Remote work is making headlines around the world, whether it’s (yet another) study showing increased productivity, how it’s being used to control the spread of Covid-19 in China, or just the exponential rise of virtual teams, barely a day goes by without something new in the world of virtual work. There’s no doubt that remote work is no longer the future, it’s the present.
For many team leaders, the move to remote work can be a learning curve. Getting your employees to work together to become a team takes a little more work when they’re separated by distance. If that’s a challenge you’re facing right now, here are some ideas to help you manage your remote team.

Prioritise Chitchat
Communication tools pop up in the market all the time, like blooming flowers in spring. Which means there’s no excuse for any distant team member to feel ‘out of touch.’ If the tendency is talking only about business, you must invest in this tendency. Of course, the point isn’t to schedule calls to talk about nothing and never work on tasks. The idea is to create space to engage in casual conversation and chit-chat. If you think about it, in a face-to-face meeting, you exchange pleasantries, chat about the weather, share jokes or experiences before you get down to business. Why should it be different during a video call? Talking about general topics it’s an integral part of team bonding, and you shouldn’t underestimate it when talking via voice or video. On your next call, add an extra five minutes to the meeting time, or make it an agenda item to socialise.

Socialising can be particularly important if your team comes from different cultural backgrounds. We tend to bond with people who are ‘like us.’ So, taking time to understand other people’s lives, beliefs, and customs can help us see the similarities rather than the differences, creating a deeper bond between team members.

For virtual and distributed teams, it is harder to get together for a Friday night drink. but don’t let this stop you Remote work doesn’t mean that you cannot hang out with your team. Online collaboration tools are only essential to manage remote teams effectively. You can play with their features to organize Zoom co-working sessions, or get together for a coffee just to chat, or even have a meditation session together. If you have a nerdy team, online games offer another opportunity for teams to come together - in fact, working with a guild on an MMORPG is many people’s first experience of distributed teamwork! You could slay dragons on Neverwinter, battle it out on Fortnite, or if you’re more of a pacifist, then there are communities in games like HayDay.

Over-communicate and Undermanage
When you share an office, you stay in touch with your team without really thinking about it. A glance over your screen shows you who’s working intently and who has that ‘rabbit in the headlights’ look of being stuck on a problem. You might hear people sharing problems and advice, or just giving each other a word of enthusiasm. You need to find a way to replicate this with your remote team. For many remote managers, that’s done through using a chat application such as Slack. You can set up different channels for different purposes, and invite only the team members who need to be on there to join them.
Having a general chat channel is a good idea, and a ‘water cooler’ channel for personal chat, memes etc. can be a good way to help with the social aspect. Some teams have found that having a ‘staff only’ channel with no managers helps the team to talk about any problems that they might be having, with a nominated person bringing it to your attention if necessary. Like the open-door policy of an office, letting your team know they can IM you at any time can be very reassuring.
It’s always better to over-communicate than the reverse with a remote team. One reason we like the Agile Development Methodology for remote work is because of the daily standup; a meeting that lets your team share progress and problems and keeps everyone in the loop. Daily may be too much for your team, but reaching out regularly to the whole team, and to each of them as individuals will pay dividends.
Don’t confuse micromanaging with checking in, though. Micromanagement is a bad habit that will quickly demoralize your remote team. Why? Well, because remote work tends to attract people who are self-reliant, self-motivated, and great at problem-solving. They really don’t need you to be calling to check how they’re doing - trust that you hired the right people and let them get on with it!

In the end, leading a remote team comes down to the same thing that any kind of management does; leading by example. If you walk the walk as well as talk the talk, your team will likely fall in behind you and do the same. Just make sure that you have a clear set of goals and you keep communicating that to your team, and no matter where in the world they are, you’ll find that they come together.

Author's Bio: 

Andreea Zorz is the SEO Manager at DistantJob and She has been working remotely for more than 5 years and managing an international remote team for the last 2 years. Fitness lover, mental health advocate, and the author behind the Blog