How to Manage a Remote Team
When you're hiring, adopting a remote-first mindset can be a competitive advantage. You can access the best talent, innovate faster, enjoy a more engaged workforce, and generate more diverse ideas by giving everyone a voice online. This section is dedicated to the processes that will serve you while managing a remote team and establishing a foundation for growth.
Why managing remote teams is a different animal
Let’s be out with it: being a remote worker can feel isolating. There is less face-to-face contact, most communications happen online, and you don’t have the luxury of casual coffee breaks and kitchen chats. Managers need to be prepared to build a foundation of trust and cohesion.
“Leaders of remote or distributed teams need to put a bit of extra effort into how they structure collaboration, creating a space where people can connect in different ways"
—Jesse James Garrett, founder of Adaptive Path
Many companies are facing the challenges of managing remote employees for the first time with the Covid-19 pandemic. Hiring the right remote employees, onboarding them, and creating expectations around culture will lay the foundation for a successful team in the age of coronavirus, but even the most talented people need the right structure, tools, and processes to guide their work and keep everyone on the same page.
And when it comes to remote teams, the right time to create this foundation is ASAP. As you scale the company, transparency, accountability, and access to historical data and insights are critical. It's not just about getting work done – it's about setting up workflows that minimize silos, establishing norms for communication, and investing in a tech stack that enables easy collaboration.
"Because of the demand of remote work, some very early-stage companies are bringing in infrastructure to successfully manage and coordinate large numbers of people at the outset. It's a wonderful investment that will compound over the life of the business."
—Tomasz Tunguz, venture capitalist at Redpoint Ventures
5 successful tactics for managing remote teams
Let’s dive deeper into some remote management tactics. Here’s what we’ve found are the most important steps to prioritize when your team isn’t all in one place.
1. Set up team rituals
First and foremost: rally the team! It’s important to set up recurring team meetings to check-in, keep everyone aligned on focus areas and what needs to be done next At Miro, many of our teams are Agile and regularly conduct sprint planning, backlog grooming, and retrospectives for projects, as well as bi-weekly calls for OKR traction, 1:1s, department meetings, and quarterly company all-hands. It’s best to do these meetings over video conferencing apps like Zoom or Google Hangouts to help teammates build a face-to-face relationship.
Here's a template for retrospectives that we often use at Miro after a project or quarter is over:
2. Prioritize meaningful work
When people are working from home across various locations and time zones, it’s easy to feel like you need to respond to requests immediately to show that you’re staying actively engaged. As a manager, you can set the tone for how your team handles this “always on” feeling: decide on a reasonable expectation for response time, and agree that everyone has space to carve out time for meaningful work that requires uninterrupted attention.
We recommend creating boundaries within your team. You can agree together on how to do it: time blocks on the calendar, status settings on Slack, or even a full weekday with no meetings.
3. Document all the critical decisions
Create a virtual ‘pulse room’ (a document, virtual whiteboard, Slack channel, or something else) for each project you are working on. So even if someone can’t be at a team meeting or at a hub with the rest of their teammates, they can understand the current status of the project and don’t feel like they miss out or don’t belong to the team.
Example of a pulse room at Miro
“We document everything. It’s the single most important thing in the way we work, and it helps everyone to stay on the same page.”
—Samuel Beek, at WeTransfer
4. Help people find mentors
One of the most important aspects of building a strong remote team is helping people grow and learn from their peers. Incorporate rituals that will help everyone grow individually and as a group: discuss each person’s goals at their performance review and set a metric to measure progress, host a workshop on giving feedback, give employees a channel for water cooler conversation, or create weekly lunch and learns.
“It’s important to have local leadership for your team in the remote office. Also encourage and help people to find great mentors in that office. I’ve had many mentors, coaches, and advisors throughout my career, and I think it’s particularly important for those who are working remotely.”
—Summer Kim, Head of User Research at WhatsApp
5. Embrace different communication styles
No two people work the same way, but these differences are what help us complement each other’s strengths and ultimately produce better results. It’s just a matter of approaching your teammates with empathy, taking the time to understand each other, and building relationships.
Here at Miro, the Marketing team took the 16 Personalities test to understand each other a bit more, identify what we have in common, and discover what’s unique about every person.
After reading the results and reflecting on how our character traits crop up in the workplace, everyone on the team wrote a personal manifesto to help each other understand how to better communicate and work with us.
In each manifesto, we answered the following questions:
How do you operate with teams or individuals?
How do you like to communicate or meet?
How do you like to give or receive feedback?
How do you socialize?
How do you live our company values with your personality?
I like it when my teammates…
I don’t like when my teammates…
We added all the manifestos to our wiki, for handy access (and to help new remote team members onboard more quickly!)
As a manager, understanding your team’s preferred communication style is even more important. How do they like to get feedback? How often? Do they like to get public shout-outs at companywide video calls, or would they rather receive a private Slack message praising their work? Understanding these preferences will help you find the right style for communication and the right remote working tools to use with each member of your team.
FAQ about managing remote teams
How do you effectively manage a remote team?
Making sure that each employee is engaged and knows their role in the team is the most important part of managing a remote team. Give facetime to each employee and have weekly meetings to sync individual goals with team goals.
How do you keep remote teams connected?
It’s important not only for managers to maintain open communication with their employees, but for employees to be able to freely communicate with each other. Apps like Slack and Asana are great for keeping teams connected.
How do you motivate remote employees?
One advantage of working remotely is flexibility: you can let employees work on their own terms, give them positive feedback, and incentivize their success by offering bonuses if they or the team meet certain goals.