How to Successfully Manage Remote Teams
The Covid pandemic has disrupted business operations on a global scale. Since then, a lot of companies have been forced to adopt the work-from-home setup. This placed employers in a somewhat precarious situation of not being able to physically monitor their workers’ performance.
That’s why in this digital age, businesses of all sizes need to know the correct way to manage remote teams. Not only to maximize productivity but also to minimize friction. Understanding that the majority of solutions for an office setup does not apply to a remote one is a good first step.
The initial dilemma for business owners would be to balance management and freedom. Transitioning from onsite to remote leaves managers worried about the performance and productivity of their team. Employers turned to time tracking tools to try and mitigate their worries. However, it came with multiple drawbacks such as decreased employee morale, efficiency, and company trust.
For this article, we’ll be talking about the right ways to manage a remote team. Inspired by the book No Rules Rules by Netflix’s co-founder, Reed Hastings.
3 Proven Ways to Manage Remote Teams
Employee Freedom Increases Productivity & Innovation
Massive companies like Netflix found success by letting employees do their own thing. They found that focusing on the company’s culture is what made their remote teams a center for strong work efficiency and creativity.
Reed Hastings, the co-founder of Netflix, said that “When they (employees) are given this freedom, they are inspired to work harder, be more innovative, and make better decisions.”
Freeing remote employees’ minds from the feeling of being monitored lets their ideas fly off more naturally. This fascinating concept benefits the company in 2 ways:
- It produces critical thinking employees, rather than mindless workers doing standardized work
- It lets employers focus less on monitoring and more on other business matters
Nonetheless, it’s understandable to worry about productivity when you can’t really see your team. However, controlling a team member’s digital movement is not the answer. I mean, just look at this article stating 10 reasons why time tracking fails to meet expectations.
If you have regular employees that need to work remotely, providing them with the freedom to work on their terms instills a natural response to be more responsible.
Run the business like a Sports Team, not a Family
We’ve heard dozens of companies call their team a “family”. While that’s sweet and all, it can sometimes lead to inefficiencies and unnecessary leniency towards objectives. Quoting the co-founder again:
“But if Netflix wasn’t a family, what were we? A group of individuals looking out for ourselves? That definitely wasn’t what we were going for. After a lot of discussion, Patty suggested that we think of Netflix as a professional sports team.”
So why a sports team? Well because the goal is to win. If each member is willing to put in the effort of reaching a collective goal, then it becomes easier to trust their decisions and output quality.
Create a Team with High-Talent Density
Why do some jobs pay more than others? Is it the level of skill required? Or maybe the intensity of the job’s nature. Well, both are correct. But the main reason is that they provide more value to the business. For remote teams, it’s crucial to prioritize the financial worth of a member.
For business owners, it seems like common sense to find highly talented individuals. But there are some factors that prevent them from doing it. Examples would be hiring cost or just needing someone to handle mundane administrative tasks.
A business with few talented/valuable members will always outperform another with average workers. Why? Well, because performance is endemic. It spreads to everyone in the team. Having skilled individuals constantly pump out quality output sets a high standard.
Long story short, it’s easy to find quick hires for a simple job. But every person you add affects everyone’s dynamics, motivation, and the determination to win.
Achieving Optimal WFH Productivity without Micromanagement
Let each member know you trust them, whether it’s work responsibility, quality of output, or small project decisions. Being able to accept that your team can make work happen with little supervision benefits both sides. They get to express their creativity and you’ll have more time on other important matters.
Besides, you went through the process of selecting team members out of a dozen applicants. It’s only right to give them some level of trust, right?
Become a Role Model
A team is a reflection of its leader. It’s no wonder some people mimic others. Finding work-life balance, being proactive in meetings, establishing flexible work hours, all these are good examples of how you can affect the productivity of your team.
Becoming an effective model means that there are more of “you” in the business. If these employees are as passionate as you, then you wouldn’t need to worry much about them slacking off.
Use the Correct Remote Work Tools
Slack, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Time Doctor. How do you know which of these tools are right for your team? It’s easy to find particular sets of features to benefit your business. It might be worth mentioning however, that taking the welfare of your workforce into consideration is a whole other ballgame.
For this point, let’s consider Smartoo.
On paper, Smartoo is a resource scheduling and project planning tool. While that in itself does not help owners worry less about their worker’s productivity, the underlying features it brings, does.
1. Reporting vs. Collaborating
Team management on Smartoo can be described as “passive”, meaning that members are not obligated to report their progress. Instead, projects and workflows are laid down as schedules. This shows the admins such as owners and project managers the progress of each individual, all while letting the team members build their own work schedule.
A business tool for remote work should consider all 3 sides of a business. The employers, the employees, and the company’s growth.
2. Time tracking vs. Data tracking
As mentioned above, time tracking has a bad rap for micromanaging remote teams. That’s why tools like Smartoo opt for the healthier alternative, data tracking. It uses the information you’ve fed to determine a team member’s output and how it compares to their hourly rate.
This means that, by just keeping your schedules and project details up-to-date, you essentially do not need to use time tracking to check progress. Smartoo automatically records them and lays it down in a monthly report.
3. A Digital Daily Standup
Daily standups are a great way to check every team member’s current progress. It helps management know where and how fast certain projects are going, but since remote teams cannot “meet up” in a function room to discuss this, it just becomes daily reporting through the company’s messaging platform.
Smartoo on the other hand uses automation to provide visual alerts when a team member is having work blockers. These alerts help align and communicate what members are doing without being intrusive.
Because remote teams cannot be physically monitored similar to an office setup, it’s easy to fall into using micromanaging strategies. This could come in the form of time tracking and active daily reporting. The book “No Rules Rules” by Netflix co-founder, Reed Hastings, found that the key to success is giving employees freedom and responsibility. Despite not starting as a remote team, his advice paved the way to correctly managing WFH teams.
Aside from freedom and responsibility, Hastings also mentioned that it’s better to think of the company as a sports team, compared to a family. This is because any sports team’s goal is to win, while families tend to be more lenient on shortcomings.
Apart from these two points, it’s also important to create a strong foundation for your remote business. Forming a high-talent density team further enforces a strong sense of responsibility when given freedom, leading to higher quality output and more creative solutions.
Solutions you can use right now:
1. Establish Trust
Letting members know you trust them helps them become more productive, and helps you devote more time on other important matters.
2. Become a Role Model
Being proactive is contagious. Set an example so that members are more likely to care about the development of the company.
3. Use the Right Business Tools
Most business tools prioritizes solely on the profit it generates for the business, neglecting its effects towards the company's workforce. While it sounds appealing to management, this can backfire and may increase company costs through employee turnovers and lower productivity due to stress. Finding the perfect remote work tools is vital to both the short-term (immediate returns) and long-term (retention rates) goals of the business.