Remote work has made it easier for people to join companies that are on the other end of the globe. This relatively new way of working has allowed people to work the way they want to and join companies beyond the 10-mile radius without having to compromise on their preferences. With more companies adopting this remote working culture, HRs have to learn how to manage remote teams smartly.

You may be wondering, isn’t there less accountability and supervision within remote working teams?

Many traditional companies are skeptical of remote work for the same reason but, it is shown that teleworkers in a number of large companies are actually 35% to 40% more productive than their office counterparts. What’s more, statistics have proven how effective it is in retaining employees and keeping them happy. And this is also affecting how the future of work is evolving. The number of people who work from home has increased by 140% since 2005.

But, just like any team, managing remote teams comes with its own set of issues. HRs usually come across 2 major problem areas with remote working:

  1. Work management
  2. Culture building

In this blog, we want to help you manage your remote team smartly, with 10 best practices that have proven to work for successful remote teams. 

Further Reading: If you need a better understanding of remote working and tips to be more efficient and manage your team better, read our complete guide to remote working.

10 Ways to Manage Remote Teams

Work management 

While remote workers are more autonomous and proactive with getting work done, as an HR, you might want it hard to track and understand how your employees are working. We have a few tips to help:

1. Focus on work output

Clocking in 8 hours doesn’t mean your employee has successfully gotten work done. Many companies fail to establish ways to measure work done by an employee. This is most often because they are workers who come into work and sit at a desk for their job, making it easier for you to keep an eye on them.

However, when managing remote teams, you can’t keep an eye on your employees, literally. Instead, set up systems to learn how much work they are doing in a day and if they aren’t striking through tasks fast enough, you can get into conversations with them on how they can optimize their time better to get more done.  

In action: Use daily standup apps on Slack like Geekbot to build a habit among employees to note down what they have worked on and what they plan to work on. This system will automatically notify employees to give updates on their work so that you can later check on them.

2. Find overlapping times to set up communication

A lack of communication among team members can even end up discouraging employees to get work done. Frequent communication must be a priority for remote teams, to keep their gears moving. This may look like a weekly call that is scheduled during a time when every employee within a team is logged on. Or, you can have a constant conversation running on your Slack channel so remote employees feel engaged and have a habit of interacting with the team.

In action: Set up a recurring weekly call with your department to talk about work as well as your life. During this time, you can tackle any blockers team members are facing and discuss the next steps with projects.

3. Track attendance

While work output is crucial, you still need systems to ensure your employees are accountable for their time. Within a traditional office, this is usually easy to track with biometric scanners or by signing in at the front desk. However, HRs need to find an innovative way to manage their remote team’s attendance, or just trust them on it!

Time tracking apps work right within your work communication tool, allowing you to record attendance, manage leave requests, and even plan shifts. Such a tool solves issues for remote teams who want to track employee time in a structured manner.

In action: Set up AttendanceBot to simplify time tracking for your remote team. Your employees just need to send a message to the bot on Slack when they start work and just a quick “out” message when they leave for the day.

4. Use project management tools

The one thing that remote teams swear by is a good system. Project management tools provide just that— a structured, time-based task management dashboard that allows managers to track and monitor tasks on a high-level. Project management tools help employees see everything that is on their plate and give more transparency about what each team member is busy with. 

These dashboards show deadlines so that employees can keep track of their tasks and can receive reminders about deadlines so they don’t miss it. Managers can even add dependencies to ensure tasks can be smoothly transitioned from one person to another as the project progresses.

In action: If you want to organize tasks by department or projects, Trello is the right fit for you. You can add and assign tasks as cards within a kanban board to show your in-progress work in a visual format. However, you run sprints, you might find Asana to fulfill all your needs to run your weekly or fortnightly sprints with the team.

5. Ensure each employee has strict schedules

One of the biggest problems for remote employees is the lack of schedule. Many remote workers have no boundaries to their time and due to this, they end up working long hours. One important part of managing remote teams is to enforce a schedule so that they work more efficiently during the hours they are logged in and get through their deadlines before they close their laptop.

In action: Have employees state their timings for work when they join and make it a rule that everyone sticks to their schedule. This means getting online and starting work on time as well as logging off at the end of their workday. Ask your remote team to snooze notifications on Slack during their off-hours and add their out-of-office hours so that no one schedules a meeting with them.

Building company culture

Positive leadership, enriching relationships, and human-centric policies go a long way in building a company culture worth sticking around for. Building a company culture within a remote team is tricky but it isn’t impossible with these 5 tactics.

6. Make all-hands meetings a priority

Usually, teams set up all-hands meetings on a monthly basis to discuss what each department has been working on, their next steps and the company’s plans on a broader scope.

For remote teams, this is especially important because employees don’t get chances to bump into each other and update them about their work. The all-hands meeting serves as a day to reflect on work and look ahead on what’s coming so that everyone is on the same page.

Not sure how to run an all-hands meeting? Our guide to setting up an all-hands meeting has everything you need to know. 

In action: Use apps like Zoom to conduct video conferences. If you’re discussing something that requires visual aid, you can simply share your screen with the rest of the team, just like an in-person meeting with a screen or whiteboard in front of you.

7. Build transparency

Besides project management tools to create visibility about who’s doing what, transparency within your remote team should also be about informing the team about big changes, from plans to raise funds to another department’s latest project. Inter-department transparency especially can help the team learn about how different puzzles of the company are running, and what they are working on.  

Many remote teams share their bigger picture goals with their employees upfront so that the company’s vision is as enthusiastically shared with the employee as well. Besides that, many teams also inform their team about every aspect of the company, even sensitive information like revenue growth and funding updates. 

This habit makes employees eager to grow the company as well as feel appreciated and an important part of what the company is trying to do.

In action: Set up a habit to make announcements on the team chat channel and ask managers to inform the rest of the team when their department has worked on something new or gone live with their work. 

8. Have a yearly work retreat  

Getting to see each other face-to-face can have a positive effect on team members. Some of the most successful remote teams organize a work retreat on a yearly basis. Such activities help teams bond with each other, build and deepen their relationships with one another to get back to work with a motivated mindset. Your people are the most important asset in your company so investing in their happiness is the key to your success.

But let’s be real— not every remote working team will be able to host yearly company-sponsored retreats, especially if you’re still growing. However, if you have some extra funds, a retreat is a perfect way to raise your team’s spirits. This can be as small as hosting them at your family home or a trip to a city none of you have ever been to.

In action: You can read about Buffer’s company retreat and how they plan it to get a better idea of how to set up such activities.

9. Provide perks

Whether you provide gym memberships, health insurance, or online courses, perks are a powerful way to let your employees know they matter to you. 53% of those who do have employee perks say that those perks give them a better quality of life. By improving your employee’s experience with you, you make them feel appreciated and more willing to deliver quality work.

In action: Set up perks and include guidelines on how the employee is eligible for the perks within an office wiki, like OfficeAmp. For ideas on the kinds of perks that you can provide to employees, you can read our list of 10 benefits employees will love.

10. Build and maintain a close relationship

Building relationships is hard work. It gets tougher when the team is miles away from each other and in different time zones. As HR, when managing a remote team, you also need to unconsciously keep building relationships between employees and start conversations on the team channel to keep the conversation flowing between your virtual team. 

Get your team to talk to each other and have employees from different departments who haven’t interacted at all to set up coffee meetings to have a casual chat to learn about the other person.

In action: One thing that has helped some remote teams to connect with their co-workers is with automated culture-building apps like Donut. Donut’s pairing system sets up 2 employees to grab coffee together during a week. As a remote team, employees can do a video call and get to know their team members better. This automatic pairing system deepens bonds without you having to put in the effort to get people to interact with each other.

Manage remote teams efficiently!

Are you confident now to lead a remote team and successfully manage your virtual workforce to help your company succeed? These 10 best practices are just stepping stones. The one essential part of managing such a team is getting constant feedback on how you can improve their engagement and fulfill their needs. Constantly check in with your remote team to understand how you can help them be more productive.