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  • Writer's pictureShohreh R Aftahi, PhD

How to Manage Remote Teams Successfully

Remote working, or working from home, has been a trend that a lot of companies embrace, and others may not. However, the fact is that in the last decade, more and more companies have been implementing remote work environments (or working from home). However, managing virtual teams successfully requires specific skills and practices. Today, with the COVID-19 pandemic, more than ever, companies are forced to having their employees work remotely. And many have little to no experience leading remote teams. If you are one of them, the following tips will help you set your team for success:

1. Communication It is imperative to communicate with your employees frequently and regularly. Now more than ever, your organization needs to hear from you with updates, directives, and reassurances. Promote the culture of communication between your team members. Ask them to connect amongst themselves regularly. Currently, life is very uncertain, and having been isolated from the rest of the organization would increase anxiety. Maybe have a ‘virtual coffee’ and discuss work or other topics once or twice a week. Connecting with others within the organization will help you and your team keep the communication going and will help reduce anxiety and the sense of loneliness that comes along with working from home. In the best-case scenario, remote employees may feel they are on an island by themselves, in today’s environment, when COVID-19 requires social distancing, this feeling gets exasperated. 2. Utilize Technology Remote work has been around for a decade now, and today we have the technology to not only do your work but also to collaborate successfully. It is essential to use collaboration tools to keep your team engaged and connected. You have options that are free of charge; others will require a small investment. Examples of such tools are video conference platforms (such as Skype for Business, Zoom, WebEx, etc.), collaboration tools (such as Microsoft Teams and SharePoint). Make sure everyone has access to the given technology you have selected and knows how to use it.

3. Activity vs. Outcome Indeed, you will not have any control over your employee’s actions when they are working remotely. Instead, you should focus on the outcome of their work. Set the proper expectations and look for results. If they produce the expected results, then their minute by minute activity should not be something that concerns you. You may have suddenly found yourself managing a fully remote team and are wondering how to measure employee productivity and quality of work from a distance. The key ingredient is trust. You may not be able to see what people are doing, but you can still equip them with the information they need, assign them tasks, and check on them like you always have. Since you can’t monitor the process, in the same way, your review will have to be based on outcomes. Of course, there’s no reason to believe that, in this new environment, people won’t do the work they’ve been assigned. So just heed Ernest Hemingway’s advice: “The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.”

4. Manage Expectations Set clear expectations for yourself and your team. Each team member needs to clearly understand what is expected of them and what they can expect from their manager. Setting clear expectations is valid for all employees, but it’s especially important for remote teams. Having clear expectations will give them a sense of security and confidence in what they need to do and how they can expect support from their manager.

5. Daily/Weekly Check-ins Depending on the size of your organization, it may not be feasible to reach out to everyone daily. But try to have one-on-ones with them as frequently as possible; and plan on having group meetings often using a video conferencing platform. These meetings don’t have to be lengthy, depending on what you need to share, it can be a quick 30-minute informal call. 6. Flexibility Deepen the trust by giving timely feedback, show you are available to support them, and that they can be flexible with the hours they work, given the fact that people have to manage their family and life as well during this hectic time. COVID-19 has changed everything we used to do; just a simple grocery shopping is no longer simple. They need to know that you understand, and it is okay if they need to take a break to tend to a personal need if they deliver the expected results. You may be surprised that they can accomplish more when they have more freedom to control their activities.

7. Training If your team has never worked remotely, then help them by providing training. How to create compelling presentations that can be shared remotely? How to host a successful remote meeting with internal or external clients? How to manage time more efficiently when working remotely? These are a few examples of topics you can help your organization by providing training.

During this challenging time, we all should come together to help each other with immediate needs. ThriveVance is happy to assist the business community to the best of our ability. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to write your comments below, or contact us at

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