Curious how remote work is redefining managerial roles? Per Merriam-Webster, the verb “to manage” is derived from the Latin manus, or hand; management in old Italian (maneggio) referred to training a horse. Today’s workforce—so much of which is remote—cannot be managed “hands-on” or “corralled” in any physical way.
As someone who’s run a fully remote company for nearly a decade, I know it can be challenging to even conceive of (let alone implement) a managerial style suited to virtual, modern work. Below are some of the strategies I use to manage a remote team successfully; hopefully they’ll be helpful for you as well.
Want to help your team present a consistent, professional image on video calls? Design a custom video backdrop that represents your brand.
5 Best Practices For Managing Remote Teams
1. Lead with trust.
Trust is arguably the most important value you can embrace, express, and operationalize in remote management. Why? I like how Frances X. Frei describes it: “Your job as a leader is to create the conditions for your people to fully realize their own capacity and power.” When managers trust employees and employees trust managers, everyone is empowered to be their best, no matter where in the world they’re working from. What does it mean to foster trust in a practical sense?
- Hire people you believe in. If you don’t trust a job candidate to be successful without rigorous supervision, they don’t belong on your remote team.
- Promote autonomy. By encouraging team members to work independently, managers express confidence in employee skills and, in turn, encourage better results.
- Forgo surveillance. Tools that track employee activity damage trust. Even small gains in productivity resulting from employee fear of surveillance are not sustainable—focusing on purpose rather than punitive measures is key.
2. Clarify responsibilities and outcomes.
If every employee can take personal responsibility for their part in helping the whole team succeed, you’ll create a culture of self-leadership and boost your organization’s health.
One of the drawbacks to remote management is that it can create room for confusion and miscommunication if team members aren’t sure what they need to accomplish and how. Clearly define each team member’s scope of work, key deliverables, and deadlines. Be sure to differentiate team responsibilities from individual ones, with preference for a single person owning each task. You should also clarify how you will determine employee success. Effectively managing remote employees requires the establishment of clear metrics and transparent performance objectives that team members can use to plan, assess, and improve their work.
3. Be intentional and strategic about where and how work gets done.
Consider which kinds of employee work are best accomplished independently and which would benefit from active teamwork. For hybrid work environments, this means deciding what should happen in-office vs. remotely. The office, for example, is ideal for collaboration and serendipity (i.e. magic moments when ideas spark), but it’s not great for focus and deep work. For fully remote teams, this is a question of time spent in meetings vs. time spent working alone. You may even consider implementing no-meeting days, which data shows can reduce stress and increase effectiveness.
Regardless of your organization’s work environment, it’s important to create a plan and schedule that lifts your team up. I’ve found that one of the biggest potential advantages of managing remote employees is the role I can play in helping team members achieve work-life alignment. By this I mean helping team members to feel that both their work and personal life contribute to their success and happiness. Being strategic is about focusing on individual strengths as opposed to power structures. In today’s work environment, managing remote teams isn’t about keeping people in their chairs for eight hours a day. It’s about providing clarity and guidance for everyone.
4. Set your team up for success.
Managers at thriving remote companies think about the complexities of borrowing someone’s home to run a business. To help things run smoothly:
- Get employees the tools they need. Be sure your team members have everything required to be productive at home. Important resources for remote employees include high-functioning, modern technology, fast, reliable internet access, comfortable, attractive office furniture, and real-time communication tools (for example Slack and Zoom).
- Help your team consistently spotlight your brand. Because every interaction your employees have represents your brand, remote managers should ensure team members have, at minimum, a good home office setup, reliable webcam, and quality background.
That’s why I founded Anyvoo; as the manager for a fully remote company, I felt less visually persuasive on video calls compared to people who were situated in an office setting. I wanted to create a solution for both my team and myself to ensure our communications were consistently professional, aligned, on-brand, and location-independent. Voodrops solve that problem. Every member of our team uses these double-sided, elegant webcam backdrops for meetings—and they can even be taken on the road.
5. Embrace flexibility (and joy!) for employees.
Encouraging employees to work on their own schedule, take days off, and even travel will result in a happier, healthier workplace overall. It also means your team will think strategically about their work, since completing it efficiently means they have more time for themselves. And if employees decide to take work on the road, a Voodrop is the perfect accessory to help them make a great impression every time.