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Remote Team Management: How to Overcome Common Remote Team Challenges

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Effective remote team management is a challenging but essential concept to help your remote employees succeed. Use these best practices to make remote team management work for you.

Since the pandemic began, managers and team leads have found that 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 effective remote team management requires a collaborative, transparent and systematic approach to gathering performance insights. 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 necessary to help remote employees work wiser.

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


What is a remote team?

By definition, a remote team comprises workers who telecommute to work instead of physically coming into an office space. Depending on the organization’s working arrangement, these workers can be spread across different cities, countries, or even continents. While the idea of remote teams has been around for some time, they’ve become part of working norms in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, remote teams make up a significant part of the global workforce. Companies looking to stay competitive in the hiring market must find ways to incorporate remote work into their business models.


Why should you prioritize remote team management?

Remote teams can offer many advantages for businesses and employees, but only if managed properly. Without taking the time to learn how to manage a remote team, organizations can struggle with everything from workforce productivity and task management to the difficulties of having employees in different time zones.

It’s crucial to prioritize remote team management from the start because it’s a process that will require reassessment and incremental adjustments before you find the right approach for your organization, managers, and remote workers. The sooner you start, the sooner you’ll find that approach and begin managing remote teams successfully.


The challenges remote teams must navigate

It’s important to remember that even managers who had great success in an office setting will face new challenges when it comes to managing remote teams. After all, the experience of working in a remote environment is very different from that of working in an office. Remote work has its advantages but can also present challenges that prevent remote teams from working effectively. Some of the biggest challenges facing remote teams relate to:

 

  • Communication: Effective communication is essential to the success of any work team, whether remote or not. Creating a culture of communication that includes everyone can prove difficult when employees are spread out across regions and even time zones. Managers must take the lead in creating that culture, encouraging remote employees to communicate with each other to create a more welcoming environment that promotes better work! A straightforward way managers can promote that communication is through regular (even daily) check-ins. These check-ins have become a staple in effective remote work environments because they allow managers and employees to celebrate what’s working well, discuss what needs improvement, set clear expectations, and stay connected even while apart. These touchpoints can also help keep remote employee engagement high and help remote workers stay productive.

 

  • Transparency: In line with communication, another challenge frequently facing remote teams is that of transparency. In an office setting, managers can more easily see how employees work, if their plates are too full, or if they could use another project. Similarly, employees may feel more comfortable approaching their managers about heavy workloads, work-life balance, or needs for assistance in that setting. As part of the push for more open communication, managers should highlight and model the importance of transparency on both sides for effective remote work.

 

  • Collaboration: Another essential element of any successful team is effective collaboration. Unfortunately, encouraging collaboration when employees are remote can prove challenging. Luckily, many virtual collaboration tools have made communication and collaboration more effortless, whether employees are simply at different desks or on different continents. These tools include instant messaging apps, like Slack, and video conferencing apps, like Zoom, both of which make it easy for employees to work together no matter where they are. While these are some of the biggest challenges facing remote teams, they aren’t the only ones. Navigating long-distance collaboration, staying focused in a home office, effectively onboarding new hires without the benefit of face-to-face interaction, and more can make remote team management difficult. Luckily, following the best practices below will help you address these challenges head-on.

Remote team management best practices

Knowing how to manage a remote team can be a challenge. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution that will suit everyone. Instead, successfully managing remote workers involves reassessing and re-adjusting your approaches until you find the best one for your organization.

To help guide that process, we’ve identified five essential remote team management best practices that will help you support remote employees and create a positive work environment no matter where your team members are.

 

  • Set clear expectations with a remote work policy: Effective remote team management starts with setting clear expectations and ensuring all remote team members have the resources they need to meet these expectations. You can outline everything your remote workers need to know in a remote work policy, including basic workday protocols, the frequency of check-ins and which communication tools should be used. A remote work policy is also a space to answer any questions remote employees might have about their work environment and provide easy access to helpful resources for day-to-day operations. ActivTrak’s remote work policy template can help you get started.

 

  • Take advantage of technology for professional and social interaction: Using technology effectively — whether it’s collaboration tools, communication tools or remote workforce management software — is critical in a remote environment. For a remote workforce to function, distributed teams and virtual teams must be able to interact 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 the most. Apps like Slack and Zoom can prove highly effective for project management, collaboration and work-related social interactions or team meetings that fuel teamwork and innovation. With any tools you install, set clear expectations around using those tools and ensure they’re well-integrated to avoid technical difficulties in the future.

 

  • Use productivity data to fuel one-on-one check-ins with team members: Tracking team productivity is one of the best ways to tackle remote team management without ever micromanaging your remote workers. Instead of having daily check-ins where you and your team members speak vaguely about work, use productivity data to power those one-on-one check-ins and provide direction for constructive conversations. With data, you can discuss areas where remote workers are succeeding and inquire about where they might need additional support. You can discuss patterns you’ve noticed and work together to identify ways to make positive improvements that support their well-being and performance.

 

  • Leverage data to prevent overwork and burnout: Data also proves helpful in preventing team burnout and overwork. While there are many benefits of remote work, some remote workers find that work time bleeds into personal time when working from a home workspace. This can slowly but surely chip away at a remote employee’s work-life balance if left unchecked. With remote workforce management software, managers and employees can learn how time is used and manage workloads to ensure no one feels the effects of burnout.

 

  • Create opportunities for remote social interaction: Company culture has always been essential to the success of any organization. Finding opportunities for team-building and watercooler moments can be challenging for remote team managers. Team leaders must take steps to create hangouts and get-togethers — even if they’re virtual — to foster a sense of company culture, community and camaraderie. Something as simple as starting your daily check-ins with non-work topics of conversation, or highlighting recent employee wins and milestones, can help bring remote team members together on a video call. Be creative, and remember that these interactions are often just as essential to a remote employee’s success as understanding their productivity!

Use data to support effective remote team management

Data that helps you comprehensively understand remote workforce productivity levels is essential to managing remote employees. ActivTrak’s remote workforce management software gives you everything you need to help old and new employees work wiser, no matter where they are or what timezone they’re in.

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

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 look at these metrics to understand how they approach remote work.


Improve remote team management with ActivTrak

Managing remote teams can be challenging, but if you follow the best practices outlined above, creating an effective, open, and collaborative remote work environment for employees is possible. At ActivTrak, we believe data holds the key to unlocking the potential of remote teams. By gaining insight into how your employees work, you can ensure they get the support they need to increase productivity, improve time management and work wiser no matter their chosen work environment.

Pro-Tips

  • Create a remote work policy that answers any questions remote workers might have and offers additional productivity resources.
  • Use workforce productivity analytics to understand how your remote employees work and to identify areas where you can offer targeted support.
  • Encourage open communication and create opportunities for social interaction to grow your company culture.

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