Managing Remote Teams: A Guide for Remote Managers
Table of Contents
Long-distance relationships are never easy, whether in your private or business life. It includes different dynamics, and these dynamics need to be managed properly. So how do you manage a long-distance work environment as a remote manager?
Managing remote teams is quite different from the traditional way of working and is challenging. Finding the right management style and policies shows that you are a successful manager.
With the development of technology, the remote working style is increasing in popularity daily. Especially big companies are opening up to cross-border ideas and hiring talents from different countries. At this point, talented executives who work remotely and manage international teams come to the fore.
An excellent remote manager ensures the team's happiness while ensuring that things are done on time and correctly. They guide their team correctly and protect the team spirit, just like in the physical environment.
In this article, we will discuss the difficulties and problems that remote administrators experience while discussing the features they should have. Afterward, we’ll give you essential tips to consider when managing remote teams. After all, a happy remote team needs a professional manager!
Traits of a Great Remote Manager
It is equally important to lead a team in the office or remotely. A team leader should take care of remote employees as much as they take care of their employees personally. The remote manager should communicate, manage workflows, and use technology effectively.
There are some important details about leadership, guidance, and management, as it is impossible to communicate and see in person every day when working remotely.
Being able to empathize is the basis for being a good remote manager. It can be challenging to communicate effectively when you're texting and video calling.
Face-to-face communication can better analyze a person's situation through body language and facial expressions. On the other hand, effective communication is much more difficult for remote employees. For this reason, remote managers should communicate with their employees, be interested in how their lives are going, and learn about their preferences.
Remote managers must be mindful and understanding of employees' work concerns. Remote managers need to get employees to embrace the business.
To be a successful remote leader, you need to build trust. A remote team needs reliable team leaders to feel involved, competent, respected, and valued.
A leader who manages a remote team must be intuitive and adaptable to the employees' wishes. Some remote team members want approval, while others want autonomy. While some remote workers want to be in constant communication and not disconnected from the team, some employees are less in touch. Remote leaders must be open to and adapt to these requests.
While creating an environment of trust, the remote manager should give responsibility to the employees, maintain transparency and ensure open communication. In order to create a reliable and harmonious working environment with remote team members, team meetings can be held to ensure sociality.
Servant leadership is another essential feature of establishing healthy communication with employees. Being a servant leader in a remote work domain requires humility and egolessness. Making employees feel obligated harms business relations.
Managers must be willing to guide and follow employees' wishes when managing remote workers. Employees are often reluctant to communicate when working remotely. They are unwilling to ask too many questions and seek help. On the other hand, the remote manager should not turn down their questions and encourage their team to communicate.
In short, remote managers should be sincere, egoless, and helpful when communicating with their teams.
Self-awareness is crucial for healthy and positive business relationships in remote work environments. It is necessary for transparent communication that employees are free from shyness and have high self-awareness.
The fact that managers know themselves and are open to learning and communication helps to eliminate ambiguities when communicating with their team.
Managers who manage a team working remotely for the first time tend to check constantly because they are not together in the physical environment. This situation causes a rift between the team and the manager. On the other hand, managers who respect and adapt to the working style of each team member establish a more effective work environment.
Challenges of Managing Remote Teams
When managing remote employees, managers try to cope with different challenges than those experienced in the office environment.
In this section, we’ll cover some possible situations by addressing the challenges of remote administrators.
1. Lack of Communication
When working in an office setting, it’s easy to exchange ideas at lunch, during breaks, or while waiting for a meeting to start. On the other hand, there are few opportunities to establish healthy communication while working remotely. Messaging or video meetings may not be effective.
For this reason, managers of remote teams must determine their communication styles to communicate effectively. According to the spirit and working style of the team, managers should choose the most accurate communication and times.
2. Not Clearly Defining Roles, Boundaries, and Expectations
The fact that employees adapt to the boundaries of the office and know their role does not mean that it will be the same during remote work.
The managers should clearly state what they expect from remote workers, how they distribute tasks, and how they work. For example, the manager should determine meeting times, response time to messages, and working hours.
3. Lack of Trust
As a manager, you need to trust every individual you include in your remote work team. You will have a problematic working relationship with employees you don’t trust.
While working in the office, you can build an atmosphere of trust over time, and your relationship will strengthen. On the other hand, remote working is perceived by some as doing the minimum job. Sometimes remote workers finish the given job and stay away from being a part of the team. Therefore, managers should give importance to the trust and unity of the team.
4. Poor Performance and Burnout
While working in the office, there are clear boundaries between work and private life. You leave the house at a particular time in the morning and go to work, and when your work time is up, you return to your private life. However, for remote workers, these limits are very vague.
Remote workers start working long hours to get their work done, and after long hours they feel tired. This causes a decrease in productivity. To avoid such problems, remote managers should make comprehensive programming, including working hours. They should regulate their working policies according to remote working.
5. Feeling of Loneliness
Remote working, in the beginning, is exciting for everyone. Not spending the time and effort to go to work and staying in their comfort zone is very attractive to employees. However, remote working leaves employees feeling lonely and isolated after a while.
The feeling of loneliness begins to cause both mental and physical problems in employees. In order not to experience such problems, remote team managers need to determine their methods well. At this point, working style and in-team activities may be the solutions that managers should focus on.
6. Not Understanding the Differences Between Remote Working and Traditional Working
Remote working is quite different from the traditional way of working. Therefore, remote workers need to have other skills. For example, skills such as time management, job tracking, telecommunications, and information technology are essential for remote work.
At this point, managers need to choose the people they will hire, considering their remote working skills. In addition, managers must have these skills. Otherwise, remote managers and employees can’t keep up with remote work, even if they are great in the traditional work environment.
Problems That Remote Team Managers Face
In this part of the article, we will have a look at the difficulties experienced by managers in managing remote employees.
Remote workers can be citizens of the same country or join a team across borders. Also, people can build their careers on different passions and styles, even in the same country. The critical point for different cultures to be a team is the manager.
Managers often don’t care about treating their employees appropriately when managing a global team. However, if you have employees from different cultures, there are many differences, from working hours to working days. At this point, managers should learn to be open to and respect differences.
Lack of a Transparency
When working remotely, teams have the freedom to work far and wide. They can significantly determine their working style and duration. However, job surveillance is equally important.
It is the manager's responsibility to ensure that each employee works equally and does their job in the tasks assigned to the team. Therefore, the assigned tasks must be clearly defined and supervised, so managers should adopt a transparent working style.
Here are some of the things you can do to ensure transparency as a remote team manager:
- Clearly define and write the work schedule, meetings, holidays, and other rules for all team members.
- Identify roles in projects
- Discuss the goals and purpose of projects together with each other to increase employee accountability.
- Follow the stages of the projects one by one.
- Try to control relationships and problems between employees.
Not Choosing the Right Remote Working Tools
Another important point that ensures the correct and regular operation for remote teams is the working tools. Thanks to the developing technology, many tools suit different working styles.
It is up to the manager to choose the systems and tools that will not disrupt the team's work. You should choose tools to keep employees in touch, project management, task management, and more from a single channel. Remember, no employee wants to deal with complicated tools besides work stress.
Lack of Team Spirit
Team bonding is much more difficult for remote teams. Greetings in the morning at the office, chatting over coffee, and going out to lunch are activities that allow teams to bond. On the other hand, remote teams need to take extra care to mingle and be eager to start the conversation.
You can try these ways to strengthen your team's bonds:
- Getting your team together in a physical environment at regular intervals strengthens the bonds. You can do fun activities to keep the energy high.
- If team members are working internationally, you can have video chats. Personal conversations instead of talking about business increase intimacy.
- Celebrate your employees' achievements privately, as you won't be able to get together often. Appreciate their creative ideas, project achievements, or work. You can strengthen your relationship by sending sincere congratulatory messages or GIFs. This way you also motivate team members.
- When giving information or assignments to your team about a job, don't forget to greet them with a warm hello and ask how they are doing. Getting straight to the point and only talking about work makes your relationship robotic. Even if you don't have anything to share outside of work, you should establish humane communication with the other person.
How To Manage Remote Teams
Remote working companies use remote team management tools to maintain their success and ensure continuity. They make innovative moves to increase the efficiency of teams working remotely in detail and intensively.
If you want to learn about how to manage remote teams, we have listed some essential tips for you.
Set the Limits of Remote Teams
A remote worker is often very prone to mix between work and private life. Even the concept of day and night may be lost in communication, especially if employees are from different time zones. Emails, messages, or phone calls from team members can disrupt employees’ private moments.
It would be best to respect your employees' time to avoid infringing on their privacy. You should set working hours that everyone can adapt to and prevent them from being exceeded. This will help you build positive relationships with your employees and manage remote employees more effectively.
Identify Task Sharing and Responsibilities
As a manager, you must correctly plan the task distribution for each team member. Imbalances between employees can cause problems within the team. Some of them work more or less can make you look unfair. Therefore, your priority should be to ensure that team members have a firm grasp of their roles.
Also, as a remote manager, you should determine your role in line with the company’s rules and principles and act accordingly. In this way, you draw a consistent and fair manager image.
Clarify Your Expectations of the Team
Every company has expectations. As a manager, you will have expectations from your team according to your management style. Working in an office environment or remotely does not reduce these expectations. It would be best to articulate these expectations, especially when working remotely, as you have more limited communication resources. Being clear keeps employees focused on the right thing and avoids wasted time.
In general, the expectations from a team will be as follows:
- Communication channels
- Working hours
- Meeting times
- Project deadlines
- Email response times
Open Space for Creativity
Individual situations of employees’ remote working differ. Employees know best how and when they work best. Take their most productive hours and work styles seriously and try to find common ground.
Also, consider your employees' ideas about projects and support their creativity. In particular, don’t get discouraged for projects they want to work on. So, you can leave it to your team to determine their working systems.
Support Cultural Diversity
Cultural diversity can be an obstacle for remote teams. Misunderstandings and conflicts are very likely when people from different cultures come together. For this reason, managing a team with different cultures can be difficult.
On the other hand, cultural differences are much easier to handle as long as you are open to feedback and different ideas. If you manage a multicultural team, you should approach differences positively and celebrate cultural events and national days. You should also instill respect for all cultures in your team.
Improve Your Communication Skills
When managing a team that works remotely, communication mishaps can occur. In particular, a lack of good communication resources and online communication skills makes your job more difficult.
For this reason, it is vital that you are always in contact with the team members and that the employees can reach you at any time. Speak fluently and clearly without confusing the team. You should improve your writing skills and be open to collaboration.
Don’t Avoid Helping Your Team
It will be much more difficult for you to notice the difficulties experienced by team members when working remotely. Even if you think about it, you can overlook it and ignore it.
You may have to spend more time and effort working remotely to meet the needs of employees. It is crucial to be in instant communication to avoid missing problems. Don’t neglect the issues that bother them and always try to help. One of the most critical aspects of managing your team well is always to have a positive relationship.
Bottom Line: Managing Remote Teams
Getting to know your co-workers is much easier when working in an office. You are in one-on-one communication during business hours, and you can understand what they’re thinking and feeling from their demeanor and even their facial expressions.
The challenge is staying in touch with your colleagues while working remotely. Especially if you are managing a team remotely, you need to put more effort into getting to know your team and creating successful work. You must use online communication channels effectively and adapt to new ways to better manage your team.
Respecting your team’s wishes and working styles is a remarkably adaptable point when working remotely. Since remote workers do not have to adapt to a physical environment, you should support them to be productive in their field.
Remember to set your path when managing a remote team and be open to innovations!
Frequently Asked Questions for Managing Remote Teams
What is the easiest way of managing remote teams without affecting business productivity?
There are many different ideas for managing remote teams. The first is to use effective communication channels and give space to your employees. Their creativity should be supported, and it is necessary to make the employees feel that they are not alone.
What are the worst things bosses do when managing remote teams?
Those who manage remote teams poorly often insist on making the same mistakes. For example, the most common mistakes are forcing employees to give constant status reports, monitoring employees' computers, and demanding daily videos. In addition, thinking of working from home as if they are on vacation and eliminating the distinction between work and private life seriously reduces productivity.
How can remote teams communicate well?
First of all, you should get a communication program that is suitable for the job you are doing. Programs where the team can communicate effectively in written form, make video calls if necessary, and create virtual teams ensure strong communication.
Why is delegation important in remote teams?
Delegation needs to be done and said correctly so that employees know their limits and responsibilities.
What is the biggest challenge of managing a remote team?
The biggest challenge of lack of motivation for remote teams disrupts the work life balance. Unclear working hours and working even during breaks seriously reduce productivity and creativity in a remote environment.