Hiring remote employees means giving your business access to more talent by removing location restrictions. However, this also requires major adjustment to your company culture in order for the structure to have a positive effect on your bottom line. We asked experts to share tips for managing remote teams that improve your company’s overall performance.
Here are 30 expert tips for managing remote employees:
1. Set a Cadence for Communication
Amber Johnson, Chief Communications Officer, Center for Values-Driven Leadership, Benedictine University
When there’s no chance you’ll bump into your team members at the water cooler, or on the way to the parking lot, you have to be intentional about creating regular opportunities for communication. At a minimum, managers should have a scheduled 1:1 check-in meeting (weekly or biweekly). Developing real relationships takes more effort, however. In addition to the check-in, consider adding monthly team video chats, quick Monday morning greetings via a messaging app, and a Friday afternoon text message or call to close out the week. What works best for your team will depend on your industry and role, but the idea is to create opportunities for interaction that reduce isolation and grow comradery.
2. Build Culture Through Innovative Slack Channels
Tasia Duske, CEO, Museum Hack
By far, one of the most useful Slack features to managing a remote team at Museum Hack is “channels.” Channels allow you to create separate chat rooms for separate topics. Channels are instrumental in keeping our Slack experience organized and manageable at Museum Hack. We have around 140 channels at present. No team can survive unless its members work together, and no team can truly work together unless they know each other. Taking a moment and creating a place for community will benefit both you as a team leader and your team for a long time to come.
3. Be Clear With Your Process
Adam Henshall, Editor, Process Street
When managing remote employees it is vital that you’re clear about what you need them to do. You can’t look over their shoulder in the office to check they are doing a job correctly. The way you can overcome this is through mapping out their work processes and providing them with a process in checklist form. Then the employee only needs to follow the checklist, making sure the best work is done every time. It’s particularly useful for virtual assistants but a really strong tool for any remote office environment.
4. Have a Great Team Meeting
Barry D. Moore, Founder and CEO, Great Work Life
A great team meeting is vital for remote employees, and benefits your team by binding them together under a direction and set of goals. Make your team meetings weekly. If you leave it any longer, you will be jeopardizing the well-being of the team. People need to get together, it gives them a feeling of belonging, especially when they are all in different countries. If you have an urgent topic or need input on a strategic decision it is acceptable to dominate the meeting with your own topic. Why, because you are seeking to amass the brainpower and support of your team on a major pivot point. They will love you for consulting with them on it. The time for the team to speak is very important and it should be given priority.
5. Make Sure Your HR Is Always Available
Maggie Aland, Marketing and Review Editor, Fit Small Business
When managing remote employees, you need to be able to provide them the same level of attention as those who report to the office. This includes having HR functions ready whenever it’s needed. Bambee offers on-demand HR compliance solution for U.S.-based businesses. Its dedicated HR managers can be trusted to perform your HR tasks and provide solutions, implement policies, and resolve issues for your remote employees for as little as $99 a month. Visit Bambee and get your free trial today.
6. Create Small Groups With Team Managers
Allen Kaplun, Managing Director, GreenDropShip
One of the things you may realize after hiring remote employees is that each and every employee will report directly to you rather than a lead that you appoint. It makes sense to them since you’re the one that hired them anyway. The first thing you should do when assembling a team is to introduce the team members, inform them who each member reports to and establish their duties. Once that foundation is laid, you can expect a smoother experience in managing the overall group. Afterward, you want to make sure that the group doesn’t get so large that it becomes unmanageable by the team leads. A decent group size is five. Beyond that, you risk inefficiency and lack of accountability.
7. Know Your Team
Angelina Ebeling, Founder & CEO, Acework
The single most important management task is to find out the mood, mindset, and motivation of my team members. I can only manage them effectively when I know what currently bothers or annoys them, or if and why they are in a good mood. I normally ask how certain tasks went and how the person felt about them — especially with a young company it’s often all hands on deck, so people jump in and work on new things. Gauging someone’s mood and energy level is much easier in person. We do team calls with video via Zoom, and usually spend a few minutes before to chat about non-work related things.
8. Promote Culture-focused Activities
Alix Hagan, Director of Product Marketing for Unified Communications and Collaboration, LogMeIn
Employers can foster engagement within a digital workforce in a number of ways. First and most importantly, create a culture of connectedness and camaraderie. Take the benefits of the office setting, friendships and culture-focused activities, and move them online. Start a virtual book club or get a sports bracket going for some friendly competition ― when employees feel personally invested in their relationships at a company, the engagement naturally follows. Companies must also make the investment in digital collaboration tools to connect employees beyond text-based channels. Video conferencing and real time screen-sharing capabilities are especially important, as they mimic the same in-person face-to-face opportunities for collaboration necessary to maintain strong interpersonal relationships, rapport, and communication between teams.
9. Create Weekly Group Goals
Crisantos Hajibrahim, Chief Product Evangelist, Prodoscore
Employee management is all about establishing relationships that build trust. The growing popularity of remote working, however, has created a new challenge with building trust as it is no longer possible to physically walk down the hall and engage with an employee in person. I have had success in managing my remote team by establishing shared productivity metrics on a weekly basis. These goals are easy to track and are visible to everyone on my team. This transparency and visibility has helped my team feel more connected ― and has resulted in more trust between the team that we are all working hard to accomplish our shared objectives.
10. Automate Your HR Tasks
Neva Paule, Supervising Editor, Fit Small Business
As you decide to expand your business by hiring remote talent, the demand increases to effectively maintain HR functions for your growing team. Automating your HR tasks by simplifying performance management, benefits and payroll will help in managing your remote employees. Zenefits is an all-in-one HR software solution to assist HR managers with everything from onboarding to health insurance. It integrates well with popular business tools like QuickBooks to ensure smooth reporting functions such as all-in-one reports, benefits breakdown, employee earnings, bank transactions, and tax payment reports. Click here and start using Zenefits for as little as $40 a month.
11. Subsidize Use of Coworking Space
Greg Monterrosa, Community Relations Manager, Center for Entrepreneurship, California Lutheran University
Get your employees access to coworking spaces where they are. There are many industry-related coworking spaces globally that would grow your firm’s network and give your employees a sense of community and resources.
12. Create a Buddy System For Virtual Coworking
Saskia Langenberg, Remote Work Coach & Consultant, Mindshake
One way to increase personal relationships and engagement within a remote team is to set up a buddy system. Pair up your remote employees to work together on a specific project. Alternatively, if there are no joint projects, connect them as accountability partners. In that case, they help each other be accountable for the goals they have set for the coming weeks. Additionally, if you have an international team, make sure to combine people from different time zones. This way coworkers, who are not close (literally) can create a steady working relationship. They get a chance to get to know each other better. The coworking will boost their mutual trust and engagement.
13. Use Time Tracking Software
Scott D. Nazareth, CEO & Founder, Loanerr.ca
As a company owner that hires remote staff in different time zones, I would say the most actionable tip that I can offer is to get a time tracking/computer activity software. There are many freelance websites like Upwork that offer these solutions within the recruitment software but there are also third-party providers, like Time Doctor, as well. These programs allow for transparency, analytics on effectiveness, and invoicing. Setting out clear expectations will ensure freelancers do not feel their privacy is being intruded.
14. Use Emojis & GIFs 👍 More Often 😅
Alfredo Salkeld, Marketing Manager, SimpleTexting.com
Hiring people you can trust and onboarding them properly are important at any company — remote or not. But there’s one small thing remote managers should do more often than those who oversee a team in-person — use emojis and GIFs liberally. If your team is distributed, most of your communication is written. Using emojis and GIFs lets you keep your messages short and direct, without sounding rude. The difference between “go for it” and “go for it 😀” can be the difference between fostering camaraderie and coming off as curt.
15. Practice Two-a-Day Check-Ins
Mike Catania, Chief Technology Officer, PromotionCode
If you’ve done a good job hiring a remote employee (or otherwise), you shouldn’t need to micromanage their jobs, but remote employees do require a more formal check-in process. This process is just as much to help them feel connected since remote employees can be more reticent to send quick-question emails. Our remote employees do a Slack check-in each morning and conclude each day with a shared summary of what they’ve worked on. Keeping a two-a-day dialog with them guarantees they’ll have several chances to ask questions that they might otherwise sit on for a more opportune time. Further, it can also provide some managerial oversight if you feel the need to monitor their output more closely.
16. Reiterate Your Team’s Vision
Brian Williams, Senior Digital Marketing Manager, Prolific Interactive
One of the biggest factors involved in creating a strong culture is having a clear vision and mission to drive the team forward. Reiterating vision is critical to empowering team members toward your goal whether that vision involves increasing email subscribers, new leads, qualified meetings, or revenue generation. To keep a cohesive plan in front of us we use tools like Trello, Slack, email, and our marketing automation tech stack to ensure successful delegation of tasks. We also maximize best practices from products like agile project management by utilizing scrum tactics like standups and scrum boards.
17. Provide Both Work Structure and Freedom
Stacy Caprio, Business Coach, Stacy Caprio Inc.
When managing remote employees, it is key to give them both freedom and structure. You need to give them structure by working with them to create a list of objectives they need to accomplish. This list should have concrete dates they need to finish everything by. Then you need to make sure they have the tools and freedom to accomplish everything on this list by the needed dates. Without both the structure and the freedom, you’ll find they won’t get everything done, or they won’t be happy with the job they have.
18. Promote Video Conferencing
Jason Kay, CEO, Retreaver
Due to the very nature of having remote employees, it is crucial to find a way to connect with them as much as you can. One great way to do that is to do video conferencing as much as possible. There is something to be said for being able to meet with your remote employees face-to-face. Over the phone or email conversations can’t always have the same effect as seeing the person or them seeing you. Being able to see the person gives you more of the ability to read non-verbal clues that you cannot obviously get from other forms of communication.
19. Document Everything
Krish Ramineni, CEO, Fireflies.ai
With remote teams, it can become easy for team members to fall behind because they are not meeting in person. We make sure to document everything discussed so that there is a record for people to go back to. We use our own tool to record and transcribe our team syncs and daily standups. The other thing we focus on is documenting our 1:1 syncs. Remote teams rely on written communication more than anything else. Hence, we like to hire folks who can communicate well over written text, emails, and Slack.
20. Hire the Right Remote Employees
Andrea Loubier, CEO, Mailbird
Hiring remote teams is all about finding individuals who can be innovative and function as what is commonly known as an intrapreneur, which is a team member who can provide their best work without a lot of oversight and management. When you begin to interview individuals for any type of remote work, you’ll also want to look for those well-versed in organizational apps, like Asana and Slack. Look for employees who can jump right in without a lot of direction, make minor decisions that best represent the company without the need for consultation, and work with other employees as a team and a mentor.
21. Ask for Regular Feedback
Jessica Salter, HR Adviser, Best Response Media
Behind every successful remote team, there is mutual trust. To build that trust, you have to have open and transparent communication. You have to work on that, encourage it constantly. Managers should provide consistent feedback to remote workers via email or chat, but practicing 360-degree feedback is a good idea to engage remote employees. By speaking with colleagues, customers, and clients that are directly impacted by an individual, both the employee and manager get a holistic view of successes and areas that require improvement.
22. Set Clear Guidelines For Work Quality & Deadlines
Nick Disney, Owner, Sell My San Antonio House
When managing remote employees, you must set clear guidelines for work quality and deadlines. You will be able to see what your employee is doing throughout the day but if you both know the required work and the expected time for completion you can remove this from being an issue. I suggest starting the week with a clear plan that outlines the objectives for the week and how you both agree that you will communicate during the week. This can be created on a shared document, or at least written in an email, and that can help prevent unclear communication around expectations. At the end of the week, you can review if all objectives for the week were accomplished and work with your employee so that you are both on the same page regarding the quality of their work.
23. Document Standard Operating Procedures Using Video
Lewis Thomas, Owner, HortSorter
By far the most important thing I have found to save time and get better results is to create video standard operating procedures (SOPs). No matter what the task, creating an easy-to-follow SOP is a great way for the remote employee to get a better understanding of the task. I personally upload the video to YouTube and make the video private. I then share a custom link that allows only my employees to watch the videos and get trained.
24. Implement a Well-Defined Process of Communication
Ciara Hautau, Lead Digital Marketing Strategist, Fueled
Lack of communication can lead to confusion and slow or incomplete progress on tasks. If you hold weekly meetings, it creates accountability in that progress needs to be shared and improved on by the next check-in. First and foremost make sure you have a reliable platform for communication and agree to it up front. Whether it’s email or Slack, make sure your remote employee responds to all your messages within 24 hours. In addition, make sure you set up one-on-one check-ins weekly to ensure effective progress has been made on all assigned tasks. This also allows the remote employee to collect and ask any questions they have to move projects forward. It gives an opportunity for the employee to voice any frustrations or difficulties they have so you can find solutions together.
25. Focus on Results
Tracy Odell, VP of Content, FinanceBuzz
Remote employees are often looking for flexibility with their work schedules which can present a challenge to managers. As a manager, you need to create a role that is focused on results, not time spent in office, while also ensuring that you have visibility into the work that’s being done without needing to micromanage. To do this, you need to set measurable short-term goals and a check-in schedule. For example, with an editor, I will set a target such as they are expected to deliver 10 new assignments and publish 10 stories per week. We create accountability by tracking progress in a Google doc or Asana — that way everyone on the team can see what everyone else is working on.
26. Hold Team-Building Events When Possible
Samuel Johns, HR Specialist and Hiring Manager, Resume Genius
Although our employees can work remotely by themselves, we encourage team leaders to take their groups out once a month for a team remote–workday. From our perspective, this has several advantages. First, it allows team leaders to keep an eye on their teams, which can alleviate senior management’s fears about people slacking off when working remotely. It’s also an effective unofficial team-building occasion — managers can develop closer relationships with the people they lead, which lets them discover what kind of leadership is most effective with each individual. Finally, these team remote days gives everyone a chance to escape the office, which boosts creativity and maximizes productivity.
27. Create a Working Rhythm
Melissa Smith, Remote Work Consultant, The PVA
It is to both the benefit of the manager and the employee to have a working rhythm. A working rhythm ensures that the flow of work can be properly managed as well as reviewed. One of the main issues of remote workers is that while they love anonymity, they still want feedback. Additionally, it allows for both parties to know when regular check-ins will be instead of the back and forth of trying to determine availability. The bonus of creating a rhythm is it provides more opportunities not just to manage work but create relationships and ability to address the loneliness of many remote employees. This rhythm should be something that both parties look forward to and can count on.
28. Implement Scrum Project Management Method
Jessica Dais, Content Manager, TakeLessons Live
The scrum project management method maximizes team efficiency and allows for transparency across every stage of a project. The scrum method organizes tasks into short sprints that boost productivity and keeps everyone accountable to meeting deadlines. This method consists of three roles, each with unique responsibilities: a project owner, a scrum master, and your team. To get started, organize your initiatives into a prioritized backlog and develop a scrum board, with a tool like Trello that tracks and displays your team’s progress toward meeting goals. Begin with this if you’re looking for a management method that can add more structure and focus to your remote team.
29. Master the Art of Storytelling
Calvin Rosser, Head of Community, Toptal
Successful leaders of remote teams master the art of storytelling. Effective remote leadership requires aligning, inspiring, and engaging a team of people who often don’t share a common location, time zone, culture, or first language. Good storytelling is a powerful way to solve this unique challenge of remote management. Stories span across cultures and allow you to communicate organizational values, increase cooperation, and incite action in a way that no other medium can. Two simple and effective ways to incorporate storytelling are to begin each presentation you deliver with a short story and to spend five minutes on your weekly team call telling a story that highlights the impact, values, and the importance of your team’s work.
30. Show Confidence in Your Remote Hires
Diane Domeyer, Executive Director, Robert Half
Daily communication is critical for helping remote workers feel engaged and be productive. That said, be careful not to hover. If you allow your employees to work from home, you should be confident that they’ll work as though you were all in the office, logging similar hours, hitting deadlines and delivering results. If you’re unnecessarily checking in five times a day to “see how things are going,” your staff may think they’re losing your trust, or simply be annoyed.
There are pros and cons to having remote employees, but knowing how to manage a remote team gives your business the freedom to focus your investment on acquiring talent instead of overhead cost. These tips from our experts is your guide to developing best practices for managing remote employees so you stay ahead of the competition.
Did we miss out on your go-to tips for managing remote employees? Let us in the comments.