Remote Teams

Remote teams are the natural evolution of a workforce transformation being driven by digital technologies. While the benefits to the employers and employees are numerous, this shift has opened a new set of challenges when it comes to managing virtual and remote employees. With that in mind, we’ve put together 5 best practices for managing your remote employees.

1. Understand How a Remote Team Operates

On the surface remote teams, of course, look very different from traditional teams of employees who all work in the same building, or perhaps even the same floor, and meet in the same conference room to brainstorm ideas, develop strategies, and fulfill goals.

Traditional teams typically see each other often during the workweek, maybe even every day, and are familiar with their teammates on a personal level. Remote teams on the other hand, do not share lunch together, are not cubicle neighbors and don’t go to happy hour together at the end of the workday.

They do, however, operate according to the same principles as traditional teams: shared teamwork, creative collaboration, goal-oriented strategizing, and delegation of responsibilities. Virtual employees must show up on time to meetings, contribute to the process, and fulfill their assigned deliverables—just like traditional teams.

Instead of meeting in conference rooms, remote employees gather virtually via laptops, handheld devices, and computers using various software and apps from Skype to RingCentral. Rather than sitting around a conference table, remote employees dial in from various locations—home offices, coffee shops, or maybe even a tropical beach somewhere (working remotely does have its perks).

2. Manage Remote Teams Through Specific Rules

Establishing a set of clear and detailed rules is critical to managing remote teams. Because remote employees are not sitting face-to-face, they are not able to read those important nuances of human communication that we convey through body language, small facial expressions, and other little physical quirks. So, managers of remote teams must set rules that will prevent or dispel any sources of confusion that may arise from remote team meetings. For example:

Only one person speaks at a time. When remote employees talk over each other in a shared meeting, only confusion ensues. Be patient. Wait for others to finish before you speak.

Be organized. Do not show up and try to fake your way through a remote team meeting. Disorganization is exponentially confusing to remote workers trying to work together across distances using technological devices.

Test the technology beforehand. The greatest threat to managing remote teams is technology that doesn’t work. Even the most prepared remote employees cannot overcome technology that doesn’t perform. Make sure all audio, visual, and software assets are fully functioning before the meeting begins.

3. Develop a Sense of Remote Team Chemistry

Business is about people, so business relationships rely on the power of human bonds. People naturally gravitate toward other people they understand, feel they know, and share a common purpose with. So, when managing remote teams, make sure that your remote employees know each other on a personal level. Encourage your remote employees to talk about where they are from, where they have traveled, and their favorite foods, hobbies, and life events. Successful teams all have one quality in common: chemistry.

There are challenges to creating chemistry in remote teams, but remember that remote employees are still just people. They are already connected by work, and a shared business goal, but chemistry happens when the members of a remote team know and respect each other. This can only be achieved by having a deeper understanding of what makes each remote employee do their best work. By having remote team members get to know each other on a deeper level, they’ll also work better together as a team.

4. Vet, Verify, and Trust Your Remote Team Members

Identifying the ideal remote team member can be a challenge. Part of being a manager of any successful team means being able to trust your gut feeling about people—that innate sense of knowing someone is a good fit, or bad fit, for the team. When assembling a remote team, the gut check sense is very limited. So remote team managers must be extra diligent when selecting the remote workers who will comprise their team.

Begin online. Remote team managers can quickly and easily weed out undesirable remote employees simply by investigating their online presence. From LinkedIn and Twitter to Facebook and Instagram, people reveal who they really are through their thoughts, pictures, and comments on the Internet. Take some time to really find out who your remote team candidates are. Interview them multiples times in various ways—over the phone, Skype, and even in person if possible. Remember that mis-hires are just as costly for remote employees as traditional employees. Working hard to find out who they are will exponentially pay off in the long run.

5. Create a Workplace Culture for Your Remote Teams

Every successful brand has an internal culture. Think of Apple, Google, or Amazon. Each of these brands evoke a sensibility, style, and aesthetic. Whether it is an obsession with design, a commitment to principled values, or a dedication to service, each of these brands has worked tirelessly to create a sense of culture. Building a specific culture attracts a specific type of remote employee.

When developing and managing a remote team, it is essential that managers craft a very clear vision for that team’s culture. Remote team members want to know how edgy they can be with their ideas, and how the company defines success. Remote team members want to feel inspired by the culture, which means recognizing their hard work and rewarding their efforts. Culture is about human beings, and people want to feel part of something positive, and bigger than themselves.

Remote team managers who are able to create this sense of culture will increase the quality, productivity, and commitment of their remote team members and their work. As the world of work continues to be reshaped by advances in technology, remote teams will become an increasingly influential component in the way we work. Managers of remote teams who can motivate, inspire, and derive results from their remote workers are poised to lead their companies into the future. Remember: though technology and behavior change, what inspires human collaboration is still very much the same as it has always been. Purpose, culture, and inspiration drive successful remote teams.

Need help with building or managing your remote team? Watch this quick video about WorkMarket's freelance management software, or get in touch with us at (877) 654-9675.