How to Effectively Manage a Remote Team: Tips to Making it Work

July 1, 2022 Sarah Dameron

ceo explaining to manager how to effectively manage a remote team

Whether your existing employees are remote, you’re thinking of hiring a freelancer or you’re choosing to outsource your accounting function, knowing how to effectively manage a remote team is high on your radar. Having team members dispersed across the globe (or even in another city) has its perks, but it can also be a big undertaking.

The thing is, remote work isn’t a new concept. In fact, many of the same precepts for managing in-person teams still hold true. Except, certain issues are compounded.

If you’re managing a remote team (or have plans to start), keep reading – we’ll dive into a few hiccups that leaders run into with virtual teams, and we’ll also uncover the best tips for how to effectively manage a remote team.

Challenges of Leading a Remote Team

manager presenting the challenges of leading a remote team

Managing a team comes with its own set of hurdles. Add in a virtual setting and those obstacles take center stage. Obstacles like:

  • Scattered communication. When you work remotely, you have to make a conscious decision to stay looped in. It’s easy to fall into the mindset of being out of sight out of mind, but what value does that add to your team? On the contrary, too much communication can lead to burnout fast. The worst thing you can do for your team is to bombard them with meetings.

  • Delayed feedback. If an issue arises with one of your workers, how soon is the problem resolved? It’s easy for messages to go unnoticed or emails to be left on unread when you’re in a remote setting. But if this is a reoccurring dilemma, your whole team will start to suffer.

  • Less visibility into team productivity. Before the onset of the pandemic, it was easy to keep track of your employees’ output. But now? It’s hard to keep track on whether or not people are distracted, letting tasks fall through the cracks or time-stealing.

  • Company culture can be difficult to maintain. In an office setting, culture can progress through company-sponsored events, team outings and more. However, fostering a remote team culture takes more deliberate thought to shape as it is constantly changing.

Best Practices for Remote Team Management

manager applying the best practices for remote team management

With the above challenges at the forefront of your mind, here are a few pointers for effectively managing remote teams.

Set Clear Expectations to Effectively Manage a Remote Team

First things first, is your team on the same page? Don’t assume your team understands where they need to focus their efforts. Instead, document your parameters and realize that each individual member of your team will have differing guidelines. For example, you may decide that your AR team needs to follow-up on overdue invoices by the end of each week and if the deadline can’t be met, they need to notify you by ‘X’ date. You should set clear expectations for:

  • Project deadlines

  • Scheduled meetings

  • Work hours

Use Technology to Your Advantage

From Slack and Dropbox to Google Docs and Trello, the cloud makes it easy for teams to share important documents (and information) with colleagues in the next cube, or around the world. The alternative – email – tends to be inefficient, time-consuming and prone to everything but the messages you need. It’s important to set up proper processes and project management platforms early on. This not only helps your team juggle a myriad of tasks, but it also grants insight into what your team is currently working on.

Focus on Outcomes, Not Activities

One of the biggest challenges impacting managers today is shifting their focus to measurable outcomes rather than micromanaging their employees’ time. Matt Perman, founder of What’s Best Next blog, said it best: “Focus on outcomes, not activities. If you define work in terms of activities, it’s too easy to invent work that doesn’t need to be done at all. Worse, Parkinson’s Law often comes into effect.

Unfortunately, the lines between work and home have blurred. Which is why it’s critical for managers to focus on what’s being delivered instead of the time it took to complete that task. To ensure that tasks don’t fall by the wayside, set steadfast deadlines and pencil-in meetings to follow-up.

Conduct Individual Check-Ins if You Want to Manage a Whole Remote Team

When employees work onsite, it’s easier to notice when they’re overwhelmed. You may notice them take home their laptop each day or skip out on lunches. But when they’re working virtually, those tell-tale signs are not so easy to spot. The best way to alleviate this struggle is by establishing a daily (or weekly) call with each of your workers. This give your team members the chance to address any pain points they might have otherwise been afraid to speak up about in previous meetings.

As the market continues to shift to a remote-first environment, so should your team. Cultivating a solid remote work strategy is an ongoing process. However, knowing how to effectively manage a remote team is the opening move – one that will help you foster a positive and dynamic climate that empowers employees and boost your company’s bottom line.

Managing your workers remotely is easy when you hire the right people for your team. Partnering with a virtual accounting support provider like Personiv – reputable experts in the outsourcing industry – can offer you the flexibility you need to keep your organization running at peak performance (all while tapping into a global pool). Get in touch with us to discover how we’ve helped companies – large to small – build efficient remote teams for over three decades.

Curious on how to adapt your company’s culture to a virtual world? Check out our article: Embracing the Future of Work: Reimagining Company Culture as a Virtual Employer.

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