Remote teams are quickly growing in popularity with the acceptance and growing use of telework programs. However, leading a remote team and managing remote team members is far different from traditional teams. There are many things that we take for granted being in an office, especially face time, that need to be specifically addressed for remote teams.

In a recent HBR article, Keith Ferrazzi mentions three tips to managing virtual teams. Here are a few others to ensure your remote team members function as well as local team members.

  1. Be Available:  Formal weekly status meetings are a must but don’t forget to informally check-in throughout the week. In the office, most mangers stop by and say hi to their teams and many have an open door policy. Fostering this atmosphere is just as important for remote managers. Take the time to just say hi and make yourself available for when your team has questions, needs assistance with a task, or just wants to bounce a few ideas around is very important.
  2. Trust Your Team: The majority of the time, your team will accomplish their tasks and put their 40 hours of work in, if not more. Yes, there may be a few bad apples that don’t do what they’re supposed to but micromanaging and constantly checking up on your entire team is a surefire way to disrupt productivity and frustrate your team. If you suspect one person is not putting in their hours, address it with them directly or sporadically ask them to show you what they are working on.
  3. Define Objectives:  Remote team members can’t simply walk into your office and ask what to do next. Therefore, it is extremely important to define long term goals and objectives for these employees. Consistently managing to short and long term goals will not only keep remote team members productivity but it will also make them feel that their work is contributing to the great goals of the department and the organization.
  4. Encourage Collaboration: It’s easy for remote team members to feel isolated as they don’t have the face time with colleagues that corporate employees do. Assign projects that require team members to collaborate and work on together. This will help develop relationships between remote members and allow them to feel a part of the team instead of an individual contributor.
  5. Communicate Corporate Messaging: Again, it’s easy for remote members to feel isolated from the company as they can miss out on corporate messaging as well the corporate culture. Remote managers must take the time to communicate all corporate messages and Executive teams should think about sending monthly video updates to all employees updating them on what is happening within the company as well as what to look forward to in the future.

Taking the extra time to focus on these objectives can help remote team members feel more comfortable and less isolated from the company. Additionally, it can help increase their productivity by ensuring giving them the space they need to accomplish tasks while being available to assist or answer questions.

Video conferencing has made it easier for managers to lead remote employees as well as enhance team cohesion among remote members. However, simply holding video calls will not guarantee a successful remote team. It requires additional time and effort to develop relationships and motivate team members who are scattered around the globe. One of the biggest challenges remote leaders face is overcoming a lack of visibility.

Managers of remote teams can’t take a walk around the office to see how their team is doing nor can team members pop by for a quick chat or clarification. For example, consider a scenario where an employee is hung up on one aspect of the project. It’s nothing major, the numbers just aren’t adding up correctly or everything seems to be in place but the program just isn’t running properly.

A local team member might signal his boss when she walks by and ask for a second set of eyes. They can take a look together, quickly spot the issue and the employee can move along on the project. Unfortunately, remote team members and managers do not have this luxury. A fully deployed UC platform can help by allowing a team member to ping his boss over instant messaging and then shift to a video conference to resolve the issue. However, if their manager does not seem available or team members do not feel comfortable with their boss they might continue to work on the problem themselves.

Developing relationships through face-to-face interactions is absolutely critical for remote leaders. Managers should proactively reach out to their remote teams to check in, ask how things are going or if there is anything they have questions about. These informal interactions not only help put team members at ease but develop a sense of trust by increasing a manager’s viability. When an employee has a question or needs a second set of eyes on a project they feel comfortable quickly reaching out to the manager.

Additionally, due to limited visibility, it is critical for remote leaders to not only have a clear vision in place but ensure each team member fully understands and supports the vision. The vision is what gives employees direction when their managers are not around and can help them make decisions without constantly checking in for approval.

For example, when developing the product packaging and promotional messaging for a new product a team member might have a choice between a cost-effective option and a higher-quality option. If the manager has clearly articulated the vision for the product is high quality the team member can make the decision on their own by selecting the higher-quality packaging material.

When setting the vision it is important to engage all remote team members. Allowing them to be part of the vision creation helps develop team spirit and cohesion, as well as, inspire team members individually.