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4 Tips for Managing Remote Project Teams

With the advent of communication tools and collaboration platforms, working “remotely” has never been easier. Companies are now embracing the ability to hire top talent from anywhere globally without being bogged down by geographic constraints.

And with good reason—remote teams offer a wealth of benefits. They allow you to enjoy the productivity of a global talent pool, reduce overhead costs associated with physical office spaces, and cater to employees’ desire for greater flexibility, not to mention the positive environmental impact they bring.

However, dealing with a remote project team comes with its own set of unique challenges—nothing you can’t handle with these four practical strategies for managing remote workers.

Set Up Communication Channels

First, you’ll need to identify your team’s primary communication methods. Depending on your needs, this could be a combination of video conferencing, messaging apps, project management tools, and email. Ensure everyone is on the same page about how and when to use each channel.

For example, messaging apps like Slack or Teams Chat are great for quick questions and updates throughout the day, while remote video meetings on apps like Zoom or Microsoft Teams should be used for more extended discussions, presentations, and collaborative work sessions. Establishing these ground rules upfront will ensure communication and clarity during the project.

Dedicating a channel for casual chats among your team members is also a good idea. Remote work can get really dull, and this can affect the mental well-being of your team (especially those who are single and living alone).

So, recreate that social element your remote team may be missing about an actual office and lead by example by posting a few memes every now and then to lighten up the mood and allow your team members to engage themselves.

Set Clear Goals and Expectations

Team members can easily make errors in their assigned roles and responsibilities without clear goals and expectations. This is why you must make the goal and expectation for each team member clear and ensure they understand what’s at stake if they don’t meet those expectations.

At the start of every new project or quarter, gather everyone (virtually) to outline team and individual goals in detail. Discuss specific deliverables, deadlines, roles, and responsibilities until there is 100% clarity. Don’t just assume everyone is on the same page!

It’s also important to document all this information and processes in an easily accessible file and upload it to a place (like Google Drive) where your team members can access it. That way, there’s no confusion if someone needs to refer back to it.

Additionally, be very transparent about your expectations regarding things like:

  • Working hours and availability
  • Meeting attendance
  • Response times
  • Decision-making processes
  • Handling time off requests

The more upfront you can be about your expectations as a manager, the smoother your remote dynamic will be.

Know the Different Time Zones

Managing a remote project team often means dealing with different time zones, and it can get frustrating when you have to schedule (and reschedule) calls across multiple time zones or ask your team members to join in on an online meeting during their sleeping hours.

So, to avoid these sorts of schedule problems, try to truly understand each team member’s local schedule and time zone offset from wherever you’re based. Use tools like Every Time Zone to visualize how the hours overlap (or don’t). And when in doubt, just ask! Your team will appreciate you making the extra effort.

From there, establish some team working hour norms that consider the least intrusive times for everyone involved. For example, if you have someone based in London and another in Sydney, setting team meetings between 7 and 10 a.m. ET might be the wisest option.

This way, you’ll be able to optimize your team’s productivity and keep your team members happy and active in their responsibilities.

Show Appreciation Often

It’s easy for your remote employees to feel underappreciated when all of their work happens behind a computer screen, out of sight. That’s why it’s crucial for you, as the manager, to recognize your team members in any way you can.

During your regular virtual meetings, take the time to vocalize what you appreciate about each team member’s contributions—and be specific! Don’t just say, “You’re doing great work,” and leave it at that. Point out the specific project they knocked out of the park, the crucial analysis they provided, or the way they gracefully took on additional responsibilities.

Acknowledging and celebrating your team members will boost their morale and motivation and foster a sense of community and belonging within the team.

Additionally, little gestures like shipping custom trophies and handwritten notes to deserving remote team members in any part of the world they live in can also go a long way in making them feel valued.

Wrapping Up

If this is your first time managing a remote team, these tips and strategies will ease some pressure and help you prepare for your new role. Leverage them according to your specific needs, and please don’t freak out. With time, you’ll get used to managing remote teams and even share your experience with others. Good luck!

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