Remote work is growing fast. According to IWG, 70% of professionals around the world work remotely at least once per week. And these numbers are only expected to rise in the future.
Whether your team is completely distributed or just a few of your staff members work outside the office from time to time, this blog post will help you better manage a remote team. We’ll start by addressing three myths regarding remote work. Then we’ll detail seven tips you can use to manage a remote team more effectively.
Let’s dive in!
3 Remote Work Myths
Before we get into our seven tips to better manage a remote team, we first want to bust a few myths. There are misconceptions regarding remote work and it’s time to start changing the narrative.
Myth #1: Remote Teams Are Less Productive
Without other people around to “keep remote workers in line,” won’t they be tempted to procrastinate and slack off? The belief that remote teams are less productive is a very common one. But the numbers don’t lie.
Recent Stanford research found that remote workers were actually more productive than their office-bound counterparts. In the study, telecommuters placed 13.5% more calls and quit 50% less often. This is thought to be largely due to having less distractions — chatty co-workers, for example — outside of the office.
When you adhere to the seven tips and guidelines listed in the next section of this post, your remote workers will be just as engaged and productive as any other employee — maybe even more so!
Myth #2: Remote Teams Kill Company Culture
What about company culture? If your team isn’t physically present with each other on a regular basis, won’t it be hard to establish relationships and encourage collaboration? While this concern is understandable, it doesn’t have merit.
A recent Gallup poll found that remote works are actually more likely to feel like their opinions matter and to understand their company’s overarching mission. This proves that company culture is better built via shared values and conscious efforts than close proximity of workers.
Myth #3: Remote Workers Are Less Professional
For some reason everyone seems to think that remote workers live in their pajamas and are somehow less professional than those who clock in at an office every day.
While it may be true that off-site employees tend to dress more casually — yes, even wearing pajamas now and then — what counts is the work accomplished. If everything asked of them is completed satisfactorily and on time, does it really matter what they wore, in their own home, while completing it?
It should also be noted that the “pajama workers” are a distinct minority. Many telecommuters prefer to shower and get dressed before sitting down to work. They find that it adds a welcome structure to their day.
How to Manage a Remote Team
Now that we’ve busted a few myths, let’s dive into our list of seven tips to help you better manage a remote team. Ready?
1. Adopt a Remote Mentality
To successfully manage a remote team, you first have to adopt the right mindset. Your employees won’t be around for you to “check up” on. Which means you’ll need to learn to really trust your team to deliver quality work on time. For some, this is difficult.
But just because you let go of the reins a bit doesn’t mean you aren’t involved at all. You also need to develop a mindset of inclusivity. Make it a habit to be in communication with your remote workers, whether via Slack, video chat, or something else.
Bring them in on decisions when it makes sense, keep them in the company loop, and engage them when you’re able. Doing so will help build company culture, even if a particular employee has never set foot in the main office.
2. Hire the Right Employees
Not every employee is cut out for remote work. If you’re hiring for a remote position, you need to determine whether the candidate in question will be a good to work from outside the office. To do this, we have a few recommendations:
First, conduct interviews via video chat. Since you’ll be interacting with this person through technology anyway, it makes sense to assess their personality and company fit through these means as well. Be sure to ask them about their values to gauge cultural fit.
Second, don’t hesitate to ask applicants to complete a skills assessment or work sample. For writers, this could be crafting a post for the company blog; a sales professional may be asked to prepare a presentation. The assessment you assign them will completely depend on the position they are applying for and what your company needs.
Finally, always seek out references. Past and current employers have experience working with the candidate in question and should be able to paint you an accurate picture of what interacting with them every day will be like.
3. Set Clear Expectations
Once your remote team is in place, you need to set clear expectations for them. What standards do you expect to be met? Do they need to have specific “office hours” or are you happy as long as the work gets done? Which tools do they need to have to be able to interact with other team members effectively
If you don’t set clear expectations from the beginning, each employee will end up doing things their own way. This will likely lead to trouble down the road. To manage a remote team successfully, make sure each staff member knows exactly what they are required to do.
4. Use the Right Tools
Technology is essential when attempting to manage a remote team. Here are the kinds of tools you’ll likely find useful and some of our favorites in each category:
While email is undoubtedly useful, we find it’s easier for remote teams to communicate via a different tool. Slack is a great option and is considered by many remote-first companies — from Helpscout to Buffer — to be essential. The app makes team collaboration easy and efficient.
It’s important to see your team, even if it’s through a screen. A video conferencing app like Zoom is a great option. The platform is intuitive and reliable, and can facilitate large groups of people at one time.
There are A LOT of project management tools out there. But to manage a remote team, we recommend Trello because it’s so incredibly simple to use. The app allows you to easily break large projects down into manageable chunks and display them for your team in a visual way — greatly increasing productivity at the same time!
Digital Asset Management
Digital Asset Management (DAM) is essential for modern marketing teams — especially those with remote employees. The file organization and sharing features inside CleanPix will help your team collaborate more effectively and become much more productive.
5. Develop Systems and Workflows
Standardized processes and workflows will make it much easier to manage a remote team. How should employees submit finished work? Who will review it and when? What day and time will you hold weekly meetings?
The more streamlined and standardized you can make things for your remote employees, the better. They’ll know exactly what’s expected of them (remember that tip?) and you won’t go insane trying to manage multiple people in different time zones. Win-win!
6. Hold Meetings Regularly
You should be communicating with telecommuters on a regular basis, whether via Slack, email, or some other tool. But it’s also important to schedule more formalized meetings as well. This is where a video conferencing tool like Zoom (mentioned earlier) really comes in handy.
Your meetings should occur on a regular basis, on the same day of the week, and at the same time. That way everyone knows what to expect and can plan the meeting into their schedule.
While you’ll want to keep these virtual gatherings focused and professional, don’t automatically squelch small-talk. These relationship building moments can go a long way towards improving company culture.
7. Be Available
Finally, to manage a remote team, you need to get into the habit of making yourself available. Your employees should feel comfortable coming to you with any issues they’re experiencing. And it should be easy for them to do so.
That doesn’t mean you need to be “on call” 24/7. But it does mean that your team should feel confident that if they reach out to you, you’ll respond to them in a reasonable amount of time. By being both accessible and supportive of your staff, you’ll build strong bonds and improve company culture.
Remote work is an exciting opportunity, but it does come with a few challenges. Fortunately, if you follow the seven tips outlined in this post, you’ll be able to successfully manage a remote team. Let’s quickly recap the tips we covered:
- Adopt a remote mentality.
- Hire the right employees.
- Set Clear Expectations.
- Use the right tools.
- Develop systems and workflows.
- Hold meetings regularly.
- And be available.
If you do those seven things, you should have no problem trying to manage a remote team. Good luck!– Jacob Thomas