Two things are very important for managing remote teams: first, you need to encourage and enable autonomy as much as possible. Remote workers are naturally going to have more autonomy, but it’s still tempting for leaders to try to micromanage. Sometimes micromanaging looks like requiring multiple check-ins or reports that aren’t really necessary. That’s frustrating and inefficient, and doesn’t help with productivity or any sense of collaboration. Enabling autonomy means that you give very clear directives to each member of the team and then, as much as possible, allow them to meet those directives as they see fit. You have to trust your people. The second need is the need for communication. Having a single channel for ongoing communication helps reduce confusion; have an open ‘chat’ channel that can be used at-will, and a ‘meeting’ channel that can be used for regular, brief meetings. Depending on the size of your team, it might make more sense to divide into smaller groups for those regular meetings. Keep them short but have them regularly (daily is good) to keep everyone connected and aware of changes in directive or focus.
– Annie Mueller
Freelance writer and editor, author, reader, and learner; AnnieMueller.com
Virtual video team rooms are a very effective way to work together once everyone gets past a fear of being on camera all the time. You create a persistent video room and everyone joins the room when they are working. This helps replicate the benefits of being co-located. If you want to ask someone a question, you just look at the video, see that they are there working, and start talking–pretty much the same thing you’d do if they were in the same room as you. Maybe you see they are on the phone so you wait until they get off. Other team members can overhear the conversation and join in if it is something they want to participate in or just halfway listen in so they know what is going on. This might sound a bit scary if you haven’t ever worked this way. At first, people tend to freak out about the idea of working on camera, but teams I’ve seen that tried this end up really liking it because it creates the collaboration you get from co-located work without the commute times.
Be super-clear with yourself (first of all) and your team members on your expectations, right from the start. People aren’t mind-readers, and it’s not fair to expect them to grasp unspoken intentions or needs. I mean, you can try, but you’re gonna be disappointed, and they’re gonna get frustrated, and that’s no good for anyone.