How to Manage a Distributed Team with Both Office and Remote Workers

April 17, 2019
4 mins

Every distributed team looks different, but they all have one thing in common: they’re the future of work. Since distributed teams are set to become the norm – according to numerous recent studies and reports – it’s key that you adapt and update your management skills for this new mode of work.

A new study by IWG reveals that 70% of employees globally work remotely at least once a week – and 50% of employees work remotely half the week.

This is one of the first studies to survey professionals in 96 different countries and across a range of industries. Statistics fluctuate depending on the country and industry. (For example, remote IT workers are leading the pack.) However, this huge percentage shows that remote work – whether part-time or full-time – is a major trend worldwide.

A distributed team – comprised of both office and remote workers – will always have its own unique size, structure, processes and purpose. As the manager, your job is to make sure these diverse parts work together efficiently. To do this, we’ve put together some strategies to get you into a remote management mindset for great results with mixed teams.

1. Think remote first

One of the biggest mistakes when it comes to running distributed teams is simply using in-office management methods and then applying them to the remote space. This kind of thinking will make your remote practices clumsy and often second-rate. It’s best to think remote first, so that your processes make sense for both models.

Start with how to manage remotely – through a tool like Trello? with daily stand-ups via Zoom? – and then see how this fits into the in-office group. Most digital solutions for project management are also excellent for in-office. For example, if you think Trello is the best way to track your remote workers, you can use this tool across the board with your entire distributed team. By going remote first, you’ll minimize issues and create consistent management tactics for your distributed team. (Also read: 10 steps guide on how to manage remote teams)

2. Use the same communication channels

Make sure you’re using the same processes with your in-office and remote workers. In other words, your in-office workers shouldn’t be communicating or having in-person meetings without keeping the remote side in the loop. Consistency in the way you communicate is essential. Otherwise, decisions and discussions may take place without input from the whole team. This can create confusion for remote workers and feelings of unfairness.

Try to create communication channels that are digitally documented so that all team members can access this information and get updates in their own time and location. Slack is a great solution for this, as communication is both immediate and leaves a “digital papel trail” so that deadlines and expectations are clearly agreed upon.

With a distributed team, you should also over-communicate at the beginning to make sure that your team is running smoothly. Check in with daily and weekly meetings and clearly resolve issues so that your distributed team feels confident in the communication channels you’ve set up.

3. Collaborate using digital management tools

There are great digital tools out there to boost collaboration. If your team relies on email to collaborate, you may consider other more immediate tools. Your inbox can often get bogged down by too many messages, which you don’t see immediately. However, other tools like Slack, Asana or Basecamp can promote easy and instant communication so that your team stays connected and nimble.

If you’re not sure what digital management tools might be good fits for your teams, do some research to find more information on some of the best tools out there for remote work.

4. Create social spaces online

In addition to getting work done, you should also build relationships within your distributed team. This will make your team members feel more unified, as studies show that loneliness can be a big challenge for working remotely.

So, it’s a good idea to create social spaces for your distributed team. Some ideas include: channels or boards for sharing photos of your weekend plans, social events such as “virtual happy hours” or even a Friday email sharing stories from the week. These small steps will make your distributed team feel more connected and happier.

5. Be transparent with workflow

You should also document the defined workflow for your distributed team and share these processes with them. A good way to do this is to create a Google Drive folder with these documents that you can then update and share with your team.

By staying clear and transparent about how you expect your team to work, you’ll see big strides in collaboration and processes. Get everybody on the same page by better defining the expected workflow.

6. Create results-based evaluations for all employees

As we mentioned above, your employees – whether in-office or remote – should be treated the same way. When it comes to evaluations, create metrics that apply to both groups. Specifically, focus on the results achieved by team members, and not other elements that aren’t shared among the distributed team (such as hours logged at the office).

The baseline for evaluations should be equal and consistent. Looking at results is a great way to make constructive evaluations and motivate team members.

7. Celebrate successes publically

When remote workers feel “out of the loop,” it’s usually because they don’t see how they’re positively impacting the team or company. One way to solve this isolation is to communicate successes across the company. In fact, under any working model, this is an excellent idea. Send a weekly email of successes, or use a Slack channel to give regular shoutouts to good work! Your workers will feel appreciated and more engaged in their job.

In the end, managing a distributed team isn’t any harder than managing other kinds of team. However, these distributed team strategies will help steer you away from common problems and help you create effective collaboration and communication within your team. Whatever your distributed team looks like, you’ll be well on your way to success.

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About the Author

Gino Ferrand
Gino Ferrand Founder @ TECLA: a hiring marketplace for remote talent

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