Remote teams are becoming more and more common as technology advances and the needs of the workplace change. Managing remote teams is very different from managing in-office employees. To do it successfully, you need to implement some specific tools and processes that will help keep work flowing smoothly. Here are some tips to help you do that.
1. Not checking in enough is bad, but micromanaging is bad too
Unfortunately, when managing remote teams, many founders or managers fall on one extreme of the spectrum or another and they struggle to find the balance.
Not checking in on remote workers enough can often lead to problems with productivity. Maybe someone is stuck on a project and you can help them out by offering a quick solution but, since you haven’t checked in to find this out, they are going to spend substantially more time finding a solution on their own.
But when establishing a schedule to check in with your remote teammates, you also have to keep in mind that micromanaging remote teammates is just as bad as not checking in on them often enough.
Naturally, most people want to check in with a remote teammate every day to ensure nothing is forgotten about. However, these constant progress requests and check-ins can end up being counterproductive to productivity.
So, rather than individually reaching out to remote teammates or requiring them all to get together every single day to discuss with you about how their day is going, you should use a system that allows remote teammates to give you progress updates on their own schedule. This way, you get the updates you want and they get to keep their productivity going.
A project management tool like Trello or Asana could do wonders for helping everyone collaborate. A status update tool like Status Hero can also be used so that workers can let you know how they’re progressing and if they have hit any roadblocks.
Of course, these text updates can never replace face-to-face video calls. But with the help of these tools, video calls does not necessarily have to happen every day and when you are really having video calls, the time can be better spent on real discussion instead of simply reporting what have been done.
2. Not enough cross-team communication
A healthy team should feel connected and work collaboratively to achieve goals . However, it is often the case that remote teams feel as though they are various parts of a machine that has been taken apart and scattered all over the place. They often lack an understanding of how they are supposed to work together with their fellow remote workers.
In order to avoid this, you need to promote cross-team communication. Make sure that your team is constantly updating one another about what they’re up to. What are they working on? How is it progressing? How can they support one another? Those are the questions that need to be asked.
You can solve issues of broken communication by holding regular all-team or cross-team update meetings. For instance, here at Kipwise, we hold a Monday “all hands” meeting where the full team participates. We discuss each team’s main goals and deliverable for the week. Then during the week, each individual team will have their own daily standup (e.g. engineers will have their own daily standup and marketing and sales will have their own daily standup). Then, on Friday, we hold an “all hands” demo where the full team participates to showcase what they have accomplished that week.
Other than regular team meetings, it’s also a good idea to use team chat tools like Slack so teammates can communicate with each other more easily. Team chat tools allows teammates to discuss outside of scheduled meetings and it gives them an avenue for discussing all sorts of relevant topics which, in turn, will help your remote team build that connection that on-site teams enjoy.
3. Not building an easy-to-search internal knowledge base
Does your company have an internal knowledge base? Those who aren’t used to working with remote teams may not instantly see the value in a team knowledge base. After all, workers can just ask each other when they have a question, right? While that may be so with on-site workers, remote workers can be located in all different time zones.
If your company fails to organize essential knowledge into an easy-to-search company knowledge base, your remote workers may need to wait for a long time to reach one another in order to find the answers they need. That impedes work progress.
Your company should establish a habit to document team knowledge in an organized fashion. We might be biased, but Kipwise is a great solution because its integrated with the tools that you use everyday, easy to use, and it will help your remote team improve their knowledge and knowledge sharing.
4. Relying on text communication too much – the 5-min rule
While instant chat is good for quick updates, a phone call or a video call is often still better for discussing complex issues. We have a rule at Kipwise – if you find yourself typing on Slack for more than 5 minutes on the same issue, jump on a call instead!
Also, having more voice or video communications can help create connections in a remote team as well. In voice and video calls, emotion and expression are able to come through much better than text. Email and instant messages can’t always compare.
We tried using Zoom.us and Appear.in for video calls at Kipwise. Both have their advantages – Zoom tends to be more stable and provides dial in options, but unless you pay for a subscription, group calls will be limited to 40 minutes (although you can always start another call but it does create interruption) where as Appear.in can have unlimited durations even for their free plan as long as you have no more than 4 people in the call.
5. A lack of camaraderie
Study after study has proven that people work better if they like what they’re doing and who they are doing it with. Giving your employees the chance to get to know one another beyond the workplace can help your remote workers relate to one another and also improve the work experience for them as a whole.
Unlike on-site workers who often bump into each other and can grab a quick lunch or coffee together easily, for remote workers, you need to recreate opportunities for them to mingle so that they too can experience the camaraderie of having coworkers who are also friends. Donut and similar tools will encourage casual chats and having a physical meeting every once in a while where everyone meets at headquarters (or on a company retreat) is also a great idea.
An internal team look book is also great for encouraging such friendship among remote workers. This is a place where teammates can share some fun facts, a personal bio, and other information that will help them get to know one another. This also helps remote workers spark a conversation with one another when they have free time and gradually it will help them become closer and more connected to one another, which reinforces the team dynamic and, ultimately, will increase productivity.
Managing remote teams is not easy but hopefully the above tips and tools can get you one step closer to building a great team on the cloud!