In 2020, because of the COVID-19 pandemic around the world, many companies were forced to shift employees to remote work. There are some big advantages to working remote. Office expenses can be greatly reduced if you do not have to house everyone in one office. And you can find a higher level of expert, a CTO on demand, for instance, even if your main work location is in a rural area.
But not everyone was ready for such a sudden transition. Dealing with remote teams has caused enormous difficulties for managers. How do you motivate employees to work remotely? What tools and platforms to use? How to control employees and avoid mistakes?
Treat remote work with interest and remain calm. It is a great way to test the flexibility of your business processes and improve them. In this article, we’re talking about effective ways to manage your remote team to get great results from your work.
What Tools Your Remote Team May Need
For starters, divide all remote employees into several teams and assign supervisors. It is believed that one distributed team managed by a manager should not have more than 8-10 participants. Larger teams are more difficult to manage, especially remotely.
1. Choose a remote team and a project management system
To manage a remote team, you can’t do without a CRM system. You need to create a “virtual office” to concentrate the main work with projects there.
- Microsoft Teams Direct Routing is a simple and uncomplicated way for businesses to make use of AVOXI’s worldwide voice inventory and superior call quality while using MS Teams. Through hosted SBC, AVOXI links voice effortlessly, allowing remote workers to simply route and accept calls from over 170 countries.
- Trello is a colorful and user-friendly platform where you can create project boards, assign a person to be responsible for a certain task, etc.
- Asana is a convenient tool for planning and working with projects, which is used by Uber, Airbnb, and Pinterest. Here, you can communicate with a remote team member, post-project tasks, and monitor employee productivity.
- YouGile is another easy and convenient project management and team communication system. You can subscribe to any task, discuss it, and receive notifications.
- Microsoft Teams is a corporate workspace platform. It has all the necessary tools for teamwork (chat, file exchange, video, and audio communication, notes).
- Jira is a powerful CRM system, which is equipped with a variety of necessary tools for business and integrates with many cloud applications.
- ClicData is a new dark horse in the cloud-based data analytics tools industry. Its platform proposes more than 200 connectors so you can easily import your data and create reports with centralized statistics. Since it is 100% online, your reports can be worked on and shared within your team effortlessly.
- You’ll also want to subscribe to a virtual office service that will provide you with a physical mailing address you can use on any official documents. For example, in places like Japan, a Japanese business address is required on company incorporation documents. Services like MailMate provide business addresses so the company stays compliant with regulations while still going fully remote.
Try several platforms and choose the one you like best for the interface and features your team needs.
2. Select additional tools for employee interaction
It is important to find convenient programs for working remotely with projects and for communicating with each team member. We have selected the most popular and convenient tools that can be useful for you.
● Slack is a handy corporate messenger for communicating and transferring files. It easily integrates with Trello and many other applications.
● Zoom is a platform for video conferencing, which can involve several hundred people. It integrates with Dropbox and Microsoft Outlook.
● Google Docs is a resource for working with documents, which allows participants to simultaneously make edits, leave comments, and communicate.
● Zapier is a program to help sort out routine tasks. It can be integrated with Gmail and Trello so that emails automatically become new tasks.
● Miro is an interactive whiteboard for ideas and thinking. You can draw, write, glue stickers, etc.
● Creately is a platform for brainstorming and planning for remote teams.
3. Take care of corporate security
Employees store business information on laptops and smartphones, so it is important to protect that data. Use special programs for information security.
● Norton 360 is a multifunctional program that not only protects against viruses but also makes backup files in the cloud for PC, monitors connections between the protected device and other computers, and blocks unauthorized traffic.
● 1Password is a program for storing passwords.
4. Protect your employees from information overload
It is also useful to reduce all chats, emails, and conference calls to 1 or 2 programs, as it is extremely difficult to work with multiple tools, switching from one messenger to another, and so on. It takes so much time and effort.
Choose one CRM system, one messenger, one video-call program for your team, and that will be enough for a small business. Another helpful method is using small business phone service providers that will guarantee a seamless connection for your remote team.
5. Invest in the right equipment and software for convenient work
We recommend providing employees with a headset (headphones + microphone) for good communication. Think about what tools and accessories your remote team might need.
For example, Automattic, the creator of WordPress, not only provides its employees with the equipment they need but also gives $2,000 to set up a home office.
Listen to employees’ suggestions about the need for any software to work with. For example, SEO professionals may need Key Collector software, so buy a license just for specific employees.
The First Steps in Managing a Remote Team
The “virtual office” is ready, now we need to deal with the training of employees. Remotely explaining to a person what is required of him is not easy. The manager needs to set up the business processes correctly.
6. Formulate ground rules for the remote team
First, write out how you see your remote team’s workday and create a manual for the work.
Prepare online training documents for remote interaction. Then distribute them for the team members so that they understand what programs and platforms they will have to work in with the rest of the team.
7. Assign a mentor to a new employee
A supervisor will help understand the work process, answer the newcomer’s questions, and support him in a friendly way. Skyeng, where 90% of employees work remotely, recommends scheduling daily meetings in the first week. Discuss with the new employee what they did well, what challenges they had, and why.
8. Make the schedule flexible
Some employees are productive at 7 a.m.; others are more comfortable starting at noon. GitHub, the largest web service for hosting IT projects, advises allowing employees to manage their own time.
If members of a distributed team live in different time zones, agree on a convenient time slot for everyone to be in touch. Don’t forget about the national holidays! Therefore, you can keep a shared calendar, where it will be clear what days which employee has a holiday. You can use Calendly software to do this.
Work Process and Motivation of Distributed Team Members
A good manager should be an example to the entire team. Show your employees how to set goals, fulfill tasks, maintain discipline, and be independent in their work.
9. For remote work, choose those employees who can work in this mode
First of all, assemble a team of specialists who know and like to work remotely. Not everyone is ready for this. Someone is constantly distracted by household chores, can’t sit still, is often absent from his or her workplace, and is difficult to contact by video link.
Therefore, we recommend testing the candidates on the ability to work remotely for 2-3 days. If the person is not quite suitable for such work, it is better to offer him a vacancy in the office.
10. Establish a trusting relationship with your team
Start with yourself! The manager’s openness will make the other team members feel relaxed. Share pictures of your home office, family, pet, establish a buddy relationship with employees.
11. Motivate employees to achieve their goals
Many employees care not only about financial motivation, but also the possibility of career growth, extra days off, a comfortable workplace, bonuses, training courses. So be sure to introduce an internal system of rewards and motivation for your distributed team.
For example, you can make a bonus system. For their help in solving tasks, each employee will have the opportunity to give bonuses to his colleagues. At the end of the month, the accumulated bonuses can be spent on extra time off or corporate gifts.
12. Focus on the result, not the activity
Many managers make the big mistake of managing a remote team by starting to track every step of the employees. This leads to an unwillingness to work effectively and damaged team relationships.
Forbes recommends that managers focus on results instead of monitoring every hour employees work. Give up micromanagement!
Allow the employee to allocate their own time and prioritize tasks. After all, you’ve assembled a team of experts, not interns. You can monitor the work of your employees without excessive control through the CRM system or weekly reports.
13. Try the 360° method for evaluating work
The 360° method involves evaluating an employee “from all sides,” i.e. not only the manager, but also colleagues, subordinates, and the employee himself. This is a great way to identify the strengths and weaknesses of employees and to outline a way to improve their performance.
Communication in a Remote Team: 7 Effective Tips
The main problem with remote work is the communication and distance barriers that prevent project participants from feeling like a team. Employees feel like strangers who cannot meet in person, chat in the office, have coffee together at lunch, or participate in a “live” discussion of project tasks.
The manager should help their team get rid of barriers and create a friendly environment for working together and interacting creatively. Here are a few tips that have helped many companies bridge the virtual divide between employees.
14. Don’t limit communication to text chat, communicate via video
During communication, people use about 10,000 nonverbal signals per minute. Therefore, face-to-face contact is necessary to better understand each other. Contact your employees by a video call from time to time or hold a mini-conference.
15. Separate chat, video, and email
All of these tools are necessary for communication, but you need to agree with your team when and how to contact each other. There is no need to make a video call for any reason, just a chat.
But if you want to discuss some task, it is better to talk via video call so that you can see the true intentions and emotions of the employee. This is necessary to avoid misunderstandings.
Email communication is better left for business communication with clients because this tool is not suitable for quick communication.
16. Do not forget about the corporate culture of communication
The manager’s task is to create a comfortable virtual office life for each employee. To do this, all members of the team should follow a few rules of online communication.
17. Use emojis when communicating with colleagues
Some companies think emojis are beyond corporate etiquette, but they’re not. Sara Rosso, director of marketing at Automattic, says she uses emoticons with her colleagues all the time. It is necessary to understand each other’s emotions.
Video communication is good, but not everyone is ready for this way of interaction every day, so use emojis to convey your mood.
18. Make gifs or stickers of your company
An assignment for graphic designers is to make cool stickers for your remote team. For a lunch break, you can make a sticker with an employee who eats whenever you text him or her. For acknowledgment of receiving a new task, make a funny “accepted” gif for the person who says that most often. Stickers and gifs will lift your spirits and brighten your workday.
19. Chat for non-work communication of employees
In a regular office, employees can chat in the hallway or in the kitchen. In a virtual space, there is no such opportunity. So make an informal chat group. There, you can talk about everything: the graduation of the son, the wife’s birthday, trips out of town, etc. Let this chat open all the time in the background, it creates that feeling of presence.
20. Encourage employees to turn off chats and not check email after hours
Many employees answer work emails even in the middle of the night, this shouldn’t be the case. A person should rest and clearly distinguish between working and non-working hours. Otherwise, such an employee is prone to rapid burnout, and eventually, he will stop coping with his work duties because of chronic fatigue. Advise your team not to forget the principle of 8-8-8 (8 hours of work, 8 hours of sleep, and 8 hours of rest).
Fun Activities for the Team
The secret to the success of a remote team is a friendly atmosphere, fun communication, and trust. Friendly relationships can be maintained at a distance, even if you have never met in person. The manager’s job is to rally the team and set a positive mood.
21. Have a fun get-together once or twice a week
Get together in video chats as often as possible to get to know each other better. Talk about the weather, hobbies, share skills, suggest movies, discuss computer games, have “remote” lunches. You can also set up virtual team-building events like escape rooms from Escapely to promote team unity and have a little fun with it! All of this is necessary to avoid feeling lonely. Create a remote office that is fun and comfortable for everyone involved.
22. Hold field trips
It is important for the team members to have the opportunity to meet in person, socialize, and have a great time at least once a year. Large companies arrange employee meetings in Thailand, France, or Montenegro, choosing locations depending on the preferences of the remote team. Such meetings are an opportunity not only to relax but also to bond.
For example, Automattic organizes a 7-day Grand Meetup trip for its employees from all over the world every year. Colleagues get to know each other, discuss projects, share experiences, and just have fun at the parties. Make it a practice in your company, too!
The first month of managing a remote team can seem like a challenge until you set up distance business processes. As soon as there is communication between everyone involved in the project, and there is team spirit, your company’s business will take off!
Allow employees to be more independent, encourage them, motivate them to work for results, enjoy on-site meetings, all this will make your team members friends who trust and help each other go to success.