The complete guide on managing remote teams - by Steer

Managing Remote Teams

Remote work has its advantages—flexibility, low or no overhead costs, and a greater pipeline of applicants from which to hire. And it has its disadvantages—less interaction, managers worried about how to tell if their employees are staying on task and communication challenges. How can companies maximize the advantages and minimize the disadvantages?

Our ultimate guide, developed and trusted by top managers, will help you learn what are the best tips on managing remote teams.

Introduction

Remote work has its advantages—flexibility, low or no overhead costs, and a greater pipeline of applicants from which to hire. And it has its disadvantages—less interaction, managers worried about how to tell if their employees are staying on task and communication challenges. How can companies maximize the advantages and minimize the disadvantages?

This is an ongoing and practical guide about how to build and manage successful remote teams, what are the benefits and where you should focus the most in order to overcome the problems.

Why remote work is good for you, your team and your business

More companies are choosing remote work than ever before. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2015, 23 percent of workers reported doing at least some of their work remotely. And the New York Times reports that telecommuting increased 79 percent between 2005 and 2012. But, why remote work is good for you, your employees and your business?

1- It lowers stress and boosts morale

When you give your employees the ability to customize their schedule so that they can better balance their professional life and their personal life, an interesting thing happens: they become grateful. In turn, their gratitude manifests itself in the form of loyalty towards the company. A loyal staff equals great productivity and decreased turnover, which, as any employer knows, is a great cost savings.

2- Increases productivity and efficiency

If you let an employee work from home, he’s sure to slack all day and miss his deadlines, right? Wrong. Companies and at-home employees alike say remote work is a boon to productivity. Distractions like water cooler gossip, impromptu meetings, and loud colleagues are a non-issue.

Managing Remote Teams. The Complete Guide by Steer

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3- They won’t have to commute

You’d be hard-pressed to find an employee who actually enjoys his daily trek into an office. Without having to start their workday with a lengthy commute, crushed into a train car, smashed on a bus, or being jostled on a busy city sidewalk, telecommuters can start their workday earlier and dedicate more time to the job.

4- It is much cheaper

Sure, you’d like to have your entire staff centrally located in one office, where you can watch them work, collaborate together, and have face-to-face time with them whenever you want it. But all of that comes at price, in the form of super expensive office space costs, office supplies, and equipment. Having a virtual staff virtually reduces all of those expenses to zero!

5- Access to awesome talent

Because your employees can work from anywhere, you can look for the best talent anywhere. Instead of settling for the best developer you can find where you are, you can find an even better developer wherever. Working remotely means you are never starved for qualified candidates so you can make the best hiring decisions for the business.

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Challenges when working remotely, and how to overcome them

Remote work is wonderful. But there are some challenges of remote working that you and the organization you work for must overcome in order for you to be successful.

Looking for a employee feedback solution? Steer is a team management tool that helps you maintain a team without issues. Request a demo to experience it by yourself.

1- Working too much

At the end of the day, a typical office worker checks out at 6PM, drives home to his or her family and spends the evening doing some leisure activity. But if you work from home, this is not the reality. You might need to trick yourself to take breaks and set clear start and end times. Otherwise, you risk burnout.

A few things that can help:

  • Set appointments on your calendar for the end of the day to get yourself out of your home office.
  • Set up reminders to take breaks. One member of our team has a recurring daily to-do list item to take a walk.
  • Be clear with your team on when you're leaving–for example, by making a quick announcement in Slack–and then actually shut down your computer.

2- Prioritizing work

Remote workers need to be self-motivated experts at time management, because we don't have others constantly overlooking our work or managing our time for us.

Few tips on how to prioritize your work while working remotely:

  • Limit the number of tasks you plan to do each day. Use the Eisenhower matrix to avoid unnecessary time-wasting tasks and know which tasks to do next. Or plan to do just 1 big thing, 3 medium things, and 5 small things per day.
  • Manage your energy, not your time. Your energy waxes and wanes during the day, so tackle tasks according to how much of your bandwidth they'll take and how much you'll be able to focus at different times during the day.

3- Loneliness and Lack of Human Interaction

People who work in shared offices experience impromptu "watercooler" moments of interaction and maybe even share meals together or after-work drinks. Remote workers? We often work asynchronously with our teammates and perhaps have only our houseplants to talk to.

How to overcome loneliness while working?

  • Include social breaks in your schedule, if you can, by working a few hours then spending an hour or two doing something social outside of your home, such as lunch with friends.
  • Try working at co-working spaces or coffee shops so you'll at least feel like you're still a part of society.
  • Be more intentional about joining local groups or organizations. Find a Meetup, or attend networking conferences.

How to build a remote company culture

As a remote team you don't delude yourself thinking that culture will magically happen. If a strong culture doesn't develop it's not because you didn't try, it's usually due to another reason.

Staying connected to a company culture remotely doesn’t happen automatically. You need to take deliberate steps to make sure you stay connected. Do it right and the company culture will be felt as strongly as if you were within those same four walls.

1- Culture is About More Than Ping-Pong Tables

Games and other group activities that lend themselves to being in person are simply not a possibility on a day-to-day basis for remote teams. Therefore, your culture has to be built around something more than playing table tennis to unite the team.

Managing Remote Teams. The Complete Guide by Steer

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2- Culture is About How You Work

Everyone should come to work for the work, not for the ping pong. Most of your time at work is going to be work, so the work has to be rewarding by itself.

3- Avoid direct messaging when you have questions

While it’s easy to go directly to someone who can answer your question right away, there’s great benefits to asking publicly. You’ll get different points of view, and start discussions to get a higher quality answer. It lets everyone jump in with any feedback they have – an essential part of your culture.

4- Use the right tools to connect

You should rely on communication to maintain your culture. There are hundreds of tools that can help you, but what’s important is that you use a tool that most resembles how you would interact in real life. There’s a collaboration tools that helps you get the job done, but also there’s ones that can help you strengthen humans relationships in a fun way.

Remote team management fundamentals

The reality is that most people managers don’t have any formal education in management. In a study by Gallup, one in 10 people has the talent to manage well. The good news is management is a skill that can be taught and learned.

The most important lesson about management is that it’s not about managing people. It’s about building a culture and process that set a team up for success.

1- Trust your employees

Remote work can be a very stressful process if you don't trust your team members. Be aware that employees who work remotely are mostly independent and you might have to let some of your control habits go. While trusting your employees is good for your own sanity it also increases their motivation and hence their productivity.

2- Expectation management

In order to manage a team that works remotely, it is important to clarify your expectations using clear KPIs so that both you and the team have a way to measure achievements. Make sure everyone in your team understands each other goals and is on the same page. And above all, make sure people are involved in defining and setting their own targets and ask them to commit to these before the work starts.

3- Use communication tools

Communication is always the most important part of teamwork. When you have people working remotely, it is vital to have clear communication and an effective way of using communication tools. Define what tools you want to use and how you want to use them.

Looking for a employee feedback solution? Steer is a team management tool that helps you maintain a team without issues. Request a demo to experience it by yourself.

4- Provide plenty of context

When recommending a change or offering a new approach, do so in a manner that makes it relevant. You wouldn’t want someone to toss ideas out of the blue, so why assume that anyone managing you would? Add context so that he or she will know where you’re coming from, and why.

This guide was written by:

Jose Bautista

Jose Bautista, co-founder of Steer
Based in Barcelona, Jose is on a mission to make remote teams happier and more productive at work. Follow him on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn.