Manage a Remote Team

Remote Guide: How to Build and Manage a Remote Team in 2021

Recent studies have found 63% of companies have remote workers. There're no doubts it's a world phenomenon and that it means a series of benefits to both the business and the employee. Here's our 8-step guide on how to build and manage a remote ream.


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Going remote can be a game-changer for your startup. After all, remote teams are proven to be more productive and score higher on job satisfaction than their in-office counterparts. Switching to remote can also land you exciting new talent, global coverage and the competitive employee benefit of working from home.

If you’re looking to build a remote team but you’re not sure how, we’ll help get you started. Going remote can feel like a big leap at first, but our complete remote guide will give you the confidence you need to create and manage remote teams like a pro.

Step 1: Choose Between Remote and Distributed Teams

Isn’t a remote team the same as a distributed team, and vice-versa? Not exactly. When you’re first looking to build a remote team, it’s key to know whether remote vs. distributed is best.

A remote team is exactly what it sounds like: there’s no physical office for employees. Instead, everybody collaborates remotely using digital tools in a 100% virtual office. This is a huge advantage for remote startups, as they can bring together top talent from all over the world. Employees can work from anywhere and everywhere, including home offices, co-working spaces or even while traveling.

On the other hand, a distributed team is a hybrid model that draws on both remote and on-site workers and practices. Like remote teams, for example, distributed teams rely heavily on digital tools for collaboration. Even so, a physical office is still a big part of their company culture. In general, the distributed type is recommended for startups transitioning from a physical office to a 100% remote way of work. Startups looking to boost their teams with remote talent, while downsizing their physical office, find that distributed teams work well for their needs.

Remote vs Distributed Teams

When you go to create your remote or distributed team, be sure that you know the difference. If you’re a startup looking to test the waters of remote work, the distributed model may work best. Or, if you want to get the best talent and enjoy new digital advantages, you can dive into a 100% remote team.

Step 2: Determine the Specific Profile for Your Remote Team Members

Second of all, you need the manpower behind your remote team. This second step is probably the most important one, since the people you hire will define how your team works. When you go to hire remote workers, you need to think carefully about the profile you’re looking for. Don’t just think of the job skills, but the overall fit. For example, consider what soft skills, language competence and culture know-how you would like to have in a candidate.

Depending on the role and your company culture, these characteristics may be slightly different. Our go-to checklist for remote candidates looks something like this:

  • Candidate profile: Does this candidate have any experience working remotely? Is he/she a good communicator? Is he/she proactive? Is he/she passionate about our company?
  • Job skills: Does this candidate have the necessary skills to get the job done? Is he/she interested in developing his/her skills? Does he/she pass our skills test or have a professional portfolio to show us?
  • Language skills: Does this candidate have professional fluency in English? Is he/she able to talk to clients on video chat? Is he/she able to write professional emails? Does he/she pass our language test?
  • Company culture: Is this candidate a good fit for our company? Does he/she have the right personality traits to work successfully here? Is he/she a team player?
  • Schedule/time zone: Where is this candidate located? Does he/she have overlapping hours with our time zone? How many hours a week is this candidate available to work?
  • Hiring model: Will you hire this candidate as a full-time direct-hire? Or for temporary staff augmentation needs only?

Before hiring anybody, be sure to think about these six key areas and make sure you have all the details you need to hire the right candidate. When in doubt, be sure to ask for more information and schedule an interview to see how the candidate communicates.


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Step 3: Hire Your Remote Team Members Using Specialized Platforms

Next, you should also think about where you’re going to find these candidates. There are plenty of options online for recruiting candidates, including generic freelancing sites like Upwork and massive professional social networks like LinkedIn. However, if you really want to level up your search skills, you should look into specialized hiring platforms. These industry-specific platforms will give you better access to top candidates in your field.

Some examples of these platforms include Behance and Dribbble for designers, Mediabistro for marketing professionals, ArtStation for illustrators and digital artists, Clutch to find specialized staff augmentation agencies, and marketplaces like TECLA where you can hire virtual teams directly. With the last two options, you typically get pre-screened candidates that have met a prior quality standard. Whatever industry-specific platform you choose, you’re sure to get better results than a generic site.

Step 4: Create Your Startup’s Virtual Office Space

Once you’ve got your remote power team, it’s time to set up your working processes. The best way to do this is to create a virtual office space, i.e. the headquarters for your remote team. Many top-of-the-line remote startups have chosen Slack as their HQ, but you can use any tool that helps streamline your communication and makes your team feel unified. Other options for creating a virtual office include Asana, Float, Zapier or iDoneThis. Depending on your startup, you can determine which tool best suits your needs.

If you’re looking into tools and you’re not sure which to use, considering your company’s specific needs is a must. There are some basic steps to figure out which tool is best for your situation:

  • Determine your company’s needs: Do you need a tool for scheduling and deadlines? For tracking time and resources? For updating team members and encouraging interaction? There are tons of tools out there, so make sure yours has everything you need.
  • Check for social features: Does this tool let employees chat comfortably? Are there features for sharing personal information? Does it help build team relationships?
  • Test out the tool: Does it integrate with other tools? Does it have real-time updates? Is it customized to your industry? Does it has an easy-access dashboard? Is it secure?
  • Integrate it into your workflow: Is training necessary? Is there confusion about where/when to use it? Are communication protocols outlined in a workflow document?

Remember that a tool is only as effective as the workflow behind it. Make sure when you “open the doors” of your virtual office that you have clearly defined processes, communication channels and protocols. You can even post your workflow processes to a section of your virtual office so that co-workers can reference them. Make sure that everybody is on the same page and be open to answering questions so that there’s no confusion.

Step 5: Manage Your Remote Team Using The Right Tools

In addition to your virtual office, you should use first-rate project management tools and strategies. These tools will help you (or your new remote manager) ensure that work is getting done with the quality and timeliness required.

A good rule of thumb is to create daily or weekly goals for each remote worker, which can be easily tracked with a tool like Trello or Asana. Clearly communicating these deadlines will be a big part of getting your team to successfully work together. You should also be sure whatever tool you use lets you follow up if needed and leave a digital “paper trail” so that there are no surprises.

Goal-setting isn’t the only area you’ll need to manage, however. Collaboration is also a priority when it comes to project management. Your team should feel comfortable communicating, whether through Google Hangouts, a Slack channel or another tool. Each team member should also regularly report what they’re working on, which can be done through a Float calendar memo, a weekly email recap or some other method.

At every turn, you should encourage communication among your team members and give them accessible tools to make it easy for them.

Step 6: Measure Results and Worker Happiness

A key aspect of remote work is results. Since you no longer see your employees working at their desks, it’s all about the outcomes. As you set up your remote startup, it’s important to track metrics on results. You decide how to measure success. Will you measure client satisfaction? Number of projects completed? Quality of work rated by peers? Track whatever matters to you. Having these kind of statistics will help you create your business strategy and also motivate your workers in terms of goals.

In addition, part of your metrics should also look at employee satisfaction. Especially when you’re first starting your remote team, you should ask them how they’re feeling. You can do this by sending a survey or just an email check-in. After all, the health of your team will determine the health of your startup. Avoid employee burnout, stress and loneliness by listening to your team members and figuring out how to resolve any issues.

Often results and employee happiness are highly linked. By tracking both, you’ll better understand how to drive motivation and continue to achieve great results - all while taking care of your remote team.

Achieve harmony in remote startups

Step 7: Adjust Your Remote Working Model as Needed

Remember that not everything will go as planned. When you hit a bump in the road, you may need to make adjustments, revise your processes or update the way your remote team works. Don’t worry: this is completely normal, especially for a new remote startup.

As you continue to revise your remote working model, keep in mind some of the most problematic points when you shift from office-based to remote work:

  • Being out of touch with your remote team’s challenges: It’s vital that you keep tabs on your remote team - not just their deadlines, but their wellbeing. If you’re out of the loop on the challenges they’re facing and their team dynamics, your startup will suffer. One preventative measure is to schedule one-on-ones with team members. You can catch up on work, their personal lives and see what’s happening on the ground. If you model transparency and openness, your team members are more likely to come to you when something isn’t going well.
  • Not having a strong management team: All work, whether in-office or remote, requires talented management. This is especially true when it comes to remote work, which is extremely results-oriented. You’ll need strong management, including managers who understand their team, motivate them, track their progress and resolve issues for maximum collaboration. You can start crafting a strong management team by hiring well, but then also by providing management training, detailed feedback and strategic initiatives and tools to enhance their work. Stay hands-on with your management team until you feel the team is really in a good groove.
  • Lacking social connections within the team: A common complaint with remote team members is that they feel lonely or isolated from the company. Find opportunities to build relationships within your team. Suggest a “virtual happy hour” for team members to bond, or create message boards or Slack channels where employees can chat about personal interests. By building these relationships, your team will feel more engaged with the company, and create powerful connections for better collaboration.

Note that remote working doesn't remove you the caring of your worker's health and as time goes by, workers will begin to get ill, suffer injuries, claim back pain, etc. You may want to investigate further on worker's insurances - I know Cerity offers that.

By thinking ahead, you’ll avoid these common pitfalls of switching to the remote model. Strategize about how to build up your remote team before problems even arise.

Step 8: Celebrate Company Wins!

Last but not least, don’t forget to celebrate when your remote team does a good job. While this step may seem obvious, sometimes you have to be more intentional about celebrating than office-based work. At the office, you might stop by to congratulate an employee personally, or bring in treats for a job well done. Don’t skimp on this step in the virtual office! Send personalized messages to employees when they’ve gone above and beyond, and give public shout-outs so that the rest of the team knows about it. You might even send “digital treats” such as an animated digital card, or a gift card for a product or service. Make your employees feel special, just like you would in the office.

Building and managing a remote team can be both challenging and rewarding. The remote model is an exciting way to bring together talented employees across the globe, while enabling them to enjoy the benefits of working from home. For best results, you should follow our guide, including steps to determine the profile of your remote team, hire them on specialized platforms, create an effective virtual office, manage your team with digital tools, measure results and satisfaction, adjust your model as needed and celebrate wins. By following these steps, you’ll make the transition to a remote team a huge success. Best of luck!

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