8 Best Practices for Managing Remote Teams


Where remote work poses challenges for both employees and employers
8 Best practices for managing remote teams
1. Schedule regular, structured check-ins
2. Set expectations early and often
3. Provide ongoing training
4. Encourage your team to unplug from work after hours
5. Build a single source of truth
6. Foster connection between employees
7. Create a buddy system in the workplace
8. Develop a culture of trust
Remote team leadership is an acquired skill

Remote work has become the new normal, opening up opportunities for employees and employers alike.

According to a McKinsey survey, 58% of Americans can now work from home at least once a week. Another 35% can do it five days a week. 

This new way of working enables companies, big and small, to cut costs and employ talent from all over the world. At the same time, it can boost productivity by up to 40% and reduce employee turnover by 12%.

However, building and managing remote teams is anything but easy. The lack of face-to-face interaction can lead to misunderstandings, project delays, and trust issues, among other problems. 

For example, some leaders have difficulty communicating with their employees and keeping them accountable. Others have a hard time coordinating tasks and projects, tracking productivity, or fostering collaboration.

Whether you’re a startup or an established company, remote team leadership involves a learning curve. Don’t expect to get everything right from day one. Instead, be prepared to experiment with different strategies to keep your team engaged, motivated, and productive. 

Where remote work poses challenges for both employees and employers

Managing remote teams poses unique challenges for companies and their employees. 

In a recent survey, 22% of remote workers said their biggest struggle is the inability to unplug. About 15% reported having difficulty communicating and collaborating with their team members, whereas 16% found it hard to focus. 

Other respondents admitted that working remotely makes them feel lonely. Some said they have a hard time working across time zones or that they feel a lack of motivation at home. 

These factors can hamper productivity and performance, as well as employee engagement and job satisfaction. 

For example, employees who don’t have a dedicated office space at home can fall prey to distractions. As a result, they may not be able to focus on the task at hand and put in their best work. 

As a leader, it’s your responsibility to identify and address these challenges. At the same time, you’ll want to avoid micromanaging your staff or having meeting after meeting to ensure everyone is on track. 

Successful remote leadership requires a balance of influence, trust, proactive engagement, and ongoing communication. To achieve that, you’ll need to understand your team‘s dynamics and each employee’s motivations. 

8 Best practices for managing remote teams

Next up, let’s take a closer look at tips for successfully working with remote teams. Use these as a starting point, but continue to adapt and refine your strategy as needed. 

1. Schedule regular, structured check-ins

Remote workers often feel isolated, distracted, or disengaged, which can stall their productivity. 

One solution is to schedule daily or weekly check-ins with your team to touch base. These could be brief conversations about current projects, technical issues, upcoming tasks, and so on. 

Regular, structured check-ins enable managers to hold employees accountable for their performance. This practice also allows team leaders to offer ongoing feedback and help employees set goals for the day or week ahead. 

Start by creating an outline for check-in meetings. For example, each session could revolve around the following:

  • What are you working on today?
  • Do you need any additional resources to get things done?
  • Is there anything I can help with?
  • What do you plan to work on next?
  • Clear takeaways, feedback, and updates

Check-in meetings should be short and to the point. If you need to address more complex issues, schedule a separate meeting. 

Go one step further and encourage employees to share how they feel about the check-in process. 

For instance, you could provide anonymous surveys and track the results over several weeks. Use this data to make your check-in meetings more effective. 

Related reading: How To Run Effective Meetings (15 Powerful Tips)

2. Set expectations early and often

About half of U.S. employees don’t feel like they understand their workplace expectations. This number may be even higher in remote workplaces, given the lack of face-to-face communication. 

As a manager, it’s your job to set expectations early on. Talk with your employees about who’s responsible for what and the outcomes you want them to achieve. 

Be clear about your expectations and provide guidance or instructions as needed. Establish well-documented procedures, set SMART goals, and schedule one-on-one meetings with your staff if necessary. 


Let’s say you’re in charge of a sales team. In this context, you could set monthly sales quotas for each team member. Ask about their progress during check-in meetings and take action accordingly. 

3. Provide ongoing training 

According to a Cisco survey, 43% of employees believe remote work can limit career progression. Nearly 60% say that in-office workers are more likely to get promoted and advance their careers. 

If your team members feel this way, they may lose their motivation. And let’s face it — ongoing training is crucial in a world marked by digital transformation and innovation. 

Say you want to train your team on how to develop a successful go-to-market strategy. Depending on your budget, consider the following solutions:

  • Online workshops and webinars
  • E-learning modules
  • Guest speaker sessions
  • Knowledge-sharing sessions
  • Q&A sessions
  • Internal mentorship programs
  • Gamified learning experiences
  • Peer learning groups
  • Case studies and simulations
  • Certification programs

For instance, you could develop self-paced e-learning modules covering go-to-market (GTM) fundamentals, best practices, and related topics. Use platforms like Udemy, Coursera, or custom-built internal learning portals to host these modules. 

Another option is to create peer-learning groups where your team members can share insights and discuss the top GTM challenges. On a similar note, you can hold regular knowledge-sharing sessions around these topics. 

With this approach, your employees will develop new skills that can help them excel in their roles. Plus, it’s an effective way to foster a sense of community and drive engagement. 

For best results, use a variety of training formats like webinars, videos, downloadable worksheets, and podcasts.

4. Encourage your team to unplug from work after hours

In a 2022 survey, 58% of remote employees said the lines between work and personal life had become blurred during the pandemic. 

However, this trend persists in a post-pandemic world, given the rise of remote work. 

The result? Increased stress levels, burnout, low motivation, and poor productivity

Let your employees know that you don’t expect them to be “on” around the clock. Encourage them to unplug from work after hours and do the things they enjoy. 

Also, take the time to assess their workloads. Set realistic expectations and be mindful of the differences in time zones. 

Ideally, implement some ground rules regarding work hours, vacation time, and other related aspects. 

For example, ask your employees to refrain from contacting their co-workers on weekends unless there’s an emergency. Make it clear that you don’t expect your team members to respond to emails after 6 or 7 p.m. 

Most importantly, practice what you preach. You can’t expect your employees to unplug if you’re constantly working after hours. They’ll assume you want them to do the same.

5. Build a single source of truth 

Companies often use multiple communication and collaboration channels, from email and group chat to online platforms like Slack and Trello. This makes sense from a practical standpoint, but it can also create confusion — especially in a remote work environment. 

Let’s say your team members are working on a project for a client. They exchange files on Slack, share updates with their coworkers by email, and communicate with the client via Zoom

In the above scenario, the information is scattered all over the place. So, if one employee wants to put all the pieces together, they’ll need to log in to each platform, take notes, and see what others have said or done. 

While it’s okay to use multiple channels, you should also have a centralized system in place. This could be the company’s intranet or a third-party platform for knowledge-sharing. 

Creating a single source of truth can streamline workflows and prevent misunderstandings. This approach can also help with velocity management, enabling leaders to track team performance more easily. 

On a similar note, make sure you have a single shared calendar to keep your remote team aligned. 

For example, everyone should know what projects are in the pipeline and when the next meeting is going to take place. This information should be available in one place, not scattered across different platforms. 

6. Foster connection between employees

According to Statista research, loneliness is a major struggle remote employees face. Approximately 21% report spending too much time at home, which can make them feel isolated. 

Given these aspects, it’s essential to foster connection between your team members. As Gallup notes, having close friendships at work can drive productivity and innovation. 

This approach can also boost employee engagement and morale, improve collaboration, and maintain well-being in the workplace. 

For starters, try the following strategies to help your team members feel more connected: 

  • Schedule regular virtual meetings: Coffee chats, virtual lunches, and team-building sessions are all great choices. These should revolve around casual conversations and have a fun element to them. 
  • Plan icebreaker activities: Start your meetings with fun icebreakers, such as “Would you rather,” the one-word game, or two truths, one lie. These activities can create a more relaxed environment and help your employees connect on a personal level. They also stimulate creative thinking and bring positive energy to the group. 
  • Create virtual water cooler moments: Use online tools like Atlas, Donut, or Microsoft Viva Engage to create virtual spaces where employees can chat during work breaks. Think of it as a way to encourage casual conversations and build a sense of community. 
  • Host team challenges or contests: Organize friendly competitions around your employees’ personal goals or work projects. For example, you could host a hackathon or a reading challenge with prizes. Such activities foster collaboration and camaraderie while helping people get to know each other better. 
  • Implement employee spotlight programs: Feature your team members in newsletters, blog posts, staff interviews, podcasts, or video meetings. Focus on their professional achievements, life stories, hobbies, or whatever they are proud of. Not only will your employees feel valued and appreciated, but they’ll also learn more about their peers. Plus, spotlights promote a positive work culture and can serve as icebreakers. 

As a general rule, make these activities optional and don’t force anything. 

For example, some employees may not feel comfortable being in the spotlight or participating in coffee chats. Others may prefer to spend time with their families rather than attend virtual lunches. 

7. Create a buddy system in the workplace

Remote workers often struggle with low motivation, distractions, or boredom. These factors can affect their mental focus and, consequently, their productivity. 

A simple, effective solution is to create a buddy system. With this approach, you’ll pair up employees for mutual support and accountability. 

Buddy systems are typically used as part of employee onboarding but can work for seasoned employees, too. Think of it as a way to encourage friendships between team members and help them stay on track with their tasks or projects. 

As a general rule, set expectations for both parties. Give them a list of activities to complete, such as checking in with each other at least once a day. 

A good strategy is to pair newer or less experienced staff members with seasoned employees. The more experienced employees could act as members and help their colleagues grow professionally.

8. Develop a culture of trust

Different people have different schedules, routines, and working styles, and these differences become even more obvious in a remote environment. 

For instance, you may notice that some of your employees are not particularly fond of video meetings. Some may prefer to work early in the morning or later in the day. 

A good leader will respect individual workflows. While it’s important to keep your team members accountable, you should trust their judgment and avoid micromanaging them. 

Focus on outcomes, not processes. Set realistic goals, give your employees the tools they need to get the job done, and conduct regular performance reviews. 

If an employee is struggling with something, then you can step in and take further action. Listen actively to what they have to say and offer the necessary guidance to help overcome whatever challenges they are facing.

Related reading: 15 Ways You Create a Culture of Fear as Leaders

Remote team leadership is an acquired skill 

Managing a remote team requires a different approach than face-to-face management. Be prepared to learn, keep an open mind, and leverage technology to make things work. 

Remote leaders must focus on building trust through consistent communication, collaboration, and transparency. These aspects apply to any workplace, but they become even more important in remote settings where employees may be geographically dispersed. 

Don’t expect to get everything right from day one. Instead, try different strategies and learn from your mistakes. Most importantly, encourage your team members to provide ongoing feedback so you can identify and remove the roadblocks standing in their way.

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