Over the past few years, a great number of companies around the world have incorporated some form of remote working into their internal processes. In fact, more companies are joining every day, given the benefits this approach brings to both workers and businesses.
However, it is crucial to learn how to manage a remote team appropriately. Otherwise, any breakdown in communication or deterioration in workers’ well-being can backfire. So, for a successful transition from a face-to-face to a virtual setting, here are six tips on how to manage a remote team.
- Taking care of employees’ personal concerns has benefits for the company’s productivity.
- Trust and flexibility, along with a results-focused strategy, are the basis for successful remote leadership.
- Successful remote team management also requires technological tools for securing access to information.
Top 6 Tips for Managing a Remote Work Team
Below, you’ll find some tips on how to manage a remote team. We hope you find the information useful!
1. Trust your team
The most obvious difference between face-to-face and virtual work environments is the way work is monitored. For many managers, the physical presence of employees in front of their computers is a way to measure their productivity. By contrast, in remote work, the only way to see this is through the monitoring of metrics and targets.
So, not the way each employee manages their time from home, but the achievement of regular goals, should be the most important element in remote team management. This change of mindset may be a challenge for many leaders who move from face-to-face to virtual settings, but achieving it is critical to success. Trust is the key, though there is one concept that can get in the way, and that is micromanagement:
What is micromanagement?
Micromanagement is a leadership style where managers closely observe everything their employees do, thus limiting their independence and freedom at work. In turn, this affects the working environment, reduces creativity, and hurts overall performance. Moreover, because micromanagers devote a large part of their efforts to excessive control of their employees, other important aspects of the business are likely to be neglected. Read more about micromanagement in the workplace.
“Micromanagement is a rising concern that affects the development of companies and decreases their productivity due to excessive and unnecessary controls. This leads to longer process times and the demotivation of the stakeholders that are essential for success (1)”.
2. Establish clear rules
To have confidence in his team, a manager must, of course, have some certainties. And these certainties come from a set of rules that guarantee positive results and adequately guide workers without suffocating them.
International Labor Organization, 2020 – Keys to effective remote working during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Effectively management of remote workers requires a results-based management approach. This involves defining goals, objectives and tasks, and then monitoring and talking about progress, without imposing excessive reporting (2).”
Working hours and availability
Workers should be clear about their terms, understand the conditions of employment and the times when they must be available to attend meetings or take calls. These schedules should be known and respected by everyone. The calendar and instant messaging statements on the company’s authorized platform are good ways to inform the team.
It is necessary to set clear purposes for each communication channel: email, corporate chat and social networking, phone calls and video conferencing. The employee’s personal preferences should also be taken into account, especially when it comes to the use of the camera.
|Communication channel||Examples of use||Degree of urgency|
|E-mail*||Make announcements about projects, schedule meetings, make requests, record what was agreed during meetings, assign tasks, and send reminders or updates.||Moderate to low|
|Business chat||Ask brief questions, make quick decisions, and make simple requests.||High|
|Social network||Encourage bonding among colleagues, make announcements of general interest, open discussions on non-work related topics, and share topics of personal interest.||Low|
|Videoconferencing||Discuss everything related to projects, give and receive feedback, do integration activities, collect ideas or opinions, have periodic follow-up meetings, and have virtual coffee breaks.||Low (it is advisable to schedule videoconferences in advance)|
|Phone call (to corporate landline or cell phone number)||Emergencies and specific situations defined by the employee.||Very high|
*E-mail applications allow you to send a message marked as urgent or high priority. This way, the recipients will attend to that specific e-mail with agility.
Should the use of the camera be mandatory?
In reality, not every meeting requires a camera on, both for practical reasons and for connectivity. It is true that seeing colleagues increases the sense of closeness and trust and avoids losing non-verbal language. However, some people are more uncomfortable appearing on camera than others, so it is not advisable to make it compulsory.
Employees should be informed about the tools or methods that will be used to measure the progress of their work and assigned tasks. This involves setting general objectives, specific goals, regular follow-up meetings, and deadlines according to the workload and complexity of the task.
This also requires some flexibility in terms of scheduling. Managing a team remotely should be results-oriented, not about how each employee personally handles his/her productive time. The household dynamics are different for each person, and managers should respect this point where work and personal life cross over.
3. Encourage work-life balance
Work-life balance is a balance between the time a person spends working and time devoted to other aspects of life, such as family and leisure. This concept, together with job stability, personal fulfilment, and fair earnings, among others, determines a person’s overall quality of life” (3).
Because the personal and work environments overlap when working remotely, employees need to have the tools for a balance between them. Not only for their personal benefit, but also for the benefit of the company (4):
Advantages of promoting work-life balance
|Lower probability of burnout*||Lower level of absenteeism|
|Better physical and mental health||Higher productivity|
|Higher level of overall satisfaction||Higher talent retention|
|Better interpersonal relationships||Better work environment|
* Burnout syndrome is a state of extreme exhaustion, both mental and physical, caused by excessive workloads, high levels of job stress and dissatisfaction.
54% of employees feel they have an excessive workload, and 39% feel burnout, according to a 2021 study by HR company Adecco, which included workers from 27,000 companies.
What can the company do?
While establishing a work-life balance is a commitment of both the employee and the company, here are some elements you can implement as a team leader (4):
- Encourage worker autonomy.
- Promote cooperation and social interaction dynamics.
- Avoid isolation of some team members.
- Rotate different tasks and responsibilities.
- Design various ways of recognizing and rewarding workers’ achievements.
- Encourage the participation of workers in decision-making.
- Take measures to maintain a good working environment.
- Schedule breaks during the workday.
- Help workers to have an ergonomic workstation at home.
- Provide professional psychological support options.
- Be willing to listen and practice empathy.
- Enable formal and informal communication channels so that workers can express themselves in a safe manner.
- Raise awareness about healthy lifestyle habits (balanced diet, sports, no smoking, no excess alcohol, etc.) and the importance of mental health.
4. Establish productivity criteria
Defining performance and productivity expectations are essential for focusing on results. All team members must have a clear understanding of the objective they are working towards and the goals that can be achieved with their efforts. For this, you can rely on technological tools.
It could involve a spreadsheet or advanced software. Each team member should know what they should be working on, when, and for how long. It is also useful for them to understand what their colleagues are working on and how the tasks and timelines are flowing.
Undoubtedly, task tracking is a basic concept that all companies handle, but it requires adjustments and improvements for remote teams.
This will avoid overlaps, delays and possible loss of time and effort, and will favor teamwork, cooperation and optimization of time and resources. Similarly, it is vital to schedule follow-up meetings to resolve doubts and possible problems. By doing it, you will be able to ensure that the goal is being reached and that the whole team remains aligned with the common objective.
5. Encourage communication and feedback
Keeping various channels of communication open is essential for preventing isolation among team members in a teleworking team. In particular, one type of communication is very useful, and that is feedback. This is a regular exchange of information about personal and work performance and performance at work. This process has great benefits for both employees and the company (5).
Advantages of feedback
|By recognizing the positive points, their motivation increases.||Pointing out areas for improvement increases the quality and accuracy of work.|
|Increases their security and self-confidence thanks to two-way communication.||Workers’ performance improves significantly.|
|Avoid frustration at work.||Valuable information is gathered without investing a lot of resources.|
|Team members feel that their work is valued and important.||Results and improvements are evident in a short time.|
|You improve your self-image and aim to exceed your own capabilities.||Other staff developments and training programs are reinforced.|
|You can talk about your aspirations in the company.||Creates a more caring working environment.|
Now that you know the benefits of feedback, start scheduling regular, individual meetings with each of your team members. You will soon notice how communication starts to flow: concerns will be resolved, improvement proposals, new ideas, acknowledgements, and much more will follow. Also, be willing to ask for and receive objective feedback from your team.
6. Invest in cybersecurity
In remote work, easy access to documents internally, on the one hand, and strong protection of information externally, on the other hand, must be a priority. It is well known that in recent years, the risk of cyber-attacks has increased considerably for companies. The causes include remote work, which is now widely used, and online transactions and electronic messaging, which are becoming more and more common.
Managing a remote working team is no easy task. There are many aspects to cover, and none is less important than any other. The key is to trust the talents that make up the company, establish clear rules, open communication channels and rely on the appropriate technological tools.
Finally, it is vital to remember that in any company, the well-being of employees must be a priority, as this is what will open the doors to success. If people are at ease in their work and there are fair and well-established rules, this will be reflected in productivity rates.
1. Ariza Hernández A, Rey Pardo LM, Sabogal Castro MF, Sánchez Páez RA, Sosa Mora N. Study of micromanagement in project management present in the organizational culture. Universidad EAN. 2020 .
2. Keys to effective telework during the COVID-19 pandemic. International Labour Organization; 2020 .
3. Durán MM. Psychological well-being: stress and quality of life in the work context. National Journal of Management. 2010;1(1):71-84; .
4. Dobarro LC. Working without burning out: what should be the role of companies. Forbes Spain. 2021 .
5. Casares E. Communication in the organization; feedback as a source of satisfaction. Razón y Palabra. 2007; (56); .
6. Ballestero F. How to improve cybersecurity in Spain: Steps before a great opportunity. ICE Economic Bulletin, Spanish Commercial Information. 2022.