Word around the startup and entrepreneurial scene is that remote work is constantly on the rise.
A worldwide-distributed team brings lots of opportunities for businesses.
But it also comes with challenges as well.
Managers, in particular, find themselves with the difficult task of monitoring the work of scattered team players, as well as their own.
This article explains how your business can get the benefits of remote working and remote workers.
The “Remote-first” revolution
Even for managers who work in a non-remote setting, remote working is a reality they will have to face sooner or later.
According to a 2018 Upwork study, 63% of US companies now have remote workers.
Fast internet connections and the growing offer of business technology make it easy to hire and manage remote employees.
Benefits of remote work for startups
The benefits of remote work for startups are many: bigger talent pool for hiring, no rent or maintenance office costs, as well as the potential for growing globally more easily, and so on.
In fact, many successful startups have opted for going remote.
Productivity is one of the biggest benefits of remote working – several studies have shown that remote workers are more productive.
Another important benefit is staff turnover – remote workforces often have less turnover, showing more attachment and loyalty to their companies.
These are the result of the flexible work schedule and better work-life balance that remote positions allow.
What managers should know about remote working
If an employee doesn’t have to come to the office and punch the clock, how is it possible for a manager to determine if they’re doing their job?
Is remote project management feasible, or will it create problems as your business scales?
Distributed teams swear by the joys of remote working. However, that doesn’t mean there are no challenges and downsides involved, especially for those charged with making sure everybody is doing their job.
Managers should be aware of the possible downsides of remote work, such as:
- Communication challenges with team members, scattered across different time zones
- Lack of face-to-face interaction, which changes the dynamics between team members
- Dependence on technology
- Data accessibility and security issues
In addition to that, managers are employed, too, so they face both the challenges of the worker and the supervisor.
If you, as a manager, are about to embrace the remote revolution, make sure to take note of the following tips for managing a distributed team.
8 tips to help you to manage remote teams successfully
- Build the right stack of tools
- Avoid micromanaging
- Set project goals and expectations
- Onboard new hires
- Have regular check-ins
- Meet face-to-face
- Measure productivity
- Organise the manager’s schedule
1: Building the right stack of tools
Technology fueled the “remote-first” revolution, so it’s no surprise that building the right tech stack is a must for the virtual project managers.
From the thousands of great examples of available software, there are a few essentials tools you should include:
- A chat/communication tool like Slack
- A project and task management tool like Asana;
- Video conference tools: Zoom, Skype
- Online file storage services like Dropbox
- Google Docs
- A time tracking tool like Timeneye
Most of these tools have pricing plans calculated per user, per month, so it’ll be easier to add new users as the business grows. Some also offer to report features to monitor and measure productivity (more on that later).
2: Steer clear of micromanaging
In an office setting, some managers have the bad habit of hovering over the employees, constantly checking their work.
Just because a manager is a hundred miles away from the employee doesn’t mean micromanaging doesn’t happen in a remote setting.
Constantly “checking in” your team members by dropping Slack messages or scheduling countless calls won’t make them more productive.
Managers should try to let go of the urge to control everything, building a relationship of mutual trust.
3: Setting clear goals and expectations
You, as a manager, and your team members both need clear short-term and long-term goals to work smoothly.
Goals help team members know what they’re expected to do, and managers measure and evaluate success.
Setting smart and measurable goals will ensure that productivity and morale won’t suffer under the stress to perform.
4: Have a proper onboarding procedure
From the beginning, establish an onboarding procedure for new hires.
With every new addition to the team, you’ll want to make sure new team members fit right away and can get to work immediately.
Trello has a killer onboarding template for onboarding the new hires. You can use it to build your own and then adapt it as the team grows.
5: Check-in regularly
You may not want to be a micromanager, but you’re still, well… the manager.
At some point, you’ll have to check-in with your team members to assess the state of the work.
Conference software makes it possible to hold meetings for remote teams. So make sure to hold meetings with all your team members, and then schedule 1-1 meetings with each of them.
6: Do have face-to-face meetings
One of the downsides of being part of a remote team is, in fact, the feeling of loneliness that derives from not having face-to-face interactions.
So, why not meet in person from time to time?
Depending on the size of the team and where you’re scattered, it may be difficult (or easy!) to organise company meetups.
Still, meeting in person helps to build engagement and guarantees that all members feel effectively a part of the team.
The Buffer team has explained in detail how they set up both company retreats and mini team retreats, too.
7: Make sure you measure productivity
Making sure that the team reaches the established goals necessarily means keeping an eye on productivity.
There’s still some debate in the workplace settings to how to correctly measure employee productivity.
One solution is to have employees track their time while their work. This way, you can see how team members are allocating their work, and which projects or activities are taking most of their time.
8: Organise the manager’s (your) schedule
And what about you, the manager?
You’ll have to juggle your time between keeping an eye on everybody’s work, and take care of your own tasks, too.
If you manage a marketing team, for example, you’ll have to decide strategies and objectives, monitor campaigns and prepare lots of reports and presentations, as well as coordinating with other teams like Sales and Product.
Managers, too, need to get things done. So to keep both you and others on track, organise your daily schedule accurately and measure your own productivity, too.
Not only you’ll complete all your daily work, but you’ll also set a good example for the rest of the team.
Remote work is here to stay and it’s only going to become more important.
Project managers have to adapt their management style to the challenges of remote teams.
By focusing on communication, clear objectives, and getting the right tools to manage the teams and measure productivity, managers can get the most out of remote working.
Author bio: Stefania is a Project and Marketing Manager for Timeneye, a time tracking software for small businesses. She has been blogging about productivity and project management on the Timeneye blog since 2016.