7 Practical Tips for Effectively Managing Remote Teams in 2023

Effective remote employee management demands adaptable leadership. Get practical tips for overseeing distributed teams.

Managing employees who work remotely requires a different approach than managing in-office teams.

With remote work becoming the norm for many organizations, managers need to adapt their leadership style to motivate, engage and oversee employees they don't see face-to-face every day.

This comprehensive guide provides people leaders and HR professionals with actionable tips for managing remote employees successfully.

From communication strategies to performance management tactics, these best practices will help you lead your distributed teams to thrive in today's digital work environment.

Take your remote management strategy to the next level by starting with the Distributed Work Audit, an AI-powered assessment providing crucial insights and data-driven recommendations tailored to your team's specific needs. Unlock your remote team's full potential.

Table of Contents

  1. Set Clear Goals and Expectations
  2. Maintain Open Communication
  3. Build Trust Through Transparency
  4. Promote Collaboration and Knowledge Sharing
  5. Provide Ongoing Feedback and Recognition
  6. Measure Performance Fairly
  7. Foster Community and Engagement
  8. Prioritize Wellbeing and Work-Life Balance
  9. Adapt Your Management Style
  10. Invest in Learning and Development
  11. Leverage Technology Effectively
  12. Embrace Asynchronous Communication
  13. Schedule Regular Check-Ins
  14. Encourage Self-Management and Autonomy
  15. Distributed Work Audit by Remote-First Institute

1. Set Clear Goals and Expectations

With remote employees, managers cannot rely on impromptu check-ins or passive oversight. You need to be very intentional in setting goals and expectations. Here are some tips:

  • Establish SMART goals. Make them Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound.
  • Set expectations for availability and response times to emails or messages.
  • Communicate project plans, priorities and deadlines clearly.
  • Ensure employees understand their role and responsibilities.
  • Revisit goals periodically and update them as priorities or circumstances change.

Having unambiguous goals and expectations is the foundation for managing remote employees successfully. It enables people to work autonomously while knowing how their work ladders up to team and company objectives.

2. Maintain Open Communication

With employees working remotely, the modes of communication need to evolve. Relying solely on in-person meetings is no longer feasible.

To facilitate effective communication with remote teams:

  • Leverage digital tools like Slack, Microsoft Teams, Zoom etc. for instant messaging, video calls, document sharing and collaboration.
  • Establish communication norms on when and how to use different channels. For example, use video calls for brainstorming sessions and email for progress updates.
  • Schedule regular one-on-one meetings to touch base with each direct report. This provides opportunities for mentorship and growth.
  • Hold team meetings virtually to align on priorities, share updates, and foster relationships. Keep them engaging with collaboration tools like whiteboarding and polls.
  • Send weekly digests or recaps to update employees on recent developments. Summarize key information in one place.
  • Be responsive and make yourself available to team members. But also respect personal time and avoid messaging late evenings or weekends unless urgent.

Frequent and multidimensional communication is key for leading remote employees successfully. It keeps everyone connected, aligned, and engaged.

3. Build Trust Through Transparency

Trust is the foundation for effective remote teams. But cultivating trust can be harder when people don’t interact face-to-face every day.

As a manager, you can build trust by being transparent with your remote employees:

  • Provide context about organizational changes, new initiatives or policies that affect the team.
  • Explain the reasoning behind decisions that influence how employees work.
  • Be open about what’s going well and what needs improvement.
  • Share constructive feedback frequently, not just during annual reviews.
  • Solicit input from employees when problem-solving or brainstorming ideas.
  • Discuss career development plans and succession planning openly.

Transparency demonstrates that you trust employees with important information. In turn, it helps build mutual trust between managers and team members.

4. Promote Collaboration and Knowledge Sharing

Collaboration looks very different when employees are distributed. Managers play a key role in facilitating effective collaboration across locations.

  • Encourage cross-functional partnerships. This exposes employees to different perspectives beyond their own teams.
  • Reward collaborative behaviors publicly during team meetings or privately in one-on-one conversations.
  • Model collaborative practices yourself by seeking diverse inputs and providing support to colleagues.
  • Use collaboration tools like Slack, Miro, Teams etc. to enable seamless information sharing and collective work.
  • Document processes on wikis or repositories so everyone has access to the most updated information.
  • Share relevant skill development opportunities to promote knowledge exchange across the organization.

Fostering collaboration taps into the collective knowledge and creativity of all employees, leading to better solutions. This is invaluable for the productivity and innovation of remote teams.

5. Provide Ongoing Feedback and Recognition

Providing regular feedback is a best practice even with in-office teams. But it becomes even more crucial for remote employees who don’t have access to organic, in-person feedback.

As a manager, you should:

  • Schedule monthly or quarterly feedback conversations to discuss recent wins, developmental areas, and career aspirations.
  • Solicit peer feedback 360 evaluations provide broader perspectives beyond just the manager’s point of view.
  • Ask for feedback from your direct reports as well. Be open to improving your own management approach.
  • Provide recognition when goals are met or exceeded. Acknowledge achievements publicly or privately.
  • **Address performance issues promptly **don’t let problems fester, tackle them quickly through supportive conversations.
  • Follow-up after feedback meetings with resources, training or mentoring to spur positive change.

Ongoing feedback and recognition makes remote employees feel valued. It also provides opportunities for growth by highlighting strengths and constructive developmental areas.

6. Measure Performance Fairly

Measuring performance objectively is another challenge managers face with remote employees. Judging based on physical visibility in the office is no longer fair or feasible.

  • Evaluate employees based on outcomes rather than hours logged or activities completed. Set clear goals and assess the end results.
  • Leverage tools like project management software, version control systems, communication logs etc. to quantify work accomplished.
  • Gather feedback from cross-functional partners that remote employees interact with.
  • Discourage micromanagement. Refrain from monitoring activity constantly. Empower people to manage their work autonomously.
  • Focus on impact rather than minute-by-minute productivity. Value results that move top-level objectives forward.
  • Be flexible on schedules as long as goals are met and commitments kept. Don’t penalize people for unconventional working hours.

Fair performance management keeps remote employees motivated and engaged with the organization’s mission and values. It empowers people to organize work in ways that are most productive for them while driving impact for the business.

7. Foster Community and Engagement

Lack of daily in-person contact can lead to feelings of isolation among remote employees. As a manager, you play a key role in cultivating team community and engagement.

  • Model inclusive behaviors yourself by soliciting input from introverts and remote folks in meetings.
  • Spotlight different team members at team gatherings or town halls to give visibility.
  • Invest in relationship building through team outings, virtual coffee breaks or buddy systems.
  • Celebrate traditions like birthdays, work anniversaries or cultural holidays virtually.
  • Enable water cooler chatter through dedicated Slack channels or team chat groups for casual interactions.
  • Get to know employees personally by learning about their hobbies, families or interests.

Fostering social connections amongst remote employees leads to greater engagement, collaboration and performance. It’s well worth the investment for managers.

8. Prioritize Wellbeing and Work-Life Balance

Without the physical separation between work and home, remote employees are prone to burnout and poor work-life balance. As a manager, you set the tone for prioritizing employee wellbeing.

  • Lead by example by taking time off and respecting others’ personal time. Don’t message on weekends or evenings unless urgent.
  • Set clear OOO expectations about availability and emergency contact procedures. Respect employees’ time off.
  • Offer flexible schedules to accommodate family needs or different work styles. Don’t mandate rigid 9 to 5 schedules.
  • Discourage overwork and raise flags if you notice signs of burnout. Suggest resetting priorities or using up vacation time.
  • Provide resources like EAP programs, wellness stipends, mental health days and caregiver support.
  • Check in on wellbeing during one-on-one meetings. Listen actively and direct people to helpful resources as needed.

Making employee wellbeing a priority improves retention, engagement, productivity and innovation among remote teams. It’s a smart investment for managers to make.

9. Adapt Your Management Style

To succeed with remote employees, managers must evolve their leadership style. Command-and-control styles that micromanage don’t work well. You need to adopt a more empowering approach.

  • Shift to outcome-focused management. Define the end goals clearly but don’t dictate how work must be done.
  • Trust employees to manage their schedules and be productive in environments that work best for them.
  • Provide air cover and resources so employees have what they need to get work done without excessive oversight.
  • Coach self-sufficient behaviors like time management, prioritization, problem solving and decision making.
  • Check in regularly to provide guidance rather than constantly looking over shoulders.

Adapting your management style involves loosening the reins while still providing the support employees need to excel. This empowering approach is essential for leading productive remote teams in the long run.

Complement your adapted management approach by leveraging the Distributed Work Audit's personalized recommendations based on your team's unique remote capabilities. This 360-degree analysis identifies opportunities to further enhance your remote leadership skills.

10. Invest in Learning and Development

Out of sight should not mean out of mind when it comes to developing remote employees. Create opportunities for continuous learning and career growth.

  • Offer access to online courses, workshops and conferences to help people develop new skills.
  • Develop mentoring or buddy programs to foster informal learning within the team.
  • Rotations or stretch assignments allow people to expand experience.
  • Multimedia training content like blogs, videos, webinars or podcasts make learning accessible.
  • Assess training needs during regular one-on-one and reviews and offer relevant learning resources proactively.
  • Lead by example by pursuing your own continuous learning and modeling growth mindset.

Investing in remote employee development enhances skills, engagement, and retention. It also empowers people to take charge of their own growth journeys.

11. Leverage Technology Effectively

Digital tools unlock new ways for managers to oversee remote teams efficiently:

  • Project management platforms like Asana, Jira or Trello provide visibility into work happening across locations.
  • Virtual whiteboards like Miro or Mural enable collaborative brainstorming in real-time.
  • Productivity software helps manage workflows, tasks and communication channels efficiently.
  • Knowledge management systems like Confluence, Notion or Wiki help capture knowledge across the company.
  • Dashboards and reporting tools enable data-driven tracking of team goals and projects.
  • Collaboration tools like Office 365, GSuite, Slack facilitate smoother teamwork.

Leveraging the right technology combos allows managers to lead remote teams with greater agility. But careful selection and training is key to drive optimal adoption across the organization.

12. Embrace Asynchronous Communication

Remote teams rely heavily on written communication across time zones. Managers should embrace “async” communication methods like email, chat and project management tools.

  • Reduce unnecessary meetings and substitute with status reports, recaps or pre-reads when feasible.
  • Document discussions in meeting notes, wikis or repositories for transparency.
  • Summarize complex topics in emails rather than verbal explanations.
  • Ensure key decisions and next steps are captured in writing rather than just stated verbally.
  • Standardize file-sharing and collaboration through central platforms rather than ad hoc methods.
  • Set expectations for response times to asynchronous communication so people know what to expect.

Effective asynchronous communication minimizes logistical headaches of coordinating across time zones. It also improves transparency and alignment among distributed team members.

13. Schedule Regular Check-Ins

While nourishing asynchronous practices, managers should also schedule quality synchronous interactions.

  • Cadence one-on-one meetings weekly or bi-weekly. Leave room for personalized career discussions.
  • Establish standing team meetings but keep them focused and purposeful, not for status updates.
  • Host "ask me anything" forums for employees to pose questions freely outside of formal meetings.
  • Occasional offsites or meetups enable in-person relationship building.
  • Pulse surveys provide opportunities for anonymous feedback from the team.
  • Monthly town halls allow senior leaders to communicate vision and strategy to all employees.

A healthy blend of synchronous and asynchronous interactions keeps remote teams connected. Managers play an important role in orchestrating this symphony of communications.

14. Encourage Self-Management and Autonomy

Micromanaging remote employees is a recipe for failure. Empower people to determine how, when and where they work best.

  • Coach time and priority management skillscritical in a remote environment with more distractions.
  • Educate on strategies to mitigate bad habits like procrastination or excessive multitasking.
  • Offer flexible arrangements like adjusted hours, condensed weeks or job shares.
  • Trust employees to manage their unique situations and workstyles.
  • Judge outputs more than activities. Focus on the what over the how.
  • ** Resist over-monitoring and unnecessary reporting.**

With the right coaching and tools, most employees can thrive with autonomy. This leads to higher job satisfaction as well as productivity gains for the business.

15. Distributed Work Audit by Remote-First Institute

Take remote management to the next level with the Distributed Work Audit by Remote-First Institute. This AI-powered assessment provides crucial insights into your team's remote capabilities, identifying skill gaps and areas for improvement.

The data-driven recommendations enable people leaders to address remote work challenges through targeted solutions. Investing in your team's remote leadership and collaboration competencies is key to building a resilient and successful distributed work culture. Unlock your remote team's full potential with the Distributed Work Audit.

Key Takeaways

With careful planning, intentional communication and the right technology, managers can lead productive remote teams successfully.

Prioritize setting clear expectations, maintaining open channels, providing ongoing feedback and investing in employee growth and wellbeing. Adopting an empowering rather than micromanaging style allows your high-performing remote team members to thrive.

As organizations embrace location-agnostic work, the playbook for management must be rewritten too. Follow these best practices to become a manager who motivates and mobilizes employees across distances. You’ll transform your distributed teams into inspired, collaborative and accomplished groups equipped to drive impact around the world.

About the Author

Iwo Szapar is a Remote Work Advocate & Co-founder of Remote-how, the world’s leading platform for remote professionals powered by and for the community of 25,000+ people from 128 countries.

Through various initiatives like Remote-how Academy or Virtual Coworking, together with the world's top remote companies like GitLab, Prezi, or Doist, Remote-how is on a mission to help everyone achieve freedom of choice where and when they work.

Investing in your team's remote work capabilities is key to building a successful distributed work culture.

The Distributed Work Audit provides the expert insights you need to take your remote management strategy to the next level. Get started today.

Iwo Szapar

Iwo Szapar

Remote-First Advocate & Book Author

🚀 Remote-First Advocate & Book Author // Since 2017, shaping the future of remote & hybrid work as the CEO of Remote-how

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