by Ian Fraser, co-founder and CEO of The Go Game
Being a manager is already tough. Navigating the switch to fully remote teams in the last few years has probably made your job even tougher. Leading remote teams is not intuitive and requires different skills than in-person management. However, with practice and the right tools, you can manage a remote team effectively.
In my experience as the co-founder and CEO of The Go Game & Weve (the leader in team-building and culture-driving games), I have discovered a number of tried-and-true ways to better lead and manage a remote team.
Use these tips and tools below for engaging and managing remote teams to create a strong company culture and an even stronger team.
What Are the Challenges of Managing Remote Teams?
Before you strategize solutions, it is important to understand the challenges you are facing or may face in the future. (And some you might not even realize you are already facing.) As a manager, your focus is often divided. With remote teams, your focus becomes even more divided as your staff is dispersed across the world. Small things like spontaneous meetings in the hallway or catching up at the water cooler become more difficult, and it might become harder to maintain personal relationships with your employees.
Tracking tasks, deadlines, and productivity can also become more difficult without a centralized office and meeting space. There is an inherent barrier in communication when teams are no longer in the same space. Without seeing the faces and body language of your employees daily, it may be hard to gauge and maintain team morale.
If it is your first time leading a remote team, you’ll have to consider things like what are the best ways to manage remote workers? And of course even more questions will arise depending on your specific team. On top of all of this, it is your job to promote a culture of strong teamwork, so you will have to navigate how to facilitate team building remotely.
Though these challenges can seem daunting, there are a lot of great benefits of remote teams (like having meetings in sweatpants). Seriously, though, it seems like remote work is here to stay, and with some planning, there are many ways to lead remote teams successfully.
How Do You Lead a Team Meeting Remotely?
If you have a team that is dispersed across the globe, the potentially simple act of scheduling a meeting becomes more difficult when you take time zones into account. (You don’t want anyone to have to wake up in the middle of the night to talk strategy!) Once you figure out scheduling, it’s important to be strategic about meetings. No one likes to walk away from a meeting feeling like they wasted their time. Overscheduling meetings might lead to the feeling of wasting time. Having too many meetings might also get in the way of your employees actually getting work done. On the other hand, too few meetings might lead to a lapse in productivity and communication and people might feel out of the loop. Every team will have different needs, and don’t be afraid to ask your team what a good meeting rhythm might be.
Once you have sorted that out, it is important to make your meetings matter and have the right tools to engage your team. In addition to the regular meeting agenda, take some time for some small talk at the start or end of the meeting. Start off with an ice breaker or an opportunity for everyone to share how they’re doing or feeling. Of course, with a meeting of dozens of people, this might not be feasible, so you can use a poll, text chat, or another way that may work better to check in with everyone. For regular meetings, you are going to need a stable and dependable video meeting platform. Make sure your meeting platform has the ability to create the kind of meetings your employees are going to want to join and that keep them engaged.
Since gathering remote teams is an investment in time and resources, it’s important to get down to business in a timely manner, and wrap up by the scheduled time. In addition to honoring productivity, your employees will know that you are respectful of their time, which is part of being a good leader when leading remote teams.
Tools to Help You Manage Your Team Remotely
Any job is made easier with the right tools. Set your team up for success by filling your virtual toolbox with tools for messaging, project management, storage, and more.
Messaging tools: In addition to email, you are going to need ways for your employees to touch base for quick asks. Messaging systems like Slack lets everyone message instantly. In addition to one-on-one direct messages and group messages, you can also create channels for different conversation topics to keep things organized.
Project management tools: To keep everyone on the same page, it is important to implement project management tools like Trello or Asana. These tools make sure that everyone is aware of due dates. You can also assign smaller tasks within the project to different people so everyone knows what they are responsible for.
Storage and sharing tools: It’s important that crucial documents and information are stored where employees can easily access them. Tools like Google Drive and Dropbox let everyone add, edit, and download assets so they stay current.
Communication tools: In an office, it is easy to show someone how to do something. That becomes much more challenging for remote teams. Loom allows you to record quick videos of your screen so you can make explainer videos that your team can easily access, save, and replay.
Meeting tools: While platforms like Zoom and Google Meets can do the basics, Weve was intentionally designed as an all-in-one virtual events and meeting platform to make meetings more memorable, engaging, and impactful.
Fun tools: Okay, these ones are not totally necessary, but they are totally fun. PizzaTime and CoffeeTime make it easy for your whole team to have coffee or pizza delivered around the same time so you can organize a pizza party or coffee break together. Keep morale high by planning a surprise hangout where food and drinks show up at your team’s door.
How to Engage Remote Employees
Engaging a team that does not get to connect regularly outside of work is one of the challenges of managing remote employees. There is a possibility that your remote employees don’t know each other and even that you may have never met your employees in person. So how do you help them bond? There are many virtual team building activities, but our favorite way to help teams bond is through games. Playing together is a great way to engage team members, help them get to know each other outside of their regular workday tasks, and change up workplace power dynamics as they interact in a new way.
From Pictionary to Lip Sync Battles, make play a priority — employees who bond and create strong connections with their team are more likely to feel committed to and remain at their workplaces.
To Wrap It All Up
If you’re wondering how to better lead your remote team in 2022, the above tips should help. Follow our advice on how to better lead a team meeting remotely, and try out the helpful tools for managing a team remotely. Also, scheduling recurring team building experiences is the key to creating and maintaining a strong and engaging company culture while managing remote teams. Now, go out there and have fun managing your remote workforce!
Ian Fraser is co-founder and chief executive officer of The Go Game, the leader in team-building and culture-driving games. Ian and chief technology officer, Finn Kelly, co-founded The Go Game in 2000 to bring fun to work through interactive games, events, and experiences that make employees feel connected and engaged. In 2020, The Go Game launched Weve which creates dynamic digital environments that enable real engagement that goes beyond the market standard video conferencing tool.