Managing Remote Teams: How-To Guide for Managers (+10 Tips)

managing remote teams

How to successfully manage a global remote team? MediaBerry got you covered!

Managing remote teams is a hot topic right now. It's popping up in all kinds of industries, from software development to content marketing.

And it’s easy to see why. Remote employees have the flexibility to work from anywhere in the world, which means they can live wherever they want. They also don’t have to commute, making their lives much simpler and giving them more time with their families.

But while remote teams can be highly productive, they come with some unique challenges that you need to understand before diving headfirst into this model. You're in a different timezone and also a culturally different country, so it can seem more challenging to effectively organize team meetings and ensure everyone is on the same page.

But don’t worry. This article is meant to help you with ways to set up your global teams. The tips we've gathered will prove invaluable to your remote management skills and help you successfully manage a global remote team.

Business benefits of having remote teams

Access to a wider talent pool

The world is full of amazing people, and there are talented folks out there who may not be on your radar simply because they don't live near you. This can be especially helpful for startups and small businesses that want to grow quickly but don't have the resources to hire locally.

You might even miss out on talent if you ignore the remote working options. According to a 2021 FlexJobs survey, 58% of participants would look for a new job if they weren’t allowed to work remotely.

58% prefers working remotely

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In another 2022 FlexJobs survey, 77% of employees suggested that remote work was the second-highest compensation and an essential benefit.

More flexible working hours

A lot of businesses have found that having remote teams is a great way to cut down on costs and increase productivity. 

Studies suggest that having a flexible schedule is the biggest benefit of working remotely.

biggest benefits when working remotely

(Source)

This is because employees can work at their own pace and set their own hours. This makes it easier for them to manage their work-life balance and also gives them more freedom over what they do in their free time.

Easier team upscaling

An Upwork survey of 1,500 hiring managers pointed out that 22% of Americans will be working remotely by 2025. This indicates that remote teams can be easily scaled up or down depending on the need of the organization at that particular time. 

For example, if you want to increase your sales team and add more people to your team, you can do that without any problem because there wouldn’t be any need to move them physically to another location. All they will need is a laptop and an internet connection!

Higher productivity

The benefits of having remote teams are numerous, but one of the biggest is higher productivity. Remote workers can focus on work instead of distractions like traffic jams and coworkers socializing in the break room. 

In a survey by CNN, 67% of employers stated that their company productivity was the same. In comparison, 27% suggested that productivity was higher after they were made to work from home after the pandemic.

Cost competitiveness

As per Global Workplace Analytics, IBM was able to save $50 million in a year in real estate costs, McKesson could save $2 million, and Sun Microsystems was able to save $68 million per year as remote workers don’t require office space.

Plus, when your employees are working remotely from home or a coffee shop, they don’t have to worry about getting dressed up every morning or getting stuck in traffic on the way to work – all things that could add up to hours wasted each week. That time saved translates into money saved for your company.

Biggest hurdles to managing remote teams – Managers' point of view

1. Communication is scattered and misinterpreted.

The biggest hurdle of managing remote teams is that sometimes there’s no social interaction and connectivity between team members.

In a CCS insight survey, 33% of respondents said they felt disconnected from colleagues or lacked social interaction while working remotely. It was the biggest challenge faced by remote employees.

biggest challenges of working from home

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With a remote workforce, you can't just walk into the office and talk to someone if you have a question or need something done. Your only option is to send an email or make a phone call. In some cases, it can take up to several days just to hear back.

Communication is scattered and misinterpreted due to remote employees coming from different cultures and languages, which may even lead to miscommunication at times. Different time zones can also be a nightmare for scheduling meetings. You also have to take the leap of faith that your employees are working productively and not just watching cat videos on YouTube.

2. Your employees don’t have a true work-life balance.

Another major downside to managing remote employees is that they don’t have a true work-life balance and often face burnout.

The latest remote working statistics state that 30% of men and 21% of women work more than two extra hours daily while working remotely.

Moreover, 20% of respondents in a survey also stated that they struggle to get a clear separation between home life and work-life – one of the biggest reasons for burnout. 

If you have team members working remotely, they will not be as connected to their colleagues as those in the office. This can be problematic if a team member has a question and they don’t feel comfortable asking it in front of everyone else.

3. Team productivity and work progress are not visible enough.

The absence of a physical office where you can see your team working makes it hard to see what they're doing, how they're working, and whether they're getting things done. It's hard to know if your team is doing good work if you don't see it.

It is also hard to stay motivated in a work environment where team productivity and work progress are not visible. In fact, in a 2020 survey, 7% of remote employees said their uphill struggle was to stay motivated at work.

4. Team members work from different time zones

Team members are often in different time zones, so you need to be very clear in your instructions and ensure that they're understood. 

As per a study, 10% of employees surveyed said that being in a different timezone than teammates was their biggest struggle with working remotely.

biggest struggle of working remotely

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It's also important to make sure team members know what's expected of them and when they'll be evaluated so that they can plan their day accordingly.

5. Without an office, it’s hard to maintain company culture.

Did you know that 65% of employees who switched to remote work during the pandemic reported feeling less connected to their coworkers.

The biggest challenge for managing remote teams is creating a sense of community and camaraderie. It’s hard to get a group of people together in one place, so how can you expect them to feel like they’re part of something when they don’t even share the same physical space?

6. Isolation and lack of employee engagement affect mental health. 

As per Martec Group, the advantages like flexible schedules, fewer distractions, and no commute that employees get from working remotely do not surpass resulting mental health concerns. Many employees reported feeling sorrowful due to a lack of social interaction.

Also, in a survey, Matt Bradburn, the co-founder of London-based People Collective, found that 70% of his network was facing social and mental health issues, and feelings of loneliness. 

connor mollison

(Source)

Remote team management best practices

1. Set clear communication guidelines

You need to set clear guidelines on how your team will communicate with each other. This includes how often they'll check in via email or video calls, what the appropriate protocol is for sending messages or making requests, and whether they should limit their messages to certain hours of the day.

Setting expectations helps employees understand what's expected from them when they should be working on projects and increases overall communication and productivity. A lack of clarity can cause confusion about what's expected from employees, leading them to feel disengaged from their jobs and causing them to lose focus on their goals.

2. Create a stellar onboarding process for easily managing remote teams

The onboarding process is a crucial part of the employee hiring process. It's when you get to know each other and determine whether there's a good fit. If your company has an effective onboarding process, it can make the difference between an employee who sticks around for a long time and one who doesn't.

As per Business News Daily, poor onboarding has negatively affected employees, with approximately 10% of employees resigning due to their inadequate onboarding experience.

Here are some remote team management best practices to consider when creating your own onboarding process:

  • Consider automating the onboarding process
  • Set clear expectations upfront
  • Be open about office hours and work styles
  • Make sure everyone has access to the same information
  • Assign an onboarding buddy, as 56% of new hires wish to have a mentor or buddy to help them.

3. Set the ground rules for remote work

If you're going to work remotely, it's important to ensure that everyone is on the same page about how things will work. This means setting clear expectations on how often employees need to check-in, what tools they'll use (e.g., Slack), and how they should communicate with their colleagues.

You can follow these steps: 

  • Start by explaining the importance of ground rules
  • Ask each team member to suggest one or two ground rules
  • Discuss and reach an agreement on each proposed ground rule
  • Document the ground rules
  • Post them virtually during meetings

Here’s an example of what your list of ground rules may look like:

ground rules for remote work by MediaBerry to manage a remote team efficiently

It's best if these rules are established before starting work. Otherwise, it's easy for misunderstandings to arise when employees are expected to follow different sets of rules than those they were used to before joining the company.

4. Focus on outcomes, not activities

The most important thing you can do for remote team management is to focus on outcomes, not activities.

Why? Because with remote work, you don’t have access to all of your employees at the same time. You can’t see how they spend their time or what they are doing. So if you want your employees to produce good results and not just busywork, then they need clear goals and expectations.

Here are three ways to focus on outcomes instead of activity:

  • Don't worry about being perfect. Focus on creating an environment where people can do their best work instead of worrying about whether they'll get the details right every time.
  • Encourage openness and transparency among your team members by sharing information freely and encouraging everyone to ask questions when they need help. This will ensure that everyone has enough information to do their best work.
  • Give your team members freedom over how they complete tasks and projects.

5. Provide resources

As a manager, you know that your employees need to be equipped with the right tools to do their jobs well. That includes having access to training courses in software suites like Salesforce or even more elementary skills like how to use Google Docs or Slack.

A knowledge library is a collection of resources – articles, videos, books – that employees can access whenever they need them. These resources should cover topics such as onboarding new hires and training for new software suites. 

In addition, you should include links to helpful articles on topics such as productivity hacks or how to manage stress while working from home. The idea is that this resource will help keep everyone on track without wasting time asking questions that have already been answered somewhere else within your organization's resources.

6. Master asynchronous communication

Asynchronous communication doesn't require both parties to be online at the same time. This is perfect for remote teams working in different time zones and can't communicate directly with each other.

According to Chase Warrington, the Asynchronous and Remote Work Expert from Todoist, asynchronous work saves time and increases productivity at work. Asynchronous communication can also reduce burnout and facilitate a true, flexible work environment.

Here are some tips on how to master asynchronous communication and make it work for you:

  • Set expectations upfront.
  • Make sure everyone knows how to use the communication tool you choose.
  • Consider using something like Slack (more on this later).

7. Gather feedback regularly

The best way to improve your team’s performance is to gather feedback regularly. You can do this in a number of ways, but the most important thing is to make it part of your regular agenda. The more often you gather feedback, the more accurate the data will be, and the better you’ll be able to make decisions based on it.

Here are some ways to gather feedback:

  • Use an online survey tool like SurveyMonkey or Google Forms. 
  • Create a private channel on Slack. Use an existing channel or create one specifically for feedback requests. 
  • Ask for feedback during standup meetings or weekly 1:1s. You can ask for feedback in two ways: either during standup meetings (if your team uses them) or during weekly 1:1s with each employee individually (if they don't).

8. Promote knowledge sharing

Knowledge sharing is a key part of any successful remote team. If you don't have an established knowledge-sharing system, then it will be difficult to build a high-performing team.

Here are some ways you can promote knowledge sharing in your remote team:

  • Be transparent about your team's processes. Make sure that everyone understands how the company operates and what they need to do their job well.
  • Encourage people to ask questions when they don't know something. This is especially important if you're working in a virtual environment where there aren't many opportunities for face-to-face interactions with other employees or managers. 
  • Create an internal forum where people can ask questions about their jobs or technical issues without having to wait for an answer from a manager.
  • Create opportunities for collaboration and cooperation through regular meetings or informal chats.
  • Consider using tools such as Slack, Trello, Google Docs, and other productivity tools that allow remote workers to communicate easily with other team members on tasks that require collaboration. 

9. Create fun virtual team-building events

To make sure your team members are on the same page, you need to find ways to build trust and foster collaboration. One way to do this is by creating fun virtual team-building events that encourage knowledge sharing among employees.

According to a case study by Morgan Stanley, the company was able to improve collaboration among their team members, build better relationships and celebrate the hard work of interns while working with remote teams using an all-inclusive virtual team building activity. 

Here are some fun virtual team-building ideas:

  • Host a Google Hangout session. This is the easiest way to get started with virtual events. 
  • Use video conferencing software like Skype or Zoom to host an online meeting with your remote workers. These tools make it easy for people in different locations and time zones to interact face-to-face.
  • Hold live webinars on topics like leadership, communication, culture, and more. Your attendees will learn something new while bonding with each other during the event itself!
  • Have a trivia night. You can create categories based on different topics, such as sports, pop culture, and history. As with any trivia event, this will be more fun if there are prizes involved!

10. Get yourself ready for the struggles of remote management

There are many challenges to managing a remote team. You can’t see their body language. You only know how they feel if they tell you or by looking at their work. And it’s hard to build trust with someone who is not physically near you.

You need to be well-prepared for these struggles and make sure that you can overcome them before jumping into remote management.

Make sure to be transparent, improve your virtual communication skills, use the best software, schedule more one-to-one meetings, and try to meet up with your employees in person at least once a year. 

How MediaBerry manages our global remote team + tools we use

MediaBerry, our link-building agency that helps companies create high-quality content and build their site’s network, has built a global team amidst a pandemic. 

We are a remote-first company, where every employee works from home or from other locations outside of the office. We have a distributed workforce that spans the U.S., Asia, and Europe. 

To ensure management runs smooth, we’ve used varied tools to communicate and hold virtual meetings with our MB global remote team.

We also host regular video calls to ensure that everyone knows what's happening in the company and how they can contribute their expertise to service and process development.

Essential remote tools

Communication tools: 

  • Slack – Slack, cloud-based, real-time messaging and notification software, makes managing remote teams easier. It allows the MediaBerry team to be updated and stay in touch.
  • Loom – MediaBerry uses Loom to record quick how-to and explainer videos for our remote team. 

Virtual meeting tools: 

  • Google Meets – Google Meet is a great free web-conferencing app to have real-time meetings. 
  • Zoom – Zoom lets members start or join a secure virtual meeting. The tool also offers them a cross-platform instant messaging feature, making it effective for managing teams remotely.

Before scheduling a meeting, we ping team members on Slack to ask for their availability, then send meeting time and date confirmation along with meeting links via emails. 

Knowledge management tools: 

  • Google Docs – The MediaBerry team uses Google Docs while creating and collaborating on online documents. The team members can edit together and share securely in real-time and from any device.

Project management and task management tools: 

  • Airtable –  Airtable is a great tool for remote teams because it allows you to create lists, tables, and cards that can be shared with other team members. This allows us to build rich data structures by linking together tables in different ways.
  • ClickUp Used primarily for large-scale projects and progress tracking.

Your turn to manage a remote team on a global scale!

Take the time to get to know your team members' personalities and make a great deal of effort to communicate regularly. Throwing together a global team with little planning will result in slow projects, unhappy customers, and high turnover. 

The tips offered here are not the only ones for achieving a successful global remote team. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. But we hope these tips can help you start (or continue) on the path toward success.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Beatrice is the Head of Content and Operations at MediaBerry. She helps brands fulfill their vision through words by helping produce sparkling content pieces that convert. When she isn’t busy strategizing, you’ll find her working on her next novel.

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