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Management and control of remote employees

 Management and control of remote employees. 4 main responsibilities of a leader

Management and control of remote employees

We live in exciting times. The modern workplace is a very different environment than it was in the past. One reason is the growing ability of people to work remotely. But as more people work outside of the traditional office, the job of a manager is also changing. How to effectively manage people you almost never see face to face? How can you adapt to this?

In this article, we will talk about how the role of the leader is changing in accordance with today's realities. How to keep in touch with remote employees. How to build a cohesive team without showing physical control. And finally, how can you create opportunities for team members to grow and develop.

Key Responsibilities of a Remote Team Manager

A two-year study from Stanford University shows that, in general, remote workers are significantly more productive than their office counterparts and are also significantly more satisfied with their jobs. But, as we know, not all professions allow you to work from home.

Those of you who have already dealt with managing a remote team are probably wondering what is the best way to manage remote employees? In this direction, the leader has four main responsibilities: building trust, removing obstacles, developing team connections, and managing workload and results.

We will discuss all these areas in this article, as well as provide some tips that you can put into practice. After reading this article, you will have real tools to help you control and manage your virtual team in a way that keeps them happy and productive.

Building trust at a distance

The first goal of the remote team leader is to build trust not only between themselves and individual employees, but also between the remote workers themselves. And the first important element is to ensure that well-documented procedures are in place and that they are followed consistently.

How can a team have a solid foundation for performance if performance requirements are not defined? This is important for any team, but even more so for remote teams. Since people in a team may not interact with each other as often as they do in a team, they are much more likely to move in different directions if they do not have a solid understanding of the procedures in advance. And the responsibility for ensuring that everyone in the team understands their role lies with the manager.

By making sure there are clear job definitions that set out objectives and deliverables, team members set actionable goals, reduce ambiguity, and establish common ground. All this will help to increase the trust in the team. You, as a leader, must apply the rules regarding procedures and performance to all team members equally.

Quite often I have seen how people who adhere to norms and standards begin to get annoyed because one of their colleagues does not follow these norms. They start asking questions of their manager, and if they don't get a coherent answer, it undermines his authority in their eyes.

It's much better to set expectations, set the rules in advance, and get everyone to follow them consistently. Creating a level playing field makes the job fair for the entire team. But if you notice that some rule is massively not observed, then this is most likely due to the complexity of its implementation. Think about how to change it.

Just because the manager is responsible for maintaining procedures and expectations does not mean that he is the only one who develops them. It is very important that managers get input from the team whenever they think about how to standardize a process or set goals.

First of all, your team members are experts in what it takes to get the job done. They are the ones who know what steps to take and in what order. And these are the people who know where the process can get bogged down.

As I mentioned earlier, when establishing a team agreement, it is very important to ensure equality between workers. If certain people give special attention or don't follow the same procedures, then it will become common knowledge at some point, and when it does, the rest of the team will be annoyed at best.

It is important here to be careful and openly share information among the entire team, unless it is confidential. It is important to involve the whole team as much as possible. Sharing information equally helps reinforce its identity. This helps to avoid confusion and keeps team members from feeling disconnected.

If you have friendly and more personal relationships with some people on the team, you need to be extra careful not to affect the rest of the team. You must give all team members equal time, equal space, and equal opportunity.

But there is also another rule here: Treat everyone the same until it's time to treat people differently.

Sometimes people succeed, and when they do, you want to acknowledge it, and how you do it matters a lot. When one of the employees is recognized for certain achievements, it is important that the entire team knows that this is part of its success. Below are a few rules:

  1. You have to be very consistent in this. If you send greetings to one person, you must send it to everyone who meets the same criteria. Failure to grasp this will lead to resentment, the perception of favoritism, and a host of other grievances.
  2. If there are laggards in the team, then public condemnation is not the best recipe for team spirit. But if team goals were missed, you can solve this problem together with the team, but never single out one person.
  3. If your recognition of personal success is accompanied by a specific reward (bonus, gift card, or greeting card), then you need to make sure that all such successes are rewarded equally.

Another way to build trust is to allow team members who are experts to lead in their areas of expertise. The important thing here is that everyone is given an opportunity. This approach also serves several purposes:

  • Demonstrates trust in employees. Everyone who wants to show himself can get this chance.
  • Allows the manager to delegate work, which allows him to focus on the most important tasks.
  • Each time someone demonstrates their new skills and competencies, it creates a stronger impression of them among team members and generates more respect for their professional and technical skills. The team begins to think of itself as a group of experts, and more experienced members actively train new employees, which happens more or less organically.

Removing Obstacles

One of the challenges of working from home successfully is infrastructure. Who and how supplies equipment to your employees? Who chooses what it should be, who maintains it, and who pays for the Internet and telephone communications?

In these kinds of issues, it's important to decide what's critical and develop a process for delivering, servicing, and making sure your employees have the tools they need to do their jobs effectively.

In remote work, a big hurdle is the time difference when someone needs to adjust to attending an important meeting. If we talk about an international company, then here we can also include differences in holidays. If you are managing a team of 25-30 people, you must consider all these features.

Different cultures have different communication styles, and it takes time and effort to understand some of the nuances. To get started, you can use the site, which has not only time conversion tables, but also lists of major holidays for countries around the world.

Another obstacle in the work of a remote team is the inability to communicate in the real world. Such meetings are very important for strengthening the team spirit. If your company has the opportunity to bring all the employees together every year, then that's great. If this is not possible, then consider visiting the places of permanent work of your subordinates yourself. Such meetings can be very productive.

Most often, we see a mixed model of company staff, where some are virtual and some are full-time employees. Unfortunately, this can create some negative momentum when staff members receive all sorts of benefits in the form of free lunch/dinner, holiday meals, promotions, first source of information, etc.

If you want to reduce the burden on your team, I recommend that you provide remote and in-house employees with the same opportunities, the same benefits, and above all, the same information, and be as consistent as possible.

Development of team connections
The main goal of any leader is to take care of the team members, providing them with everything necessary to complete the work. He is responsible for monitoring the team's overall performance, schedule, and workload, and ensuring that everything is done as planned.

But the leader of the remote team is also an intermediate link for information coming to the remote employees from the company itself. This does not mean that there should be no direct communication with remote employees of the company. They are certainly essential if a company wants to keep employees engaged and informed, but the manager plays a key role for the team as a facilitator in many activities.

It is important to ensure that all communication lines are always open. This means frequent and regular contact with all members of your team, both individually and as a group. This is important for all leaders, but especially for remote team leaders, as random meetings do not occur here.

What does it look like? You can schedule two group meetings per week. At the beginning - to discuss the tasks for the next week and at the end - to discuss the issues and problems faced by subordinates. You should also hold one-to-one 1-on-1 meetings where more personal matters are discussed with each employee.

Having regular contact, even if it's just a quick exchange of information, will strengthen the bonds between the team. The same goes for one-on-one meetings. Try to choose a convenient time and do not miss or transfer these fees.

There is a commonly held belief that a strong team is more likely to be a high performer. In a remote team, the chances of building a strong team are slim. So you should use whatever you have. This is one reason why regular scheduled meetings are so important, even if there isn't much to discuss. Each meeting is an opportunity to build connections between team members.

The leader should encourage team members to share information that is not always relevant to the team. These may be other projects they are working on, or personal topics not related to work. This allows team members to get to know each other as people, and not perceive each other as some cogs in the corporate wheel.

I would suggest devoting the first few minutes of every meeting of this kind of communication. Maybe even set up a rotation so that one or two people get a chance to speak before the meeting, and when a new person joins the team, they should have the opportunity to introduce themselves at the first meeting.

In addition to team meetings, the boss needs to communicate on personal topics and during one-on-one meetings. It is important to get to know your people as individuals. What do they care about? What motivates them? Where do they feel lost? What is their communication style? Are they better at sharing information or receiving it? By learning more about your direct reports, you will be able to provide them with the necessary assistance and guidance in forms acceptable to them.

Another important note is to communicate with the team via video, and not just by phone. Being able to see someone on the other end of the line, even if you're not physically in the same place, creates a stronger bond in communication. So let your team members use their video cameras and show their faces.

As a manager of a remote team, it is important to look for opportunities that allow subordinates to work together and collaborate. Having common goals brings many benefits to team building. Above all, successful collaboration at work builds trust among team members.

When people work together and succeed, they gain confidence in the skills and reliability of their partners. They also have a better understanding of what those skills are. There may be people on your team who have experience in certain processes or technologies, and this may not be all that they are capable of. Working directly with other team members on projects can unlock these skills.

Allow employees to make their own proposals in collaboration. Let subordinates share their ideas on the project. Insist that employees are not afraid to ask for help while on the job. Not only will this increase the likelihood that the job will get done, but it will also help build trust among employees and make them think like a team.

Manage workloads and deliverables

In this section, we'll dive deeper into some of the specific actions that can have a significant impact on team cohesion and performance.

The first thing to do is make sure you set very clear goals and priorities for your team. Of course, this is always important. But this is even more true for remote workers. As I wrote earlier, the easiest way to achieve this is to openly communicate with your team. Over-communication is much better than miscommunication and will cause far less chaos in the end.

The second thing to do is to competently provide feedback to subordinates. It won’t work out here anymore, like in offices, when you can run into a subordinate near the coffee machine and discuss the details of his project or his productivity. In the case of a remote team, feedback is provided deliberately and purposefully.

First, you need to decide on a tool for communicating your feedback. For example, you don't want to use text messages or even email, but do it via video. Or maybe send a short review via email and then discuss in more detail over a video call. Next, you should consider how often will you provide feedback? I recommend doing this no more than once a week. 

The positive feedback you provide should be specific and not just "you did a good job". You must explain why you think so. It is important that the employee knows that you understand their job. As for negative feedback, it is always difficult and unpleasant to give it. Therefore, I advise you to follow the following steps:

  • Start by describing the problem and its implications.
  • Then ask the subordinate about his point of view. Listen carefully, it may provide context you are unaware of.
  • When he's done, ask about his suggestions for fixing the problem. The goal is to make him a participant in the decision, and not just an executor of your orders.
  • Work out joint solutions and consider concrete actions.
  • After the meeting, send an email confirming the agreement.
Kanban boards are quite useful as they provide a great visual representation of the work done. In a remote team, they are even more useful, as team members may not have a clear idea of ​​what their colleagues are doing. It is also very convenient to observe such a board during regular meetings. This not only helps to understand what people are working on, but also helps to prevent duplication of tasks.

How can you implement this for remote teams? Of course, there are many professional tools on the market, but they can be expensive for your organization. I would recommend using an office program from Microsoft called Planner. It will be much cheaper for you if you already have an Office 365 subscription.

With Planner, you can create segments that define the phases of a project, and then cards for individual tasks. Cards can be assigned, reassigned, and moved to different segments as needed. You can comment on these cards, attach documents to them, and add links.

If Microsoft isn't your thing, there are other good tools out there. Trello is very popular right now. Asana is another new tool. It is similar to both Trello and Planner and is very easy to use. As I already wrote, there is a fairly large selection of task scheduling and project tracking programs on the market.


In this article, we discussed some of the unique challenges of working with a remote team and how to deal with those issues. We talked about four key areas of the remote manager's role: building trust, removing obstacles, developing group connections, and managing workload and results.

If you want to delve into the topic of team management or project management, then you can find them at the links indicated. You might be interested in reading about remote work from an employee's point of view.