25 Highly Effective Practices for Managing Remote Teams
Hayley Cannon, May 25, 2023
The rise of remote teams has created new workplace dynamics for managers to navigate. Follow these highly effective practices to help your remote teams thrive and reach their full potential.
- Choose the right tools for better communication, collaboration, and personal connections.
- Get the full value from your meetings and brainstorming sessions with clear agendas, breakout rooms, meeting rules and good follow-up.
- Focus on building team culture in a remote environment, and prioritize mental health and wellness.
- Learn to be an effective remote leader, and monitor remote worker productivity without micromanaging.
Choosing Essential Tools for Effective Remote Team Communication and Collaboration
The right tools foster better remote team management and keep everyone on the same page. Apply these best practices in selecting tools for collaboration and communication.
1. Organize with task and project management software
Project management software like Asana, Trello or Monday make it easy to delegate tasks and see where projects are at a glance. Keep everyone’s deliverables and deadlines organized and avoid the inefficiencies of email threads.
2. Standardize instant messaging and group chat applications
With dozens of chat and instant messaging apps to choose from, managers should choose one to make it standard for the team. This way, no important messages fall through the cracks.
3. Use digital whiteboards for brainstorming and planning
Visuals enable better collaboration. Use whiteboard software, for instance with Neat Board, to let teams express their ideas and capture important details.
4. Deploy video conferencing solutions
Video conferencing adds a real-time element to your remote team meetings, along with a visual aspect to build familiarity. Video chatting bridges the gap between remote teams by including body language and other visual cues to make meetings feel more life-like. Consider devices by Neat that offer improved sound and video quality compared to traditional equipment. Fully integrated solutions offer one-touch meeting launches and create experiences that are more like in-person conversations.
5. Create shared storage for assets
If your project requires tangible deliverables, shared content or other assets, make a shared place where users can store and retrieve these items. Depending on the project’s complexity, you might also create a folder hierarchy and naming conventions for better organization.
Getting the Full Value from Remote Team Meetings and Brainstorming Sessions
Remote teams can’t spend their whole day in meetings. While they need time to speak and brainstorm with teammates, they also need time to work on their assignments and move projects forward. These best practices can help you get the most from each group meeting.
6. Craft clear agendas and objectives
Agendas set the tone for the discussion and ensure everyone is on the same page. The agenda should outline what topics will be covered, who will be leading each section and how long each topic is expected to last. This helps employees prepare in advance so they can contribute meaningfully to the discussion.
7. Encourage active involvement from all team members
Sharing the agenda ahead of time encourages involvement by helping participants prepare for the meeting. Managers can also ask questions, seek feedback and create other opportunities for brainstorming during the meeting. Make sure everyone has a chance to speak and keep track of who has already contributed so no one feels left out or ignored.
8. Leverage breakout rooms for focused discussions
Breakout rooms separate small groups from the main meeting to discuss a specific topic or task. These rooms create more focused discussions and encourage better engagement among team members. Participants can collaborate more closely with each other and generate new ideas in a safe environment.
9. Establish meeting rules and guidelines
Setting expectations for when, where, and how these meetings will operate will help team members prepare accordingly. This may include scheduling regular meeting times to avoid conflicts or establishing ground rules for participation (e.g., muting participants, interrupting to ask questions, sticking to the agenda).
10. Track and follow up on action items post-meeting
Following up on tasks or topics discussed during the meeting ensures deadlines are met. It also allows managers to address any issues, questions or challenges before progress stalls.
Building and Sustaining Team Culture in a Remote Environment
With remote teams working across different locations and time zones, it’s challenging to build a cohesive team that works effectively together. However, a strong team culture can lead to successful remote meetings.
11. Develop a virtual watercooler space for casual interactions
Virtual water coolers give remote teams a space to connect beyond their scheduled meetings and projects. They can discuss projects or personal interests and get to know each other in a casual way.
12. Organize virtual team building events and activities
Interactive games, happy hours, Meet My Pet or remote dinner parties are great ways for remote teams to engage with each other. Virtual team building creates a no-pressure environment where everyone can be themselves and have fun.
13. Encourage informal conversations and regular check-ins
Interactions between team members don’t have to happen on a schedule. Encourage remote teams to take the initiative in introducing themselves and getting to know their teammates. You might also assign accountability partners who will regularly check in with each other.
14. Acknowledge team achievements and milestones
Word spreads fast in the office, but not so much in a remote team setting. Make sure you take time to celebrate employees on individual and team wins, work anniversaries, project updates and other notable events.
15. Cultivate a sense of belonging and shared purpose
Remote teams thrive when everyone feels like they contribute something. Things like gaining their involvement, calling each other by name, building familiarity and keeping everyone on the same page go a long way in cultivating a shared purpose.
Managing Remote Employees’ Productivity While Balancing Work and Life
Managers are responsible for meeting project goals and deadlines, which means being a stickler about how time is being spent. But for remote teams, managers must also consider that working where you live can create new complexities in how and when work is performed. Managers must play an increasing role in helping employees maintain work-life balance in a way that fosters productivity while also catering to each employee’s needs.
16. Define expectations, deadlines and work hours
Remote teams might have more leeway when it comes to where and when they work. But don’t let them assume anything. Managers should set the parameters, then let their teams fill in the blanks.
Some areas you might consider include:
- Do you expect teams to be available for meetings during certain hours?
- Do you have a regularly scheduled weekly call that teams must attend?
- Do you require a certain start and end time for the workday?
- Do you encourage or discourage working beyond the normal eight-hour workday?
- What is your own availability in case team members need to reach you?
Define your expectations for work and ensure each team member understands them. This way, you can hold them accountable if expectations aren’t met.
17. Advocate for breaks and time off to recharge
Some team members might find it hard to break away, especially when they know their team is counting on them. Be vocal about your support for taking PTO or enjoying breaks throughout the day. You can also silently advocate for “me-time” by not contacting your team during lunch breaks or after hours.
18. Prioritize mental health and overall well-being
Mental health and physical wellness are each employee’s own responsibility. Still, managers can offer gentle reminders about their importance, such as sharing their favorite fitness app during a meeting or including a 2-minute stretch and water break during long meetings.
It’s also helpful to recognize the signs of potential mental health distress. For example, a stressed employee might have more typos in their emails than usual, sloppy mistakes in their work, tardiness to remote team meetings or low participation in meetings. This is one reason why it’s so important to get to know your team as well as possible — you can spot changes in their behaviors more easily and offer assistance if needed.
19. Offer flexible schedules and remote work options
Living and working in the same place creates unique challenges that might hinder normal working hours. When possible, be flexible with your employees’ work schedule. Try to gauge productivity in other ways, such as meeting deadlines and attending meetings. Working a schedule that fits the employee’s life can ease their stress levels and make them feel more satisfied at work.
20. Support personal and professional development
Employees crave meaning in their work and want to be as effective in their roles as possible. One way to motivate them while improving productivity and work-life balance is to invest in their personal and professional development. Gaining new skills via the company is a form of appreciation and commitment. Employees feel like they matter to the organization, which can improve their confidence and encourage them to put their best foot forward.
Focusing On Remote Team Leadership and Effective Task Delegation
Remote teams have a higher level of autonomy given the co-located landscape. Essentially, each team member needs to be a leader of sorts to help themselves stay motivated, focused and knowledgeable about their responsibilities. Good managers can develop this leadership to create a high-performing, thriving powerhouse of contributors.
21. Build trust and rapport with remote team members
When a manager trusts their employees, they are more likely to allow them the freedom they need to do their jobs well. Trust also helps create a positive working environment where everyone feels supported and valued.
Trust comes from good rapport. By taking the time to get to know each other on a personal level, you are creating a more meaningful connection that goes beyond just work-related tasks.
22. Set measurable goals and objectives
Goal setting allows leaders to establish clear expectations and provide a roadmap for their teams. They can more easily monitor progress and make necessary adjustments along the way. They’ll be better able to spot when team members might be struggling.
It also creates accountability among team members. When everyone has a clear understanding of what they need to achieve, they become more committed to their work and take ownership of their tasks. This level of responsibility fosters a culture of trust, which is essential in remote work environments where there’s limited face-to-face interaction.
23. Provide consistent feedback and recognition
Without regular communication and feedback, team members can feel disconnected and unsure of their roles. Leaders should be proactive in ensuring they are regularly engaging with their remote teams.
One way to provide consistent feedback is to establish regular video conferencing check-ins or one-on-one meetings with each team member. During these meetings, leaders should listen actively and provide constructive feedback on performance, projects and goals.
24. Empower team members to make informed decisions
Without the benefit of side-by-side collaboration, remote teams will sometimes need to make decisions on their own to hit deadlines and keep work moving. They can feel more confident about these decisions when remote leaders have empowered them.
Decision-making requires a high level of trust and a strong cultural alignment. Make sure your team has access to the tools and resources they need to make informed decisions that align with the company’s best interests.
25. Encourage a culture of accountability and ownership
Encourage your team members to take ownership of their work by giving them autonomy over their projects and tasks. Show empathy when team members make mistakes so they’ll feel comfortable owning up to them instead of hiding them. This empowers them and helps build trust between you and your team.
Neat Solutions for Remote Teams
Effective remote team management starts with finding common anchors to connect your teams and allow work to thrive. Neat supports remote teams with video conferencing devices and features that enhance collaboration and improve productivity.
Neat’s crystal-clear audio captures every word, even when participants are speaking over each other. High-resolution video shows facial expressions and other nuances that are typically lost with other video software. Neat devices are always ready to connect with one-touch functionality. Built-in features like whiteboarding and chats enable real-time collaboration and make meetings feel more personal.
Explore Neat devices and see how Neat supports these highly effective practices for managing remote teams.
What are some common pitfalls to avoid when managing remote teams?
Failing to communicate or check in with your team, not setting expectations and micromanaging your employees can all create friction for remote teams. Managers should focus on building trust and rapport so teams can do their best work.
How can I ensure my team stays motivated and engaged while working remotely?
Common ways to keep remote teams motivated include conducting regular check-ins, offering consistent feedback, recognizing employees for their work, investing in their personal and professional development and fostering a culture of open communication.
What are some best practices for onboarding new remote employees?
First impressions are everything, so focus on making sure the new employee feels welcomed and engaged from Day 1. Ensure they have access to all the tools and systems they’ll need. Introduce them to each team member and give them time to build familiarity (e.g., virtual team building activities, accountability partners). Also, check in often with your new hire during the first few weeks to help them integrate and engage.
How can I effectively manage a team that is spread across different time zones?
Establish clear communication channels that work for everyone. Try to find a common meeting time that works for everyone when scheduling team meetings. If this isn’t possible due to time differences, have a way to share meeting notes and videos with those who can’t participate. Standardize your time in your communications so teams know when meetings or projects are scheduled. Set clear expectations on when team members should complete tasks or submit deliverables and how quickly they should respond to questions, emails or messages from teammates.
What are some ways to promote work-life balance for remote employees?
Understand the nuances of working from home that aren’t present when working in the office. Offer flexible schedules, encourage breaks and the use of paid time off, support professional and personal development and share mental health and wellness resources. Asking for specific feedback about how you can support employees will help you meet each employee where they are.
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