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A Beginner's Guide to Managing a Remote Team

July 7, 2021
Light Silver
5 mins

The verdict is in: Remote work is here to stay. That’s right. After over a year of adapting to full-time or at least partial remote work due to the pandemic, companies around the world are starting to finally acknowledge that this is the future of work.

As it turns out, having some flexibility to throw a load of laundry in between meetings is a pretty attractive proposition. And the potential cost savings for companies is pretty undeniable, too. Part-time remote work can halve the space required to house a team. And in the end, it seems the illusion that teams can only function in person has been shattered. 

But not entirely. It’s hard to deal with the challenges of remote work. Zoom, home distractions, you name it. Sometimes, working remotely is just hard. And so is managing a remote team.

Managing a remote team is every bit as challenging as managing a team in person—and then some. If you’re new to managing a remote team, you need a guide. Let this one help get you started.

Keeping Your Remote Team Aligned

One of the challenges that comes with remote work is staying aligned, both on a team-wide and company-wide level. But there are steps leadership can take to help bridge the gap that comes with distance.

On a team level, never underestimate the value of the touch-base. We hate meetings that take the place of emails just as much as anyone. But if your team is struggling to stay on the same page, then it might be time to give a 15-30 minute check-in a chance.

On a company level, all-hands serve the same end. Get your company aligned with goals, challenges, and the outlook ahead of you. Just make sure to make these worthwhile—so depending on your company’s size, once a week is probably overkill. A monthly staff check-in may do the trick.

Engaged, Not Overwhelmed

Keeping your team engaged is one thing, but the other side of that coin is burnout.

Here’s an example: During the pandemic, the“virtual happy hour” started making the rounds at startups and established companies alike. But while well intentioned, some leaders eventually started to realize that the intended effect—team engagement—sometimes wasn’t the outcome. Instead, the general weirdness of video conferencing turned some of these happy hours into glorified after-hours meetings.

Managing a remote team requires bringing your people together so they can support each other toward a common goal. But pushing too hard for closeness can just lead to burnout, because unplugging is so much more difficult when a commute is no longer involved. Acknowledging this reality about remote work is critical when managing a remote team.

How Apps Can Help—or Hurt—on a Remote Team

There are certainly some scheduling decisions you can make to help support a remote team. But perhaps more than that, the software your team uses to communicate and manage projects will make a world of difference.

Some apps, like Slack, work to strike the right balance by connecting users in a central communications hub. But in an attempt to become a one-stop-shop for any and every integration you can imagine, some users still feel overwhelmed with notifications (and yes, at times, FOMO).

Some apps you encounter may boast a lot of functions, but “more” doesn’t always mean “better.” Complexity has its place, but your remote team’s workflow isn’t it. When you’re balancing remote and in-person workflow, simplicity goes a long way. It levels the playing field between your distributed team, helps boost their productivity, minimizes distractions, and helps organize workflow in an efficient and intuitive way.

You can only carry a remote team so far yourself. At some point, you’re going to have enlist some help from technology. So make sure you’ve chosen wisely.

Managing a Remote Team to Success

The landscape of work may be irreparably changed. Whether or not you’ve led a team doesn’t dictate your success in the future, but the choices you make now sure will. 

Managing a remote team requires a careful balance of engaging but not overburdening your team. While it can be a challenge to keep folks aligned with each other toward a team goal, overshooting your mark can lead to burnout and stress. And the decisions you make around software can leave the same impact. Too many add-ons and too many functions can make just getting work done a separate job all its own.

No distance is too far for a fully distributed team to work just as well—or even better—than they did from the same office. Your team’s success depends on the leadership choices you make, the applications you use, and an understanding from everyone that you’re in this together. No matter how far apart you may be.

Unify your teamwork.