7 Tips for Managing a Distributed Team

10-Sep 2021
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Kirsten McNeice MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS SPECIALIST

Distributed teamwork is here to stay.

Post pandemic, companies in most industries have made the switch away from office environments. Sixty-one percent of employees prefer full-time remote work, and 74% of professionals expect distributed teams to become the norm instead of the exception. 

So how do you manage a distributed team? The shift means new ways of doing things for seasoned employees, leaders, and new recruits alike. The lack of face-to-face, daily in-person connection leads to many potential pain points. Company culture can fall apart.  Fragmented communication can lead to misunderstanding and reduction in positive results. 

But you can meet these pain points head-on with a few simple adjustments. The result is a team who is happier and more productive. Here are seven tips on managing a distributed team to get you there. 

  1. F‌ocus on Team Onboarding
  2. Establish Clear Expectations
  3. Set Boundaries
  4. Focus on Results
  5. Give Frequent Kudos
  6. Make Time for Socialization
  7. Use the Right Technology

1. Focus on Team Onboarding

Onboarding is a crucial component of a successful new hire experience. Get new team members involved with group meetings and activities from day one — even if it’s just to say hello and listen. This reinforces the team aspect to everyone in the company. 

New hires should also have a mentor with whom they can discuss concerns and questions — since they can’t just stop by a colleague’s desk. 

2. Establish Clear Expectations

Managers often work with employees to set SMART goals for work — but with remote teams, expectations must also include engagement with others. Set clear protocols for when team members should be accessible and in what way. For example, perhaps they should remain logged into Slack during work hours, excluding breaks or meetings. Determine what meetups are mandatory or optional. This, on top of productivity goals, can give the employees guidance and help managers develop trust in the absence of regular in-person interaction. 

3. Set Boundaries

Remote team members typically work in different time zones. Assign working hours to each person so they can shut down at the end of the day — but still interact and collaborate with others during company time. 

Support an environment of work-life balance that discourages a “quick” chat message or tag over Slack outside of those boundaries. It may seem like it takes “just a second,” but it’s a slippery slope that can lead to team member stress and dissatisfaction — sentiments harder to see when your workforce is remote. 

4. Focus on Results

Even with expectations and communication platforms in place, remote working isn’t like being in the office — so it’s best not to treat it as such. Team members are interrupted by pets or children; they have home renovations in progress; they may suffer technical glitches because of a local power outage. 

Instead of focusing on minute-by-minute enforcement of workplace culture, shift your objective to getting the job done. This reduces stress on team members who are balancing more responsibilities by working at home than they would be if they were in the office. 

5. Give Frequent Kudos

There’s no possibility of stopping by a team member’s office to congratulate them on a successful project, or even just saying “thanks,” as you pass in the hallway. Go out of your way to express appreciation. Aim for a “kudos” time during staff meetings and mention recent achievements during team member one-on-ones so they know they are noticed and appreciated.

6. Make Time for Socialization

Those social cues people get from face-to-face interactions are absent with remote working. There’s little to no casual chat, so it's harder for team members to learn more about one another.

To develop a strong company culture, managers should encourage personal integration as well as on-the-job skill development. Set aside chat time before meetings start where people talk about what’s new outside of their working life. You can also go a step further, and have an optional virtual pizza party where remote employees converse over video conference while eating snacks provided by the company. 

7. Use the Right Technology

Remote work is not just about communication. Team members have to collaborate on various tasks, often between departments. For example, having a task board would allow your team to work collaboratively on a project and know exactly where everyone's time is being spent without them needing to sit next to you in the office. 

A cloud-based platform would ensure that your team has access to the same technology, no matter their global location or personal setup — all they need is an internet connection.

Create the Best Framework for a Distributed Team

Accelo is your go-to platform for superior business operations run in the cloud. It streamlines the project collaboration process for distributed teams who work together to land a sale and deliver on client expectations.

Even when your team members are miles apart, Accelo keeps them connected. Learn more with a free trial of Accelo today

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