complete with a Q&A line and a lounge area for post-call mingling.
As a people manager, you’re probably popping in and out of meetings all day. Tracking you down might be a struggle for your reports—especially since they can’t just hang around at your desk and wait.
By holding space in your calendar for weekly “office hours,” your team won’t have to chase you down when they need a few minutes of your time. They’ll know exactly where to find you, and they can spontaneously drop in—whether that’s to ask a brief question, work through a problem, or simply chat.
To remind your team about office hours, create a recurring calendar invite. From there, all you have to do is hang out in a Teamflow room and let the conversation come to you.
All-hands meetings and group standups make team-building a breeze, but don’t forget about quality one-on-one time with your direct reports.
If you were holding biweekly 1:1s in the office, consider switching to weekly meetings. In an office setting, impromptu chats occurred throughout the week, so there was never a buildup of questions or comments. Without those 5-minute water cooler talks, meeting once every two weeks might not be enough.
Weekly 1:1s allow you and your team members to speak openly about work and your personal lives. Feeling stumped on what to talk about with your direct reports? Here are some sample questions to get you started in your fireside chats:
Building a personal rapport alongside a business connection allows you to truly understand your team members’ needs, even if they’re thousands of miles away. At Teamflow, our private rooms allow for a meeting space that caters to you 1:1.
With remote work, those personal conversations are more within reach, too. Chances are you’ll be able to spend more time talking about goals and less time having performance conversations. And workers with more independence around their location produce 40% fewer quality defects.4
Nothing brings people together like a little competition. Especially if there are prizes.
For some fun team-building activities that don’t require everyone to be in the same room, there’s:
Your competitions should be low-stakes, but not no-stakes. To add a little incentive, offer rewards that any member can enjoy, regardless of location. Food delivery gift cards or a Friday afternoon off are universally appreciated prizes.
Ultimately, anything that brings your team together on a regular basis to have fun will help you cultivate a stronger team and better results.
When you use a virtual office solution like TeamFlow, it’s almost like you’re in a room together. But it’s impossible to perfectly recreate the feeling of live, in-person, face-to-face communication online.
So, when you do meet in person, you have to make it count.
To do that, you and your team will need to be in the same place at the same time. But rather than making your in-person meet-ups about work, try to bring connection and fun to the forefront.
We suggest setting up an annual, semi-annual, or even quarterly company retreat for employees to come together and unwind. If possible, make it all expenses paid. That investment in your people.
Last but definitely not least, remember that your employees will need additional support through changing environments.
With a decentralized workforce, it becomes all too easy to forget that each member of your team is a unique individual, not just a trackable metric.
Building culture is the recipe to a successful business. As Kathleen Hogan, Chief People Officer at Microsoft said:5
“While strategy will evolve, your culture and sense of purpose should be long-lasting. Culture paired with a purpose-driven mission allows your employees to use your company platform to realize their own aspirations and passions.”
For employees to excel at their job and to stay with the company, they need to feel as if they’re more than a cog in the machine. They need the ability to easily connect with their bosses and teammates regarding work, personal life, and everything in between.