Navigating the challenges of remote team management

Read Time: 5 minutes

Bobby Rae

Bobby Rae

Updated: Jan 23, 2024

Virtual meeting

In a 2003 60 Minutes interview, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs famously said: “Great things in business are never done by one person. They're done by a team of people.” Having been the visionary that saw his rise to a billion-dollar company, he’s not wrong. Building the right team is key - especially when they’re working remotely. 

Recent years have seen a meteoric rise in the number of people working remotely, but how do you as a manager build a strong team culture, overcome challenges and get them collaborating effectively when you’re not all in the same place? Let’s find out.

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How to build a remote team

More and more we see not only companies advertising remote roles but a demand from employees for remote work in some form. According to a report by Flexjobs, 57 percent of people would consider leaving their job if it didn’t offer remote options.

Building a remote team can be hard and for some leaders - even those with years of hiring experience - is something new. That doesn’t mean it can’t be rewarding and prove to be an asset to your business. The first step is to find the right people. When you’re interviewing candidates look for those who are self-motivated, proactive and able to work independently. 

Once you have your team, be sure to give them a great onboarding. A well-planned process will help new members feel welcome and included from the start. Be sure you’re scheduling a meeting with them first thing to say your own personal hello and talk them through any important first steps of joining the business.

It’s all about communication 

Once you have your team in place, communication is going to be key. When you’re not in the same physical location, it’s important to establish clear communication channels and use the right tools to keep everyone on the same page.

When you don’t have the ability to pop by a colleague's desk or ask them a question in the break room, a lack of communication can lead to misunderstandings, confusion and even conflict between members of your team. Be sure to schedule regular group meetings with the team to talk through issues, set up tools like Slack or Microsoft Team to allow colleagues to chat easily with each other and a ticketing system for tasks so nothing gets missed.

Effective collaboration is also essential for your remote team. Think about using online tools like digital whiteboards or shared documents to make it easier for those working on the same project to work from one place. 

Your communication plan also needs to extend beyond the day-to-day. Think about how you want your team to know what your goals and expectations are. Think about a tool that can help your team work on long-term planning and be sure to set up regular check-ins to ensure everyone stays on track.

Remote working Graphic (green grid)

Managing remotely 

Managing remote workers requires a different approach than managing an in-person team. While you won't be able to supervise your team in the same way, you can still set expectations, schedule regular 1:1s, track progress and manage performance effectively.

One key aspect of managing remote workers is setting clear goals and expectations. This means providing detailed instructions on what you expect and how your team’s work will be evaluated. As well as regular check-ins think about quarterly reviews to go over strengths and areas of improvement to ensure your team achieves the company goals.

It’s also important that you’re available to your team. Create a Booking Page, so that when your team needs to get hold of you they can find a time on your calendar easily.

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Overcoming the biggest challenges

While managing a remote team can be incredibly rewarding and do great things for your business - it's not without its difficulties. Aside from communication issues, which we’ve already addressed, handling differences in time zones and ensuring your team doesn’t suffer from burnout are also issues to think about.

If you’re based in San Francisco and have colleagues in Berlin, their day is ending as yours is just beginning. How do you manage a team when there’s a good chance they’re not online at the same time as you? 

Start by setting up regular check-ins at a time least inconvenient to you both. For example, if you’re in SF consider starting one day a week a little earlier, while your colleagues in Europe start a little later. A tool like Doodle can help you make a poll that manages time zones automatically, so finding a time that works best for everyone is easy. 

Next, look at doing a comprehensive audit of tools that can help ensure you’re team is staying on track and issues can quickly be identified. For example, a ticketing system where a project is broken into chunks and assigned to the appropriate team members. When one ticket isn’t going to plan it’s easy for you to identify and leave notes for your team to correct as soon as they are next online. Finding the right tools will enable you to maximize productivity and ensure projects are delivered on time. 

When your team is remote it’s not always going to be obvious when someone is struggling. Managing employee burnout when you’re not always there to see the signs is hard. Remote workers can often find it difficult to maintain a work/life balance due to a lack of separation between where they work and where they live. 

Be sure to encourage your team to take regular breaks (the Pomodoro model is a good start for this), establish clear boundaries between work and personal time and support their overall well-being. This can be done by offering flexible working hours, providing mental health support and creating opportunities for team members to connect and socialize. Have regular check-ins with your team as a group and 1:1 and provide them with feedback and recognition for their hard work.

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