Nov 29, 2022

How to Manage a Remote Team (and the tools to help you do it)

Written by Clodagh O’Brien

The pandemic changed how people work and businesses operate - earning the term 'the great resignation'. This led to companies across industries offering hybrid and remote working to provide a healthy work/life balance that retains and attracts talent.

In the United States, about a third of office workers have returned to fully in-person work according to Future Forum data while that percentage is only 26 percent in the U.K and 28 percent in Australia. People are clearly not rushing back to the office and many employees feel that they performed well at home, so don’t see the need to abandon that flexibility. 

However, there are challenges for managers and others to manage a remote team. In the absence of face-to-face meetings, there can be a disconnect between employees and employers if there’s no plan in place and proper tools to help you stay connected. 

Let’s look at simple but effective ways you can use to manage a remote team of any size to drive collaboration and engagement.

1. Set expectations

If you have a workforce that is primarily remote or hybrid you need to set expectations. Let your staff know what’s expected of them and have deliverables they are accountable for so they know what’s required daily and weekly. 

These expectations should be realistic and achievable, with timelines attached. However, like any project or work assignment, flexibility should be built in, particularly when people are relying on others to deliver data or information. 

You should also focus on tangible outcomes, for example, your social media manager has a target to deliver a 2 percent uplift in engagement on Facebook over a month based on a lead generation campaign. 

To deliver, all employees should have access to their team or relevant staff members that can help them. As a manager, you should also be available and schedule regular check-ins or meetings to discuss the project and any hurdles or obstacles to achieving the outcomes.

Make sure to set boundaries around working hours so that people finish on time and are not working extra hours. 

2. Build a culture of trust

It can be difficult when you don’t see your staff every day as you’re not sure what they are doing or when. But trust is crucial in this new work environment. 

For existing staff, you already should know what they are capable of and the level of work they can deliver. If you’re new to the role as a manager then talk to your executive or HR team to find out more about your team so you know their strengths and weaknesses and the level of management that may be required. 

For new hires, you may have been involved in the interview process or you can get access to their CV. At the start, it would be a good idea to have daily check-ins so you can introduce them to the company and team. You want to avoid anyone feeling isolated or left behind.  

However, for both, be careful not to micro-manage and trust your staff to come to you when they need guidance or want to discuss something. Micro-management is rarely appreciated!

“Remote work can actually really help with people being able to take that time between work and refresh and do things that give them a much more robust and three-dimensional life that also make it possible for them to do much more excellent work,“ said Anne Helen Petersen, a culture writer and author on the  Ezra Klein Show (New York Times podcast).  

3. Have regular check-ins

The regularity of your check-ins and meetings will depend on your team. There will be times - such as a new marketing campaign - when more meetings are needed and discussions are required. 

But there will also be times when people know what’s required, have a schedule in place, and need to deliver. This can mean that less time is required on Zoom and things can be done via email or other communications tools.  

The regularity will also depend on the employee. Some need more management and guidance than others - think new starters - so adjust your check-ins accordingly. It’s also beneficial to have regular team meetings to ensure everyone is on the same page. 

Remember, you can always ask team members what they expect and want from you so you can meet their needs. Feedback can be the best way to know what’s required. 

“Nearly 46 percent of respondents said a lack of communication is the biggest challenge for managing remote work” HubStaff survey

4. Offer encouragement and emotional support

There’s a risk in a remote working scenario that people may feel isolated or stressed. Some people work well alone and under their own steam, while others require more support. 

Make sure to check in with all employees. Even asking a simple question like “how are you finding working remotely?” can help you to get an understanding of how each team member is doing. 

Emotional intelligence is important as a leadership skill. It can help enhance your relationships at all levels, and you should aim to practice it every day in the workplace. It also ties into coaching and mentoring which will help you to bring out the best in your employees. 

“It was clear once the pandemic hit there were a lot of challenges, but there were some benefits too like the flexibility of being able to work from anywhere, and we were all surprised by the degree to which you can get things done over Zoom, Dropbox and other tools. We thought about how to get the best of both worlds. So, we’re virtual first, but not virtual only,” said the CEO and Founder of Dropbox, Drew Houston in the Big Tech Show podcast (Irish Independent). 

5. Hone remote-based skills

There are some skills when people work remotely that they may need to learn or refresh, such as time management. Polishing this evergreen skill will help employees manage their time to fit in meetings and deliver work within a set timeframe. 

Other skills that may be required as a remote worker (practical and soft skills) are:

There is a range of skills that need to be honed to successfully work remotely. It’s up to you as a manager and the business to provide the tools and training required to help facilitate this new way of working.  

Remote Working: The right tools for your workforce

The uptake of videoconferencing in recent years has shown how quickly people can adapt to a new technology when required. There is now a raft of online tools out there to help make remote working easier and more interactive. 

However, it should be noted that many remote workers have raised concerns about being overpoliced in terms of their time and expected to be available 24/7 - coined as time zone bias. This is particularly true for those working in different timezones who operate on different hours e.g. the U.S and Europe. 

So, it’s important to recognize time differences when it comes to remote workers, particularly those working for global teams or corporations. Plus it’s also a factor for employees when they consider their job or future with the business. 

With that in mind, here are some examples of tools you can use for your team under different categories depending on your needs. 

Meeting tools

  • Zoom - a video conferencing platform that you can use to host meetings and breakout rooms for projects or brainstorming
  • Google Meet - a replacement for Google hangouts, staff can easily communicate through any device via video 
  • Microsoft Teams -  a place to meet, chat, call, and collaborate in one space, particularly if you use Microsoft already

Project management tools

  • Monday - a project management tool that uses workflows to break down projects and assign deadlines across a range of departments  
  • Asana - helps teams to organize, track, and manage their work by adding collaborators 
  • Trello -  is a project management and productivity tool that uses ‘boards’ to organize tasks with columns that include tasks
  • ClickUp - a personal productivity tool that teams can use to create lists or boards full of different projects that have just partnered with HubSpot

Collaboration tools

  • Miro - offers a virtual whiteboard for brainstorming projects with the option of adding files and images  
  • Scribe - automatically creates a how-to guide, complete with screenshots, instructions and clicks that can be customized 
  • Weje - has a sticky note function for saving and sharing ideas along with a mind map maker 

Communication tools

  • Slack - a good communication tool for one-to-one chats or in group ‘rooms’ that is integrated with Google Docs, Trello, and other tools. Read more about the Slack brand in our case study
  • Chanty - a team chat app that requires little to no training for exchanging messages through video calls, audio or voice messages and messages that can be turned into tasks

Document sharing tools

  • Dropbox - a file hosting service that allows your team to store and share documents from anywhere
  • Google Drive - allows your team to access and share files across the Microsoft suite of software  

Time tracking tools

  • TimeDoctor - tracks time and productivity across teams and is useful for agencies and software teams 

Team building & culture tools

  • Crystal - offers a free personality test to learn more about your team and their preferences to build a picture of their needs 
  • Compt - helps you offer tailored perks to your employees by letting them pick ones that appeal to them
  • PizzaTime - brings your remote team together to share food (breakfast, lunch or pizza) in a virtual space 

You can also read ‘Data Visualization: Tools & Tips for Marketers’ to find out more about tools in that area.

Refine your strategy and planning skills

Managing a team, particularly remote or hybrid, can be challenging. DMI's strategy and planning course covers topics in digital communications, automation, analytics, budgeting, and strategy to give you the knowledge and skills to lead. Get started today!

Clodagh O’Brien
Clodagh O’Brien

Clodagh O'Brien is a content creator and strategist. Over the last 12 years, she has created and managed content for many SMEs and global brands. She's passionate about digital marketing and the impact of technology on culture and society. You can find her on Twitter or LinkedIn.  

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