How To Manage A Remote Team

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Managing remote teams can be tough. Following these best practices and leveraging workforce data effectively can make the process easier. 

Over the past few years, managers and team leads have discovered that making the transition to remote work requires much more than simply making it possible for employees to work from home. Remote teams have unique needs and in order to manage remote team members effectively, you must take a collaborative, transparent, and systematic approach to performance management. The ActivTrak team is committed to helping managers adopt this approach, navigate any challenges that might come up in a remote environment, and unlock the resources needed to help remote employees work wiser.

Read on to learn how to effectively manage remote teams and explore how user activity data can help transform your remote environment, increase employee productivity, and empower your organization as a whole.

Understanding How Effective Remote Teams Work

Effective remote teams have a company culture of transparency and open communication that includes fully remote workers just as much as those team members who may choose to come into the office on occasion. Collaboration tools including instant messaging apps like Slack and video conferencing apps like Zoom have made maintaining that communication easier than ever.

Another important aspect of maintaining a culture of communication is creating an open dialogue between managers and remote workers. Regular (even daily) check-ins are a staple in effective remote work environments because they offer an opportunity for managers and employees to celebrate what’s working well, discuss what needs improvement, and stay connected no matter where they are. These check-ins and touchpoints are critical to keeping remote employee engagement high and helping remote employees stay productive.

Effective remote teams also work with their managers to tackle any obstacles that come with working from home and contribute to a culture of continuous improvement. From navigating long-distance collaboration and staying focused in a home office to effectively onboarding new hires without the benefit of face-to-face interaction, managing remote teams can be difficult. Luckily, following the best practices laid out below will help you solve these challenges and more.

Remote Team Management Best Practices

When it comes to managing remote workers, you’ll have to reassess and re-adjust until you find the approach that works best for your organization. However, we’ve found that there are five essential remote team management best practices that will help support remote employees and create a positive work environment no matter where your team members are located.

  1. Develop a remote work policy: Effective remote team management starts with setting clear expectations from the very beginning and making sure all of your remote team members have the resources they need to meet them.  You can outline everything your remote workers need to know to work wiser in a remote work policy, including basic workday protocols, the frequency of check-ins, and which communication tools should be used. This is also a space to answer any questions that remote employees might have about the work environment and provide easy access to resources they may need as they go about their day-to-day. You can use ActivTrak’s remote work policy template to get started.
  2. Take advantage of technology: Using technology effectively — whether it’s collaboration tools, communication tools, remote workforce management software, or anything else — is critical in a remote environment. For a remote workforce to function, distributed teams and virtual teams must be able to work together just as efficiently as if they were together in a physical office. As a manager, try out a few tools to determine which ones help your remote teams work most effectively. Apps like Slack and Zoom can prove very effective for project management and collaboration. With any tools you install, set expectations around the use of those tools and make sure they’re integrated effectively to avoid technical difficulties in the future.
  3. Use productivity data to fuel one-on-one check-ins: Tracking team productivity is one of the best ways to understand how your employees work without ever micromanaging them. Instead of having daily check-ins in which you and your team members speak vaguely about work, use productivity data to power those one-on-one check-ins. With data, you can talk concretely about areas where remote workers are succeeding and where they might need additional support. You can talk about patterns you’ve noticed and work together to identify ways to make positive improvements that support their well-being as well as their performance.
  4. Leverage data to prevent overwork and burnout: Data also proves helpful when it comes to preventing team burnout and overwork. While there are many benefits of remote work, some remote workers find that work time often bleeds into personal time when working from a home office. If left unchecked, this can slowly but surely chip away at a remote employee’s work-life balance. With remote workforce management software, both managers and employees can keep track of hours spent working and manage workloads to ensure no one feels burnt out.
  5. Create opportunities for remote social interaction: Company culture has always been essential to the success of any organization. For remote team managers, finding opportunities for team-building and watercooler moments can be tough. It’s critical that managers take steps to create hangouts and get-togethers — even if they’re virtual — to foster that sense of company culture and community. Something as simple as starting your daily check-ins with non-work topics of conversation can help bring remote team members together on a video call. Be creative and remember that these kinds of interactions can be just as important to a remote employee’s success as understanding their productivity!

Using Data to Support Remote Employees

When it comes to managing remote teams, gathering data that helps you comprehensively understand remote workforce productivity levels is essential. ActivTrak’s remote workforce management software gives you everything you need to help employees work wiser, no matter where they are.

With ActivTrak, managers can access a bird’s eye view of employee activity as well as granular insights into workflows and key productivity metrics including work hours, focus time, and app usage. That kind of data helps managers better understand how their distributed teams work, pinpoint what they need to succeed, and improve productivity overall. Instead of relying on subjective surveys or waiting until it’s time for performance reviews, managers can use objective workforce productivity data to better manage their remote teams.

Some key metrics that can help managers understand and support their remote teams include average daily productivity, utilization levels over the past 30 days, and the composition of productive time across focused work, collaborative activities, and multitasking. By analyzing these metrics with the help of ActivTrak’s clear reports, managers can unlock data-driven insights about how their remote teams work best without micromanaging their day-to-day. Managers should also encourage remote employees to take ownership of their performance data and to take time to look at those same metrics to understand how they approach their work.

Start Managing Remote Teams Successfully

Managing remote teams can be challenging, but if you follow the best practices laid out above, creating an effective, open, and collaborative remote work environment for employees is possible. At ActivTrak, we believe that data is the key to unlocking the potential of remote teams. By gaining insight into the ways your employees work, you can take steps to help them work wiser and ensure they are supported no matter their chosen work environment.


  • Use workforce productivity analytics to understand how your remote employees work and to identify areas where you can offer targeted support.
  • Create a remote work policy that answers any questions remote workers might have and offers additional productivity resources.

Encourage open communication and create opportunities for social interaction to grow your company culture.

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