Hey remote people! Specifically, hey to those of you who are managers of remote employees. We wrote a guide to help you support and coach your hybrid or remote team. Think hiring, training, team building and remote culture building, and how to create a virtual collaborative environment with some other fun tidbits that can (and will) help you convince your company that remote works.
For managers of remote teams, you face different challenges than a traditional office-based manager. Here’s one. Let’s say you have an employee who is based out of Australia and you have to deal with opposite time zones, seasons, and holidays. Or you have a working parent on your team whose schedule is based around childcare (aka all over the place). Remote employees are more productive and less stressed than office-based employees so the changes in management style for remote teams is definitely worth it. If you can work remotely without affecting your performance, why wouldn’t you?
Leading successful remote teams
The best remote teams have an underlying trust between managers and their direct reports. By allowing employees the freedom to be productive at their own pace and in their own style, they’ll likely exceed your expectations. Create goals together that you can track on a regular basis, both professional and personal growth goals. Make sure to allow at least one opportunity a week for a video call with some time allotted without an agenda for any concerns or last-minute questions from your team members. Sometimes impromptu chats are when you have the best breakthroughs.
While video chatting has a huge leg up over phone calls, in-person meetups are essential to growing remote teams as well. Try to plan for gatherings as often as your budget allows. Try for a goal of retreats or planning sessions as a whole group at least once per quarter. Treat your remoters, telecommuters, digital nomads, or whatever you call our virtual colleagues, to commensurate perks to an in-office employee. If you order lunch every Tuesday, spread the love and get Seamless gift cards for your remote team members.
Best practice guidelines
When leading remote teams, here are some guidelines for best practices:
- Set clear goals and communicate them with your team. Create a dashboard on your analytics platform and regularly share successes and learnings with your team.
- Create a Slack or other messaging app channel dedicated to your team.
- Consider creating a work Slack and a personal Slack where team members can take sillier, non-work related conversations.
- Create career growth paths for remote team members and have regular check-ins.
- Have all team members keep an up-to-date shared calendar with working hours, vacations, holidays, and meetings. Create a shared document with each team member’s preferred method of communication (and you can even have your team rank them in priority of which to try first.)
- Go out of your way to check in on distributed employees. Send a friendly “how’s it going?” Slack message or email to let your team know you’re around and take place of walking by their desk or seeing them at the coffee station.
Hiring remote employees
So, you’re probably going to be hiring some people who will either be working remotely, want to work from home some of the time, or who have goals to travel the world without compromising on their careers. Remote work is also a great option for many people who otherwise may not have as many opportunities based on where they live, their own mobility or health reasons, or other factors like commute, childcare, and more. Remote employees share many characteristics with co-located employees, but there are a few key pointers to look out for during your interview.
Our friends at Predictive Index, a company specializing in employee characteristics and key traits for teams, have some suggestions for what to look out for when hiring remote team members.
Traits of successful remote workers:
- Problem solver
- Able to prioritize
- Data/reporting whiz
Remote/hybrid team communication
Remote and hybrid teams aren’t the same as in-office teams. Leaning over to tell your coworker about a failed Tinder date isn’t so much a furtive whisper as it is a private Slack or iMessage (that’s definitely not the work Slack 😉 ). After work drinks or teambuilding activities might look more like staying on a video call an extra twenty minutes to discuss every Stranger Things fan theory in great detail with a coworker who lives across the country. No matter your team setup, all remote and hybrid teams need video conferencing software. It’s one of the best ways to fully include teammates and not exclude anyone from seeing body language, having a better sense of tone, access to the visuals, and having a visual presence to remind the team you’re there (which can be hard if “you” are just a phone blending into the desk, waiting for some attention…)
Anyways, enough about lonely, ignored phones! Making your remote teammates an equal part of the conversation is the lesson here and make sure to check in every so often to make sure everyone feels heard. Try some of the following products and tools to help ease the asynchronous communication burden and help foster relationships between your long-distance team.
Tools for remote teams:
When creating a meeting schedule, try to stick to one day of the week or month for meetings so your distributed team can plan accordingly. Many remote workers have different hours and schedules so the more advance notice for important meetings, the better.
Remote manager resources
Bottom line—remote managers, you are not alone! Here are some helpful resources for you to connect with other remote managers, learn from others, and establish a culture of distributed teams at your business. We’ve also included some helpful templates and how-to guides to help your remote team meetings run a little smoother.
Meeting Agenda Templates (including performance reviews & one-on-ones)
If you want more in-depth information and resources on remote leadership, check out our full guide on leading remote teams.
Sophia Bernazzani is the Content Marketing Manager at Owl Labs, a software-led hardware company dedicated to creating a better workplace experience for today’s hybrid workforce of remote and in-office employees. She’s traveled with Hacker Paradise to Lima, Peru, and she currently lives and works in Boston, Massachusetts.