How to manage remote teams

5 most common challenges of managing remote teams

Working remotely is extremally popular nowadays. Small businesses are hiring virtual assistants and workers with certain skill sets to work for them remotely. While big companies and corporations have whole teams working for them from various locations.   

Remote workers are beneficial for businesses of every size. As the location is no longer a problem, companies can hire people with top talents and skills across the continent without relocating them. Businesses can also save a lot of time, resources and money, that they would need to spend to manage workers in-house. Companies begin to see the benefits of having remote teams more and more clearly, and the trend is getting more popular.    

People highly appreciate the possibility of working from home and co-working places of their choice as well. It creates a better life-work balance for workers, improves their focus, motivation and reduces stress. Moreover, both companies and workers can agree that today, many positions do not require people to be at the office from 9 to 5.    

While the benefits of remote teams and workers are clear for every party, many companies are still not sure about implementing the new working style in their workforce. And those who do, face some challenges in managing remote workers or teams and delivering results they seek for. We outlined some common challenges managers face when managing remote teams and ways to overcome them.    


1. Communication  


Communication is the key to every successful team. However, it is not the easiest part, especially when it comes to remote teams. Communication in remote teams is challenging. There are no daily face-to-face interactions between the team members, and it is hard to set the natural communication flow. 

It is extremally important to have open and smooth communication in the team. The exchange of information should be mutual between team members and managers. Team members should know what others are working on, the volume of the work and the progress of it. While for many it can be a common sense, it is not as easy to achieve as it might sound. 

When facing the challenge with communication for the first time, team managers usually go in two directions. Some of them neglect the need for communication and focus on work. As a result, teamwork is absent, and the outcome is very poor.  

Others force too much communication. They request constant updates, have endless email chains and calls. So much so, that workers have little to no time for actual work. As a manager, you want to find the balance and implement the right communication strategy.  

What to consider:  
  • Set the right structure

Before you start thinking about the communication strategy and channels, make sure that you have the optimal structure in the team. Building the right team structure will save you a lot of time and energy later. Make sure that the structure, workflow, and communication plan is crystal clear for everyone.   

  • Clarify everything you can 

Set the right expectations and clarify as much as you can about the role of the member and the team. Whenever adding the new member in your remote team, make sure to communicate as much information as needed right away. Clarify their role, role of other members, the goal of the team, KPIs and communication methods and strategy right away. They do not have another possible way to learn those things. Update team member as the rules or expectations change. This way, you will be able to reduce uncertainty and confusion to zero.  

  • Use management and communication tools

There are a lot of nifty online communication tools you can use for team management and communication. Use those tools for more engaging and clearer communication but do not go overboard with them. Having too many of them will make employees confused. 

  • Schedule weekly team meetings 

As a manager, you need to keep in touch with your team members. It will keep you updated and at the same time, will inspire trust between you and team members. But it can be difficult when team members are working from different cities or countries. One way to approach this situation is to schedule regularly recurring meetings that are obligatory to attend. You can conduct such meetings weekly, or monthly based on the work you do. They must have a certain agenda which is agreed with all participants. It must include updates from both sides and plan for the next steps.   


  2. Collaboration on the projects   


More and more companies see that collaboration is beneficial for every project. Not long ago, roles were strictly divided into a team, but today, departments, teams and members are encouraged to collaborate.   

In the in-house teams, collaboration on projects is not a problem. Employees in the office are spending working hours together, they communicate during the day and bond with each other. Thus, they already have a level of trust, that is very important for successful collaboration.  

Working with remote teams have a lot of positive impact on projects and the company itself, but managers should overcome certain challenges and inefficiencies. Collaboration on projects is one of them.   

What to consider: 
  • Ensure team engagement   

When people are sharing the same office, communication and engagement come naturally. Coworkers tend to talk about topics not related to work during the lunchtime or at the water cooler. It is easy to come up with team engagement activities in the office too. But what should a manager do, when employees are only connected online? Even when a team works online team engagement is important for a great collaboration.   

However, managers cannot direct employees to engage with each other, rather, managers need to facilitate it. As a manager, you can facilitate open communication, show the human side and encourage others to do so too.   

  • Have daily standups  

One of the best ways to ensure engagement and encourage collaboration is to conduct daily meetings, so-called standups. It will take up to 15 minutes of your day but will give you enormous benefits. Such standups are a great way to start a day together with your team. Each member will be able to say what they are working on, what are the obstacles and results. This way, the whole team will be updated about the team accomplishment and project progress. All team members attend such meetings, meaning that there will be developers, salespeople, marketing and others. Discussing projects with all of them creates a solid ground for future collaboration.   

  • Encourage transparency  

Whether you work in a startup, small business or a big corporation, you have your own company culture. It is not only for your office employees but for your virtual team as well. While your remote workers might live on the other side of the planet, they must share the company values and the culture too. Transparency is a big part of it. As a manager, you are the representative of the company for your remote team. It means, that you must be the one, who showcases company culture in everyday work. To encourage transparency, you need to be open to your team and be available to them during working hours. Various instant online tools and face to face video calls will help you do that. Your remote team members should be able to talk to each other, work together and observe the communication between you and the team.   


  3. Performance management   


As a manager, you need to make sure that remote employees accomplish their job duties. The outcome of their work should be up to your company standard, efficient, and delivered on time. You need to also make sure that they are spending their working time effectively and in an appropriate way. This is easy when you sit in the same room. But, tracking and evaluating the performance of the remote worker is challenging.   

What to consider:  
  • Set clear KPIs   

How do you track the performance of your employees in the office? You should use the same criteria to track, evaluate and manage the performance of remote workers. Setting clear expectation, responsibilities and KPIs is very important. Employees should know that are you expecting from their work, what are their responsibilities, and which criteria will you use to evaluate them.   

  • Conduct one on one meetings 

Giving and receiving feedback is very important. Employees that do not have daily face to face interactions with you need constant feedback even more. Remote employees will need a frequent update on their work and overall performance so they can adjust accordingly. It will give them the possibility to give you feedback too, and create a better working environment for themselves. Frequent exchange of feedback will allow you to address issues at an early stage. You will be able to manage the performance of your employees and help them optimize it.   


  4. Security   


Having proper security is critical for your business. When working with the remote teams you exchange information about your know-how, working structure, clients and projects. Part of this information can be critical and must be kept in confidence. While no one wants to think about the possible bad case scenarios, it is very important to think of them and take relevant actions before hiring a remote team.   

There might be several security threats when managing the remote team. First of all, not all your remote employees might be well informed about online security threats which can bring a lot of trouble to the company. Also, not all stories have a happy ending, some of your employees whom you have to let go, might not take the news well. As a manager, you need to minimize security risks.  

What to consider: 
  • Conduct data protection training  

Your remote team members might be very diverse. Some of them can have a better understanding of data protection than others. Managers need to make sure that everyone is aware of security threats and knows how to keep data protected and safe. To explain it and teach how to protect data managers should conduct data protection training. On such training, managers can introduce data protection tools and password management systems company uses.   

  • Implement a clear security policy   

The company needs to have a clear security policy for its remote employees. The policies must be very clear and hence, easy to follow for every worker. Such a protocol will help the company keep its information protected all the time. The protocol should include contracts and NDAs that outlines the rules employees should follow and restricts them from spreading confidential information. Managers should make sure that none of the employees has access to such information without signing the NDAs and documents first. Security policy can also include requirements for setting passwords and authentication policies.  

  • Have a crisis response plan  

The company needs to know what actions to take in case of a security crisis. Managers, alongside the people responsible for security, should work on such plans before hiring remote teams. The plan should include responses on the situations such as security vulnerability, losing devices with sensitive data, unauthorized access to the data, breach of NDAs from remote employees, etc. Being ready for such situations will make it easier for managers to minimize security threats.   


  5. Company culture   


Every company has its own culture which develops as the company grows and expands. Company culture unites the values the company is built on, how employees treat their work and each other and more. Whether your company has a professional culture or encourages fun and energetic one, it needs to make sure that the culture is implemented and cultivated equally in different office locations, including remote teams. Company culture Is part of every working day, hence implementing it in office might not require a lot of efforts from the manager’s side. But when it comes to the remote teams, the situation is a bit different.   

As remote employees might be working from different locations, they never meet each other or other members of the company. They work alone and therefore; it is hard for them to feel like a part of the company and share its culture. For successful long-term partnership, managers need to make sure that company culture unites not only in-house employees but remote workers too.   

What to consider: 
  • Adapt to the local culture 

Having remote teams allows company recruiters to employee talents all around the world without the need of relocating them. It comes with great benefits but also with cultural differences that might be challenging for managers. While the company has its own culture, remote employees also have their own. Managers need to take cultural differences into the account. They need to find the right approach to managing a diverse team. Respecting local culture and implementing part of it in company culture will help managers create a bond between the company and remote employee.   

  • Conduct company induction into processes  

A company might have remote teams working in various fields. While each member of each team might have a different manager, everyone should receive the same information about the company. Managers should prepare an introduction covering the workflow and processes of the company, its mission, value, structure and policy. All employees should be able to represent the company consistently and be aware of the services and products it offers.   

  • Keep consistency in benefits and opportunities  

While the in-house team might be easier to manage, the company should keep the consistency in benefits and opportunities as a priority. Remote employees and in-house ones should be treated the same way. They must receive the same benefits. Also, the company should ensure that all of them have the same opportunity to develop themselves and grow no matter their working location.   


Final thoughts   


Remote teams are on the rise today, but tomorrow companies should expect them to be even more popular. Remote teams give companies the possibility to have the top talents around the world on board, without the need for their relocation. While hiring employees remotely companies can cut operational costs unbelievably and be able to maintain the quality of their work and expand. On the other side, knowing the benefits of working remotely, more and more professionals prefer working remotely, encouraging companies to adapt to the new working style.   

At this point, it is anticipated that more companies will start hiring remote teams in future. Thus, the managers need to learn how to establish open communication, engage remote teams and implement company culture across different teams and locations.   


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