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How To Lead And Manage a Remote Team (The CEO’s Guide)

Written by Leon Ho
Founder & CEO of Lifehack
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In the past couple of years, working from home has become the norm for workers in a wide variety of industries, and the trend doesn’t seem to be dying down any time soon.

Of all the challenges that arise from switching your business to a work-from-home model, managing a remote team is one that tops the list. Team building and productivity management are much harder to do when you can’t see your employees face to face regularly.

However, it’s certainly not impossible. Many experienced business owners transitioned to remote work before the COVID-19 pandemic and figured out the best strategies for how to manage a remote team.

Read on below to learn everything you need to know about how to manage your team remotely.

The Key to Successful Remote Management

As the CEO and Founder of Lifehack, I’ve had to adapt to the changes of managing a remote team through trial and error, and I’ve learned a lot of helpful secrets along the way. Lifehack made the transition to remote work back in 2019, long before it became the norm today, so my team and I have had plenty of experience with this unique working style.

Since making the switch to the work-from-home setup, Lifehack has significantly benefited from the productivity and high workplace morale that my team and I have built together. Now, I’m here to help you learn from our experiences and share the successful strategies we’ve discovered along the way.

Strategies and Tips for Managing Your Remote Team

Keeping a team of employees on task, productive, and in good humor can sound like an enormous challenge when they’re not all present at the same physical location as you. But if you apply these simple tips and guidelines for managing a remote team, you’ll find the process will go a lot smoother than you expected. Check out these helpful strategies for becoming a successful remote manager.


1. Find the Right Tools for the Job

One of the most important things about switching from a traditional workplace to a work-from-home environment is making sure that all of your employees have the tools they need to do their jobs well. Of course, every industry is different, so you’ll have to decide for yourself what sort of software programs or hardware tools need to be made available for each employee. However, communications platforms are the key to effective remote management.

Through platforms like Slack, Zoom, and Dialpad, you can ensure that workplace communication[1] doesn’t suffer from the lack of physical proximity. These programs make it easy to keep in touch with large groups of employees from all over the world. Ensuring that every team member has access to the appropriate communications platforms and knows how to use them is the most important step you’ll need to take.

2. Set Clear Goals for Productivity

Another challenge managers have when learning how to manage a remote team is that it’s more challenging to keep track of their workers’ productivity. Working at a distance gives each member of your workforce a bit more freedom to decide their own pace and schedule, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take steps to keep productivity high.

For example, be sure to set deadlines for important projects and make sure the goals to be completed are clearly communicated. Additionally, make regular check-ins with your workers to see how the tasks are coming along.

3. Encourage Regular Communication

Effective communication in the workplace is one of the most important factors governing the relationship between managers and employees.[2] As such, you can’t underestimate the vitality of regular, ongoing communication between managers and employees and among employees in general.

It can be easy to ignore interpersonal correspondence and work on an island by yourself as a remote team. But combating this isolative urge is rather simple. Be proactive as a manager about fostering constant communication on the platforms you use. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your team members for small updates and progress checks. If you’re not getting the responsiveness you desire, consider requiring acknowledgments for group announcements.


4. Understand Common Challenges Associated with Remote Management

Every workplace has its unique challenges, and working from home is no exception. So as the manager of a remote team, it’s important to familiarize yourself with any potential setbacks your team may be experiencing so that you can give them the advice they need to overcome them.

Some common problems that arise for remote workers include:[3]

  • Isolation
  • Information accessibility issues
  • Lack of direct access to managers and coworkers

However, you can easily avoid these hiccups by being proactive with your communication channels and keeping necessary information in a central virtual location. Other issues, such as unforeseen distractions in the home, must be handled case-by-case.

5. Assign Responsibilities Clearly and Effectively

You may be surprised to learn the biggest hindrance to a remote employee’s progress. It’s not poor connection issues or distractions in their house, but a lack of clarity on what’s expected of them.

When you’re learning how to manage your team remotely, set clear goals and have precise standards for quality of work. As a result, you can help erase any ambiguity surrounding your employees’ assignments. When your workers have a clear idea of the task at hand, they’ll be more likely to accomplish their goals faster and with higher accuracy.

6. Encourage Professional Social Interaction

Having positive relationships with your coworkers is an important part of workplace morale. Unfortunately, it can be hard to foster that sort of social contact in a virtual workspace.

For that reason, I recommend having a communication channel where workers can chat casually throughout the day, either privately or in small groups. For example, you can create a causal chat channel on Slack, or make use of the “Watercooler” feature on Basecamp. This will go a long way towards keeping employees happy and boosting cooperation among your team.


7. Be Sure to Give Each Team Member Individual Attention

Just because you can’t see your employees face to face the same way you would in a traditional office environment doesn’t mean that you don’t need to give them attention as individuals. When using the right virtual communication software, this task is really easy.

Just reach out to your employees individually from time to time to check in and make sure everything is going well!

8. Respect Your Team Members’ Limits

A huge factor that can seriously affect both morale and productivity is overloading your employees with work. It might seem like, with the schedule flexibility allowed by remote work, your workers can accomplish any amount of tasks in a given week, but that is not the case.

Remote workers experience burnout just the same as any other employee. Be sure to avoid overloading your team with tasks, and check in with them periodically to see how they’re handling their workloads.

9. Provide Clear Feedback

Feedback is necessary for ensuring that employees are doing things correctly and progressing on the right track. It’s also really helpful for keeping the quality of their work in acceptable shape. Just because you’re not in the room with them all day doesn’t mean you can’t give feedback.

Reach out via your virtual communication channels to let your employees know how they’re doing, praise them for excellent work, and point out where they could make some adjustments.


10. Adapt to Change

Make sure you allow for a certain degree of flexibility in structuring your operations. For instance, when managing a remote team, it’s not always best to try to control every little thing your employees do.

Allow your workers to have a certain degree of independence in their day-to-day routines, and you’ll be surprised how their productivity improves.

11. Don’t Be Afraid to Break Out of Cyberspace When Possible

Just because you’re learning how to manage your team remotely doesn’t mean you can never meet with your employees in real life! Arranging for optional team-building meetings in person can boost morale and cooperation significantly, and it will give you a chance to get to know your team better.[4]

Of course, this isn’t always feasible for every business, but you could simulate the experience with the occasional casual video conference that gets the whole team involved.

Start Managing Your Remote Team More Effectively Today!

Without expert advice from business people who have done it before you, it can be challenging to figure out how to manage a remote team effectively on your own. But if you follow these guidelines and keep a positive attitude, you’ll make the switch to a work-from-home setup without a hitch.

Start making these improvements for managing a remote team today, and let us know if you saw a difference in morale and productivity in your workplace.


Featured photo credit: Surface via unsplash.com


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