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How to Successfully Manage Remote Teams

Managing remote teams can be difficult - especially if you're used to being able to sit at the same table as your team members on a regular basis. Whether you're working with a remote team for a temporary period of time (such as an extended business trip) or in a more permanent arrangement (such as a series of global or nationwide projects), you're going to have to change the way you approach team management.
You can still do most of the same things you used to – you’ll just need to put a special twist on them.

Prioritize Individuals

When everyone is in the same room, they’ll naturally motivate each other and intuitively figure things out to some extent. When your team members are farther apart, they may lose a little bit of the initiative they’re inspired to take in a group environment. You’ll need to speak to the group as a whole, but you’ll also need to spend time working with individuals and assigning them specific tasks. Certain team members may need personalized consultation for important or difficult tasks, and you can’t afford to leave them hanging.
 Manage Remote Teams

Work Openly

You don’t have a whiteboard everyone can visit to add or review ideas. Try creating some open documents that everyone can work in at one time. Easy tools like Dropbox or Google Docs will allow everyone to access and modify documents. These tools can help you create a virtual whiteboard where everyone can see what everyone else is up to. It’s easier to innovate and feel inspired when everyone has a common space to exchange ideas and information.

Hold Virtual Meetings

Meetings are crucial to create the synergy you need for your team to do winning work. If possible, holding live video meetings can create an ambiance close to the one that would be created if everyone were actually in the same room. If not, use a private live chat to get everyone together to update each other with news and progress updates. One hand should always know what the other is doing,

Be There When They Need You

If your team members are all working on different time zones, planning when you can be there for all of them can be logistically complicated. Consider where everyone lives, and try to find a three hour block every weekday where you can be available for everyone. They’re going to need guidance and answers to questions that only you can provide. This will always be harder at first, but as your team becomes more familiar with the process, you can empower the members a little more and allow them to use their own discretion when you aren’t available.

Don’t Forget About Bonding

Teams that work together often use bonding exercises or take short trips together to build trust and comfortability with each other. This is considerably harder when everyone is spread so far apart. To overcompensate for the lack of togetherness, create a private general chit chat forum where your team members can goof off together in work appropriate ways. Think of this as a substitute for water cooler conversations. You can also encourage your team members to play family friendly app games together, allowing technology to bridge the distance.

Managing remote teams is a process that gets easier over time. The hardest part is finding and establishing the right “groove” where everyone can work productively together despite the distance. Trial and error is a completely normal part of the process, so when something doesn’t work, there’s no harm in switching things up. Experimentation is key.

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Any facts, figures or references stated here are made by the author & don't reflect the endorsement of iU at all times unless otherwise drafted by official staff at iU. This article was first published here on 20th March 2017.
Heidi Finigan
Heidi Finigan is a technology enthusiast with an unquenchable love for gadgets

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