How to manage a Remote Team?

For any IT project, communication is one of the most important aspects of success. For another question, we will discuss how to organize communication at Remote Working.

More than once we hear of frustrations from managers who complain about offshore/remote employees who are not pro-active. Their conclusion is that they have to give very directive and limited assignments because otherwise, nothing will come of the work. Are those remote employees really less smart than colleagues in the office? Or is there something else going on?

Perhaps the greatest challenge in managing remote teams is finding a good balance. If you strive for complete control and therefore micro-manage, the result is that the employees fall back on a “you ask, we run” mode. The manager thinks for the engineer, who is no longer challenged to think for himself. Instead of thinking along and coming up with the best solutions, he simply performs the tasks assigned to him. As a result, the manager must continuously ensure that everyone is useful and he must monitor all activities. That is a heavy burden for a manager, especially if he also has other work or has to deliver products himself. For his part, the engineer does not feel taken seriously and does not find his work challenging. This situation is a good starting position for the recruiter who is interested in your specialist.

Conversely, working remotely also requires structure and self-discipline. In that area, much is demanded of sometimes still young engineers. They have to motivate themselves, plan their work, communicate when there is a problem and work in a solution-oriented way. And this while they are constantly distracted by social media, games and the like. By involving them closely in the objectives and making them co-owners of the solution and the result, the manager can provide intrinsic motivation. But that is not enough.

Our advice is to involve the entire team in both the long-term goals and the short-term tasks that the team must realize. Make room for them to think along and try to give them the responsibility for realizing projects instead of just performing tasks. Obviously, the level of difficulty of the project must match their skills, but at the same time it is allowed, and it must also be, challenging.

If you work on the basis of an Agile method, this offers sufficient guidance to manage the team effectively during the day. If you do not (yet), we advise organizing a daily short stand-up or team meeting, in which every team member should participate. Preferably at the beginning of the day. That may sound obvious, but we still often see that it does not happen. Or important members, such as the product owner, are not present. The meeting can be short, maximum of 15 to 30 minutes. Discussing issues or details is preferably done in separate meetings. In addition to the stand-up, the issue management system (for example Jira, Trello or Avaza) serves to monitor progress.

In addition to regular evaluations, it is wise to hold individual progress interviews regularly. You simply do not meet each other at the coffee machine, so the contact must be organized. Finally, it is also important not to let the contact only be about work. We also pay attention to this elsewhere on our site, in the context of communication for remote working.

Do you have any questions, or would you like to know more about our experiences?

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