We are a creative agency based in San Francisco.

Same page, different places: Managing remote teams

by Audrey Khuner, Design Media

Welcome to your newly remote team. Offices of all sizes around the world are finding themselves in the same predicament—thanks to COVID-19, every employee is suddenly a remote worker. Most companies didn’t exactly plan for an organizational shift of this magnitude. If you’re not used to managing a virtual team, there might be a few growing pains while you adjust to this new reality. But fear not, there’s good news: the knowledge and the tools already exist for you and your remote team to be successful.

Good communication is the most important thing.

Decide together with your virtual team the best way to connect and how often. Collective ground rules can lead the way to a team that’s all on the same page, even from miles apart. Start each day (or each week, depending on your team and type of work) with a morning meeting via video chat or conference call. This can set the tone for how your virtual employees spend their time and give you a sense of their workflow. Make sure they’re able to get in touch with you and each other when needed throughout the day, whether through a phone call, text, or messaging app.

Keep your virtual team on track by assigning clear roles and schedules.

It’s hard to keep projects on track, even when you’re all in the same place. Luckily, there are lots of managerial tools you can use to keep things moving on time. Frameworks like the MOCHA project management system (in which you assign people to Manage, Own, Consult on, Help, and Approve each project) are especially helpful in remote settings, because it ensures that each person knows their unique responsibility. It’s also important to lay out clear due dates, timelines, and (reasonable) expectations to keep things moving along.

Apps make it easier to manage a remote team.

What do you do when you can’t yell over your cubicle? Email is helpful for non-urgent communication and long-term projects, but if you need an immediate response, it doesn’t quite cut it. Luckily there are a number of tools and platforms to choose from that can bolster frequent communication and lead to successful remote workers.

Slack is a great tool for ongoing team conversations, Trello can help your team collaboratively manage projects, and of course Zoom can connect everyone through group video conferencing. Both Google and Microsoft offer great group communication tools, as well as file management and sharing platforms.

Establish a process for your virtual meetings.

Set a clear structure and agenda for each meeting to make it go more smoothly. Send material in advance of the meeting, assign a lead, and a person to take notes. Interrupt the meeting every so often to check in with everyone, summarize the key points, ask for feedback, and make sure to answer all questions.

Use engaging virtual learning to educate employees.

Many companies have already moved to eLearning as a way to share company policy and teach needed skills. The problem is that many of these virtual learning modules aren’t interesting enough to keep employees’ attention. And remote workers have even more opportunity for distraction.

A better solution could be microlearning—short bursts of educational content. Microlearning can take many forms, but it’s always quick, engaging, and easy to retain. You could also encourage team members to teach each other, taking turns leading discussions on each topic. Another idea is to gamify your virtual learning modules and modernize your existing digital products with cutting edge technology and creativity for maximum engagement.

Happy remote workers make successful remote teams.

One of the most common problems remote workers face is loneliness. People are used to seeing friends at the office every day and working from home can be isolating. Luckily, there are a number of ways you can address this problem. It’s up to you, the leader, to set a positive example. Provide and encourage virtual social outlets, whether that means a “Just for fun” channel in Slack or Microsoft Teams, a quick social check in at the beginning of each video conference, or even a friendly activity, like a virtual pet meet and greet.

No matter what, stay positive and lead with humor and generosity. Remember that everyone is getting used to your new normal at the same time you are.

We are a creative agency based in San Francisco.