5 keys to efficiently manage remote teams

If you run a company in which all or some of their members work from home, surely you will have experienced -more than once- difficulties in communication and coordination. This is relatively normal, many remote companies are still trying to apply the same management formulas that are used in conventional companies without considering the distance factor, and this is usually not effective.

Remote companies must apply their own strategies and find their own tools, often different from those used in traditional companies. A simple chat for companies or an effective reporting system are enough to instantly improve the coordination of the team.

Let’s take a look at a few keys to effectively manage remote teams without going through communication or coordination issues.

  1. Define a work policy

Defining a work policy is particularly useful in remote companies. Remote jobs are more flexible -generally speaking- and this makes workers take certain liberties that the company does not usually consider. We must keep in mind that each company has certain needs and workers -even those who work from home- should adapt to them.

To illustrate this situation, let’s take a look at three examples of work policies:

  • Employees should be available from 9 to 11 in the morning. Having the liberty of working from home does not always mean that you have the freedom to choose your own schedule, especially if other people depend on your work or availability.
  • A three-day-notice should be considered when a worker will be absent. Sometimes, when you work from home, you can forget about letting the rest of the team know about these situations in order for them to keep it in mind.
  • A specific tool should be used for communication and coordination. Allowing many channels of communication can lead to dispersion and difficulties to find information. Also, we should consider the fact that many tools can be dangerous communicating certain confidential information.

With a well-defined work policy, many problems can be avoided. It is important for this policy to be well explained to a possible candidate to a remote-work vacancy within the company, due to the fact that the future worker should accept the conditions as they are.

  1. Use the appropriate tools

Luckily, advances in communication technologies are making work and coordination of remote teams easier each day. There are dozens of tools that can be very useful and valuable for teams who work across different regions of the world. The fact is that technology helps make distances shorter.

It is necessary for each team to find the tools that best fit their work dynamics and their needs.

  1. Encourage a constant communication process

When a team works in the same space, communication happens in an almost automatic way. When a team works remotely instead, it’s very easy for this communication to be completely forgotten.

Team members of remote companies usually communicate when they need something from someone or when they have some sort of problem that they need to solve. The task of a manager is to encourage a constant communication beyond these needs.

A constant rhythm of communication makes companies more effective, due to the fact that this makes it possible to detect problems before they appear, it encourages innovation and improves collective creativity. One way of encouraging a constant communication is to create a series of recurring questions to which the entire team should respond, in order to allow debates and keeping track of the advances in goals.

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Image courtesy of Jeffrey Beall at Flickr.com

  1. One-on-one personalized follow-up meetings

A good leader should not only be aware of the collective needs of their team but also of the individual needs of each one of their members. This is very important in remote teams, due to the fact that since you are not seeing the members of your team directly, it’s more difficult to detect possible motivational problems.

One way of doing this personalized performance review is to establish a small, periodic video conference with each one of the members of the team. The goal of this meeting will be to know how each person feels, how are their goals advancing and to offer advice regarding their personal growth within the company.

This one-on-one conversation will help improve motivation and individual productivity. It’s a great way to make the entire team feel heard and valued within the company.

  1. Create a corporate culture

Many remote companies don’t work to create a company culture. They believe that, since members are in different locations, it is not necessary to invest time in this management strategy. Nothing could be further from the truth.

A corporate culture helps create a feeling of belonging within the team. A feeling that is precisely often lost in remote teams, due to the lack of direct contact. This is the reason why you should look for the formulas that will allow you to establish a solid corporate culture even under these circumstances.

One of the recommended techniques to achieve this is to encourage personal communication beyond the work life. When members of a team talk about personal issues is where the strongest and longer-lasting bonds are created. In the daily lives of traditional companies, it’s easy for this personal communication to appear, and in remote companies, it’s not so easy because communication is quite limited.

Related content: Read Jason Hanold’s “Steps to do a proper termination interview”

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