Four tips for managing a remote team

Are you managing a remote team or planning on managing one? This post will cover four tips to help you manage your remote team.

Four tips for managing a remote team
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez / Unsplash

Are you managing a remote team or planning on managing one? This post will cover four tips to help you manage your remote team. Even if you are used to leading people from the office, this guide will still be helpful since managing a remote team requires a different approach.

Get some overlapping time.

Even though I promote asynchronous communication a lot on this blog, it's a good idea to have some overlapping time. Each day, make sure each team has at least two overlapping hours.

Try to get the team to set these overlapping hours independently since they will likely have their own preference. Maybe some teams like to have the two hours at the start or end of their days, while another team might want to spend the two hours around lunch with each other.

The idea of overlapping hours is not new. As Basecamp writes in their employee handbook under “Asynchronously'':

“All that being said (that you should work asynchronously), you should still ensure that there is ample overlap with the people you work with most of the time. While most roadblocks can just as well be cleared in 15-30-60 minutes, they become really annoying if it’s a one-day turn-around every time.”

Even if you don’t have anything to work together on in those overlapping hours, it’s also a great way to keep a team connected.

Try to hire freelance-minded people who can work independently.

While many people don't like to be honest about this, the fact that no manager is looking over your shoulder at home makes it hard for some people to be productive. That's why a remote team must hire people who can work independently. Do you think this person would be a great freelancer, at least based on their level of proactiveness?

Remote work requires certain independence and proactiveness and freelancers often possess these skills.

But what if I already have a team?

If you are transitioning to working remotely, I am not advising you to fire everyone who doesn't think and act like a freelancer. Provide your team with (virtual) training sessions to help them make the transition to remote work.

Also, check-in with your team regularly to see how everyone is adopting this new way of working.

If you are thinking about transitioning to working remotely, I wrote this post on how to start working remotely.

Use daily check-ins so you know what is going on.

In the last section, I already mentioned that you should regularly check in with your team. And daily check-ins are very useful to stay on top of everything going on within your team.

Daily check-ins are usually an asynchronous questionnaire that each team member fills out at the end of the day and of which the answers will be shared with the manager and the team.

The great thing about daily check-ins is that you can set them up in a way that suits your team best. Think of 3 to 5 questions that are both easy to answer and valuable to the progress of the project you are currently working on. Some common daily check-in questions are;

  1. What have you worked on today?
  2. Are there any blocked or still blocked tasks that you need to work on?
  3. Do you think we can still launch on time?
  4. What are you going to work on tomorrow?
  5. Is there anything you want to share with the team today?

If you feel like question number 3 is uncomfortable, it is. But if you can get your team to answer this question repeatedly and make them comfortable with answering "no," you just leveled up your team and your control over the project.

I also included question number 5 to include a more tailored question towards sharing knowledge and inspiration around the team. If you manage a team, you should regularly answer this question with wins you achieved as a team, or maybe share a funny/inspirational piece of content.

If you want to learn more about daily check-ins and how to run them, check out this post, which includes some tools that can help you get up and running with daily check-ins.

Keep an eye on overtime.

For the love of everything and everyone, use real-time time tracking tools like Toggl Track, for example. While time tracking is great for billing clients, it's also an excellent tool to keep overtime in check.

For many remote workers, it's still challenging to unplug from work at the end of the day. Your responsibility as the team manager should be to forge a healthy work-life balance by pointing out when people are working too much.

Doing some overtime to reach a deadline is okay every once in a while. But as with many things in life, it's about striking a good balance.

You want your team to be well-rested and focused during the workday so that they can make the most of their productive hours.

Improve, improve, and improve!

Managing a remote team is not more complex than managing your team from an office, but it requires a different mindset and approach. And since working remotely (especially on the scale we do it now) is still relatively new, there is still a lot to be studied and learned about managing remote teams.

If you take away anything from this post, it should be to run daily check-ins and keep asking your team how you could improve your way of managing the team and better facilitate them.