Important tips and areas of focus for remote team management. The difficult times we are living in force us to rethink how we are working and interacting with colleagues. With remote work on the rise, a lot of people are learning how to manage a remote team. And it can be tricky if you’ve never done it before.
- What is exactly a remote team
- How do you form a remote team
- What are the challenges of remote team management
- Three checklists to ensure your remote team management is successful
- 1. Remote Team Process Management
- 2. Remote Team Communication
- 3. Remote Team Management Software
When your team works in the office, the workflow is streamlined. But when you’ve got a remote team, you have to change your work style and approach to maintain a corporate culture, morale, and efficiency of your team. We decided to share some remote team management tips about how you can begin working and manage virtual teams effectively.
The primary focus of this checklist is on Process Management, Communication Management, Software and Tools, and some challenges of virtual teams you have to overcome to make it work.
What is exactly a remote team?
A virtual or remote team of people that work for common projects and goals via electronic communications and may live in different locations or can live in the same area but work virtually are known as a remote team. All the team members need to have the necessary tools, skills, and the ability to work independently.
How do you form a remote team?
- Identify the tasks of a project and make sure they can be done remotely. This is the starting point. Also, identify the aspects which may be challenging in a remote working environment.
- Identify the people you need to build this team. Make sure those people have all the necessary equipment and skills and are able to work independently without being micromanaged.
- Figure out the right tools that you need to use while running a project on a remote basis including communication tools, process management software, workflow management software, project tracking software, and other software needed.
- Attend online events, workshops, and conferences that will help you to get to know best practices for remote team management.
- Get the team going and continue learning along the way. And don’t forget to review your findings at the start of every newsprint.
What are the challenges of remote team management?
Monitoring and controlling remote employees
The first problem you face when switching from offline to online remote team communication is the problem of control. You cannot see what your employees are doing, and cannot be sure they are doing the right things, so you have to create an effective organizational structure for managing remote staff. The IT industry is one adopt new practices and procedures that make the work process more convenient faster than any other.
So embracing IT companies’ experience and best practices of agility will give your team a competitive advantage as it is very likely that after all lockdowns due to the current pandemic situation end, many companies will continue using at least a partially remote workforce.
Procedures to maintain remote team collaboration discipline
Another challenging part of working from home is good discipline. The core challenge is to separate your home from your office. Discipline is important both for employees and team managers. You have to develop new routines when working from home such as scheduling your tasks, organizing a new workspace, and creating a place to work that keeps you from being distracted.
You’d like to also preserve some of the routines you had while being in the office, like having morning coffee with your co-workers online with small talks to keep your team’s bonding strong and morale up.
Three Checklists to ensure your remote team management is successful
Below are several tips for managing remote teams effectively. Pick up a checklist that will help you identify what is needed and eliminate possible remote working issues.
1. Process management in distributed teams
Nowadays, we need to modify our work and use an asynchronous approach to remote team management meaning that the team can work at different hours with a few regular sync-ups when all the members are available to share their current state of affairs.
Workers get a few additional free hours because they don’t have to get ready for the office and commute to it. But they lose important rituals, so it is harder to dive into the workflow. And of course, there are distractions at home that you need to find a way to cope with.
The management steps include planning, realization, and checking. These are the same steps you use at the office, but in the case of remote task management, you must be aware of whether the tasks will be done or won’t be done by the set deadline since you can’t physically check on their progress by checking in with someone at their workstation.
Another pitfall of remote work is the environment and availability of time, space, or even someone who can look after the kids. You have to find out what tasks fit this team member most and don’t assign them tasks that are difficult to perform given their current situation. Some people are more productive during the day and others at night so a flexible schedule can be a good solution.
Monitoring the remote team's progress
Some micromanagement practices in an offline environment are simply direct questions. For remote workers, those are transformed into software that monitors time in each program, records keys pressed, and takes screenshots every 30 seconds. This practice, however, would almost definitely only frustrate your team and decrease their performance.
So how do you keep track of what employees are doing without being too annoying? Describe tasks, ask for estimates, and watch for the timely completion of the task, not the ongoing process. Do the sync-ups on a regular basis and use appropriate management tools to track the development team’s progress on tasks or goals providing them with access to a knowledge database facilitating their work rather than keeping track of their distractions or number of hours invested in work.
Trust your development team and their skills, keep the focus on improving engagement and morale: instead of being bossy and micromanaging, try being supportive and understanding of the stress your people are going through. People are ready to go the extra mile without any additional push if they feel appreciated and trusted.
Performance: how to ensure meeting deadlines, quality control, and the team’s focus
There’s no difference between offline and online work. The best formula that works for many is to split the tasks into the smallest pieces of two to eight hours and control what’s done against the schedule. Don’t try to measure the percentage of readiness for the specific task. It’s all subjective and not real.
Flexible personal schedules, shorter sprints, and trust between the team members are the solutions to create effective work cycles and more active team members. It is absolutely necessary to have fixed hours for work, breaks, and household routines.
Set up or focus on your team’s rituals. This will be the heart of your project. Make sure that everyone knows what to do during the day, and who to direct their questions to. Add some non-business topics to your meetings. People need to talk to someone else besides their family.
Remote Team Process Management Checklist
|1||Is your team working asynchronously?||Y/N|
|2||Does everybody know what to do?||Y/N|
|3||Did you set clear goals and expectations for your team: from manager to employee and from employee to manager?||Y/N|
|4||Did you give your team members tips and instructions on how to organize a remote workplace and schedule? Written? Oral? Is everyone on the same page?||Y/N|
|5||Do the tasks fit the employees they are assigned to?||Y/N|
|6||Is the team’s daily schedule consistent, and do they have all the necessary meeting times?||Y/N|
|7||Are the assigned activities performed regularly and consistently with the team’s schedule?||Y/N|
Remote Team Communication
This is something that all agile frameworks are about. Daily standup, weekly demo, and bi-weekly retrospective meetings are the bare minima. Do not forget to do one-on-one formal or informal meetings once in a while to make sure everything goes smoothly with the team.
If your team works with shorter sprints, it is reasonable to have two daily meetings – in the morning and at the end of the day - keeping them very short, 15-20 minutes at most, but very productive.
This is relevant to work in general, whether remote or not. Build an atmosphere of trust so everyone can offer or criticize ideas and won’t worry about reprisal. You need to set ground rules and follow them.
The manager is just a facilitator who empowers a team where everyone is on the same page.
Always have some off-work conversations, and don’t forget to ask if there are any problems – either related to the work process or the worker’s situation at home. The aspect of trust and reasonable expectations is very important for successful remote team management.
Make sure everyone’s available (as if they are sitting next to each other)
Define common hours and schedule meetings in a calendar.
As a remote team manager, you have to be even more available for your team so as any team member can ask you a pop-up question, or work out details he/she needs to know to complete a certain task. Use instant messengers so that any member of your team can ask you a quick question, let your team members know you will answer their questions as soon as you can. And, yes, it is also an aspect of trust that people know you are there to help them and the team works as a single unit.
Be careful when using voice messages! Not everyone likes to disrupt the work process and concentrate on listening to someone’s voice. Messages that can be an email should be an email.
Remote Team Communication Flow Checklist
|1||Is the team’s daily schedule consistent, and do they have all the necessary meetings scheduled?||Y/N|
|2||Are there established routines and rituals for communication with the entire team?||Y/N|
|3||Are the necessary meetings held on a regular basis?||Y/N|
|4||Are there enough one-on-one meetings to track the team’s work and motivation?||Y/N|
|5||Are there small talks during meetings that keep your team’s overall tone friendly?||Y/N|
|6||Are you quick to answer your employees' questions?||Y/N|
|7||Do you keep your team well informed about the status of tasks and the whole project?||Y/N|
3. Remote Team Management Software
Task tracking Remote Team Software
These remote team management tools include free task management software and prepaid task management software. The most popular products are Jira (good for tasks description), Confluence (project description and knowledge database), Trello, Asana, Github, and Cprime Studios’ proprietory ERP: Producer. The choice will depend on your team’s needs and the scope of the project.
Work monitoring Remote Team Software
You should focus on tasks, and not on how every member of the team does his piece of the work. Some companies use software to monitor WHAT and WHEN and FOR HOW LONG every team member is doing, but this again is a matter of trust. Decide what is more important to you – the result of the control.
If you need to structure your working hours, on the other hand, or increase your focus, try using techniques and tools like Pomodoro.
Communication Remote Team Software
The market offers a wide variety of remote team communication tools such as Skype, Slack, Zoom, Hangouts, GoToMeeting. Skype, Slack, and Google Hangouts are good for chatting and everyday communication. Skype, Google Hangouts, Blue Jeans, and Zoom are convenient for making both video and audio calls. It is very convenient to have different channels of communication for different topics and projects. You and your team members have to choose the one that fits your style of communication and has all the features you require.
But make sure that you limit the messengers you use to a reasonable number in order to keep your communication history in (more or less) one place and not to give additional stress to your team with tons of all-day buzzing from dozens of channels.
Performance Assessment Remote Team Software
You should use metrics-based work results. This really matters. As for performance assessments, we don’t recommend you use them based on the manner of task performance, motivation, or a strict working schedule. The main motivation is the effectiveness remote team working and its results.
A good solution is to give a team member a specific task providing him/her with a sense of ownership. It helps to motivate the team members further and helps them keep track of what they are doing, and even boosts their morale.
Remote Team Software Checklist
|1||Do the team members have all the necessary software installed on their remote devices and computers? Do they have all the necessary access to required equipment (e.g.headphones, laptops, specific hardware, stable Internet connection)?||Y/N|
|2||Do the team members report in a timely fashion?||Y/N|
|3||Is the team’s daily schedule consistent, and do they have all the necessary meetings scheduled?||Y/N|
|4||Are you monitoring all necessary metrics?||Y/N|
We hope our tips will help you make your remote team management more efficient and successful. Do not hesitate to ask our team of professionals any questions about remote software development.
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