Managing remote teams comes with its own set of challenges – from work visibility and trans-time zone communication, to cultivating a sense of belonging. But as the popularity of the remote work model continues to gain force, businesses need to be ready for the realities of distributed workforces.
So what’s the trick? How do you manage the performance and engagement of someone you may never meet in person? Cultural shifts aside, it ultimately requires a very specific toolset. Here’s what you need to manage remote collaboration and ensure everyone feels like an equal, valued member of your team.
The challenges of managing remote employees
It can be difficult enough to track office-based performance, but in terms of remote working the lack of face time means managers may risk losing touch with team members. It can become difficult to gauge basic employee performance KPIs – like what they’re working on, how long tasks are taking them, what they’re prioritizing and how engaged they feel.
Effective communication is the building block of any strong team. Knowledge sharing, company news and team bonding between colleagues can fall to the wayside if they’re only getting to know each other through messaging platforms. Remote workers may also find it more difficult to share their input or suggest improvements, and feel locked out of feedback discussions.
Simple tasks like keeping on top of project updates or working on a document together can be tricky when you work remotely. Unlike a central office team, where you can brief someone in-person and quickly tackle misunderstandings, assigning ownership and synching schedules can often be lost in translation.
Great leaders ensure everyone is on the same page. But in a distributed environment it takes an extra effort, since expectations and goals must be set out explicitly to workers for them to stay on-track. Your contact also has to change – making the time to connect and regularly check-in via video calls instead of face-to-face meetings.
To protect against burnout, you’ll want to understand remote employee capacity, availability, overtime and engagement are all crucial for protecting against burnout. But with remote teams not being there in the flesh, it can be a little more challenging to allocate resources among your team.
Meaningful interaction is crucial to every team, but it’s obviously hard to bond with your colleagues if you never actually meet them. Managers may find it hard to gauge openness and transparency, and when issues do arise, the distance of email can be off-putting – it may not convey the tone in your feedback you really want to give.
Invoicing can quickly become complicated when you have workers in different countries, with different banks, systems and currencies. In terms of your own profit, getting all employee timesheets in to bill clients accurately can also be tricky. The monthly faff of chasing employee timesheets becomes much greater when transposed to a multi-time zone, purely digital setting!
Tools for managing remote teams
The remote work model can only work with the right technological set-up. To fully support remote employees and facilitate cross-team collaboration, here are the five essential remote team management tools you’ll want in your belt.
1. Monday - for communication and project management
Monday is a project management tool that makes communication the central focus of remote working. Through the platform, you can build timelines for remote teams to collaborate more efficiently and stay on the same page. You can also manage all your team tasks and projects, employee on-boarding, meeting notes or vacation days in a single space, as well as add assets and comments in context to read later.
2. Timely - for KPI tracking, managing resources and invoicing accurately
Time tracking is a critical tool for every remote business, ensuring all remote work – both internal and billable – is accounted for, and clients are billed accurately. Timely revolutionizes the whole slog by making it automatic. It captures all remote employee work and uses AI to create timesheets for them. Logged activity, capacity, overtime and availability are all fed into real-time dashboards, ensuring all remote contributions stay visible. Since it’s entirely consent-based, remote employees feel comfortable using it too.
Trello helps remote teams easily track project plans, tasks and progress so that each remote worker’s backlog is visible to everyone. Using different boards and workflows – which can be as simple as the classic “To-Do”, “Doing” and “Done” – team members can check-in on their workload with agile boards. You can add customized tags to mark task priority so no-one misses a deadline.
4. iDoneThis - for leading, managing and checking in
Remote leaders shouldn’t be left guessing how their team is getting on. iDoneThis is a lightweight, agile task management tool where workers submit daily check-ins, which are later compiled into digestible reports. You can also send out a morning recap of all the happenings in your inbox and set personal achievements for each worker.
5. Engagedly - for performance, guidance and building trust
Engagedly integrates ongoing check-ins, goal-setting and learning benchmarks to make performance reviews as easy as possible. Its 360-degree feedback tool means managers, peers and any other colleagues can offer their feedback, and remote workers can enter self-evaluation comments through a set period.
6. Blink - for engagement and internal communication
It's well-known that happy teams are productive teams, and Blink provides one platform to make sure everyone's engaged and supported. It provides one clean space for updating employees, stimulating discussions, creating feedback loops and conducting surveys.