Managing a Remote Team

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Amanda Evans March 17, 2020

I’m a huge proponent of remote work. It’s what enabled me to keep my sanity when my kids were little and what enables me to work 150 miles from our company headquarters every day. Here at Closed Loop, many team members work remotely from various parts of the country. I’m confident that had we not allowed remote work, we wouldn’t be nearly as successful as we are today. We’ve been able to hire the right people, the true rockstars at digital marketing because we haven’t limited ourselves to a specific geographic area. 

But we have certainly learned a few things along the way. As more companies are offering remote work in the wake of the Coronavirus outbreak, I thought I should share some best practices from the front lines:

          1. Overcommunicate:

When people, not just your managers but also employees and peers, can’t see you every day, it’s easy to be anxious about how people are prioritizing their time. Whether that’s true or not, overcommunicating is key to make sure this doesn’t happen.

So the traditional “management by walking around” needs to also go digital. Check-in with team members regularly, if nothing else to say hi and see how life is. Use team meetings as a way to demonstrate what you’re working on. Share small (or big) wins on Slack with your team members. Overcommunicating may feel a little forced at first but you’ll quickly see how important it is in creating a strong remote team.

          2. Require the use of video conferencing:

 In all our internal & most external meetings, cameras are in full use. 55% of communication is visual. Our team meetings often have 20+ team members all on mute. If I can’t see heads nodding or smiles, I have no way to know if my team is absorbing what I’m saying or completely ignoring me. 

Beyond that, the team feels more connected when we can see one another. It’s hard to get to know a voice on the phone. It’s much easier when you can see the person and take visual cues as to how they are feeling.  

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          3. Use Slack Often: 

What we miss by being in an office together is the camaraderie, chitchatting about life outside of work, light teasing, venting frustrations, and celebrating small wins. Slack is our lifeline for this. We have channels set up for, of course, work-related items but also channels about music, meditation, and anything “random.” These channels are critical to have to foster a sense of camaraderie amongst the remote team.

          4. Use Shared Task Lists:

When you’re in the office, it’s easy to check in on the status of tasks in person. For remote workers, this is a little more difficult. So relying on team members to complete tasks on time without being able to see them can lead to some anxiety. To lessen this, we find using a tool like Asana to share tasks is important. It helps in cross-team tasks but also gives people much-needed visibility into what you’re working on and what your workload looks like.

          5. Set Clear Expectations:

The idea of a “Flexible work environment,” means something different to everyone. To run a successful remote team, you need to have very clear constraints and expectations.

For example, while we allow some flexibility, we do need employees to be available for clients during normal work hours. And those on the East Coast may need to shift their working hours to accommodate their team members on the West Coast. We have internal guidelines to notify your teammates if you’re going to be “out of the office” during the day for longer than an hour. 

More than anything, the key to successful remote work is transparency and communication. Make sure everyone is on the same page, has visibility to one another and then be sure to overcommunicate. With those solid foundations set, I hope you’ll be able to realize the massive benefits that come with having a remote team.