How To Manage a Remote Team Effectively
So you and your team are working from home now? Fun!
While some companies have adopted these practices a while back, for many of you, it is a brand new experience that comes with discoveries and its challenges. It can be daunting working from home, but it also can be one of the most freeing transitions that you can make for your career and your business. So if you’re looking for guidance on how to make the work-from-home transition as smooth as possible, you came to the right place!
Having a 100% remote team keeps you honest. It exposes and amplifies any oversights in your processes and communication practices that were under control in the face-to-face office environment.
Remember that casual “how’s everything going on the project?” when you run into your colleague in the hallway? Information that you received from those brief moments is now gone since both of you stay behind your computer screens and don’t have a proper process in place to facilitate updates on the project status.
Here are some essential tips on how to effectively manage a remote team and have fun (most importantly!):
1. Double down on communication
As we shift interactions from in-person to online via emails and Slack, we lose a lot of essential cues that help us read the other person. It’s easy to misinterpret the tone when you can’t hear another person’s voice intonation and other non-verbal cues. If left unaddressed, this can lead to growing tension between the team members, an increased number of wrong decisions, project delays, and quicker budget burn.
Don’t be afraid to over-communicate. It’s better to explain something twice and make sure that the person on the other end clearly understands what you’re trying to convey than to find out later that they invested 10 hours into something completely irrelevant. Now you’re mad. They are mad. And this could’ve been avoided if you took five extra minutes to explain it thoroughly.
If you need to ask a developer to fix a bug on a page, attach a screenshot with marked instructions instead of writing a long paragraph with explanations. The visual guide always beats text descriptions.
2. Daily Team Standups
When your team is fully remote, the best way to keep everyone in a loop of what’s going on is to hold daily standups or huddle meetings. They include every team member answering a standard set of questions, which helps keep the standup both efficient and short.
– What did I do yesterday?
– What are my goals for today?
– Is there anything blocking me?
You can host stand up meetings via video calls or asynchronously in the Slack. Ultimately, the success of any standup meeting depends on team participation. If you can’t get people to engage, most of the value is lost.
To make your team’s daily progress even more transparent, adopt End-of-Day (EOD) status reporting. It can be the glue that holds a remote team together. Each person posting what they have accomplished at the end of the day can replace a bunch of questions and hours of meetings.
3. There is a process for everything
Without well-documented processes, work gets messy, and results become unpredictable. It’s easy to fall short when there is no proper knowledge transfer between the team members – you might have one person who knows everything, but if they leave the company, all the knowledge that they acquired will be gone as well. That’s why it’s crucial to take the information out of our heads and turn it into a document. Next time when you onboard a new team member, all they have to do is to review your well-documented project checklist.
Remote teams should always keep things like shared documents, project-management tools, and employee-onboarding resources transparent and accessible.
Create a project process checklist in your favorite project management or productivity tool and outline every tiny project step or task. Whenever you run into an issue on the project that was overlooked, add it to the checklist, so you don’t forget the next time, and your processes keep evolving.
4. Strong Company Culture = Motivated Team
Traditionally companies foster team culture through in-person activities. Virtual companies have to come up with clever ways to build and develop remote company cultures. Never underestimate building interpersonal bonds with your remote teammates, so put it on a priority list within your company.
Remote work culture needs to be built on trust — motivation fuels productivity. So, rather than asking how to keep your workers productive, you should ask how to keep them motivated. If you know the goals of your employees, then you can align their work with them to ensure that they keep growing professionally while working on rewarding projects.
5. Keep the Work Fun
Working with talented, dedicated people across the world taught many remote employees to truly appreciate the company that they are building together. Even if they don’t see each other in person, the team still should feel a sense of comradery and enjoy working together.
The easiest thing to do is to set time on your schedule to promote a fun team culture via virtual team building activities. For example, if you’re using Slack, you can create a channel for non-work discussions or “water cooler” banter, a place to post funny pictures of the pets, or to talk about recent movies they saw. Many companies now host virtual happy hours or game nights, bringing typically in-person activities to the online format.
Some managers choose to end the week on a positive note, specifically to highlight the great work your team is doing all together.
No matter what options you try as your virtual team building activities, your colleagues will appreciate the effort. By strengthening bonds, you’ll be setting everyone up for success. Not only that, but you could be adding some much-needed fun and socialization into someone’s day.
6. Don’t micro-manage
While everyone is working from the comfort of their homes, some managers might feel that they are losing control over their team and how everyone is spending their time. You can’t drop by and check in on your employees any longer, making sure that they are doing what they supposed to do.
Our best advice is to trust your team and don’t micro-manage. Instead, focus on helping to support your employees’ efforts, help to elevate everyone, and let them do their best work in peace. When people know that they have the autonomy to make their own decisions, they will make sure to do their best.
Our favorite tools for remote team collaboration:
- Slack – daily communications
- Zoom – team and client video calls
- Figma – UX/UI design and collaboration for remote design teams
- Miro – shared prototyping tool, perfect for team and client brainstorming sessions
- Jira – project management and progress tracking
- Asana – keeping track of iteral and project checklists
- WalkAbout Office – virtual office space to share with your remote team and for those casual office pop-in chats.