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Key points 

  • Remote leadership means intentionally taking steps to improve how a team functions remotely. 
  • A remote work policy helps support and encourage all employees within a remote team.  It also eliminates confusion over expectations that remote employees (particularly new employees) may experience.
  • Fostering a community for remote employees (through activities like teambuilding games) is essential for keeping engagement high and creating an environment of collaboration.
  • Having access to the right technology allows remote employees to work efficiently and productively wherever they are located, while also keeping communication lines open with management.
  • To sustain strong working relationships, drive results, and strengthen company culture, employers need to provide remote employees with the same opportunities for career advancement as in-office employees.

COVID-19 has changed the way the world works: With many businesses transitioning to remote work, it is now vital to have effective strategies for leading a remote team. Consequently, leaders need to have the right skills and understanding of how to handle the unique challenges that come with managing a virtual team.

The foundation of a remote workforce is trust and communication, which must be established for efficient work functions. Leaders must prove themselves to be reliable, organized, tech-savvy communicators who can adequately direct their team from afar. Additionally, collaborative and problem-solving skills are essential for leaders to manage their teams’ goals.

Creativity in adapting traditional leadership practices to a remote setting is integral for success when working remotely. These combined qualities form a robust basis upon which leaders can build effective relationships to achieve successful outcomes within a remote workforce.

To help your business to get started, let’s look at ten best practices for leading great remote teams.

1. Establish an effective remote onboarding process for new hires

Establishing an effective remote onboarding process for new hires is essential to the success of any remote business. Onboarding is the key to ensuring the seamless integration of new employees into their roles, no matter the location. It allows employers to familiarize new employees with company policies and procedures, provide them with the necessary training, and establish performance expectations. Furthermore, onboarding can reinforce a positive culture in which remote workers are seen as capable and valued members of the team. 

Investing in a well-crafted onboarding process yields a return on investment by helping new hires quickly become productive in their position. It also enhances employee engagement both in the short and long term.

2. Implement a remote work policy

It is crucial for companies to have a remote work policy that supports and encourages their remote teams. Having a clear set of policies in place enables everyone in the organization to work in cohesion and eliminates any confusion over expectations. A comprehensive remote work policy can also provide consistency within the organization by outlining acceptable behavior and communication standards, data protection procedures, security protocols, working hours, and other requirements. 

Ultimately, a well-thought-out remote work policy helps ensure productivity and offers peace of mind for employers who need to manage employees in different locations.

3. Foster community for remote employees

Fostering a community for remote employees is essential for keeping engagement high and creating an environment of collaboration. By introducing activities such as teambuilding games, remote employees feel a sense of connection with their colleagues and can better understand how best to collaborate on tasks.

With teambuilding exercises, opportunities exist to strengthen interpersonal relationships between individuals along with building understanding within groups and contributing towards successful communication. These activities also provide a much-needed break in the daily routine of working remotely, encouraging moments of laughter and fun with colleagues away from their computers.

4. Provide the right tech tools for effective remote work

Providing remote employees with the right tech tools ensures that employees can remain productive from remote locations. It is important that technology chosen for remote work purposes is secure and user-friendly, which allows employees to focus on the tasks at hand rather than spending time troubleshooting technical problems.

Having access to the right technology allows remote employees to work efficiently and productively wherever they are located, while also keeping communication lines open, thus enabling a fluid connection between management and staff.

Ultimately, investing in the right tech tools to facilitate successful telecommuting is an important part of ensuring employee satisfaction and productivity, which results in an improved bottom line for employers.

5. Accommodate travel where possible

Recognizing that physical presence in the office is not always realistic or necessary for remote workers, accommodating travel where possible can offer a host of benefits for businesses.

In addition to potentially reducing costs associated with standard on-site collaboration, accommodating travel opens up new networking opportunities. Consequently, this helps create a more diverse environment in which employees have the opportunity to share knowledge and experience from different contexts. Furthermore, allowing travel opportunities ensures that remote workers feel both included in and valued for their contribution to the business, thus fostering a sense of team unity and collective purpose.

6. Pay attention to compliance and legal issues

Ensuring compliance with labor laws is essential for any employer, remote or otherwise. Remote employers are responsible for a high degree of regulatory compliance across multiple state and federal laws. Compliance with workers’ compensation laws is particularly important, since a failure to adhere can lead to penalties and civil liability. The complexity increases when you have a multi-state workforce due to different regulations in each jurisdiction.

Fortunately, by establishing clear policies, keeping track of wage and income reporting requirements, monitoring employee hours accurately, and making sure taxes are paid correctly, remote employers can protect themselves from legal issues that may arise.

7. Support async work where appropriate

With the increase in remote working, many companies are opting to support asynchronous communication where appropriate. This type of workplace communication is becoming increasingly popular. 

Allowing employees to complete tasks at their own pace — without having to adhere to rigid timelines — encourages productivity as there is no stress associated with time constraints. Furthermore, it reduces the need for constant communication between team members and allows individuals more flexibility when managing tasks outside of work hours, thus boosting morale and aiding with work-life balance.

It is important for employers to think carefully about how they can create conditions that allow employees to make use of asynchronous work. This includes the provision of necessary support so that remote teams can thrive in this new form of remote working.

8. Treat remote employees equally for promotion and development purposes

Remote employers must strive to provide remote employees with the same opportunities for promotion and development as those employees in a physical workplace. This is critical because it creates an even playing field, allowing all employees to take ownership of their career paths, regardless of their physical location.

Remote employers must focus on creating supportive and inclusive cultures that recognize the value that remote employees bring. In addition, employers should value their remote employee’s potential, and regularly assess the progress of their professional development. Doing this not only enhances job satisfaction among remote employees but boosts morale across the team, thus allowing employees to build upon each other’s success.

Ultimately, by treating remote employees equally for promotion and development purposes, remote employers can leverage collaboration to maximize productivity and create a workforce that is motivated, engaged, and empowered on all levels.

9. Avoid micromanagement

Micro-managing is a counterproductive management strategy that can do more harm than good. When applied to remote employee relationships, this type of close supervision can disrupt trust between employers and employees, impede communication, and stifle productivity.

Human interaction encourages collaboration and creativity. When employers micromanage their remote workers, they’re essentially sending the message that they don’t believe their employees are capable of performing their duties. Additionally, micromanagement communicates a lack of trust in the employee’s abilities and can lead to feelings of low self-esteem and resentment towards management.

It is extremely important for employers to avoid micromanaging when working with remote employees to not only sustain strong working relationships but also drive results and strengthen company culture.

10. Schedule regular check-ins

Every employer should be deeply invested in the successful performance and experience of their employees, no matter where they’re based or how they communicate with their team. Providing support and guidance at regular intervals is one of the most important responsibilities any employer can have, especially when managing a remote workforce.

Scheduling regular check-ins ensures that employers remain abreast of the progress their employees are making. It also allows employers to identify any issues and impediments quickly and provide helpful feedback and direction that keeps everyone on task. These factors are all necessary to ensure a healthy working relationship.

By scheduling regular check-ins with remote employees, an employer can build trust as individual and collective goals are achieved. It can also create a sense of teamwork in an otherwise disconnected setting and ensure that expectations are clear for everyone.

Forbes on remote work leadership (video: Forbes)

Remote leadership best practices — our take 

Remote leadership means adapting work culture from the top-down as well as the bottom-up. This means leaders have to embrace remote work and hybrid models just as much as their employees. While exact practices will differ from company to company, good leadership means avoiding micro-management, adopting fair remote work policies and fostering a strong remote work culture within the organization 

Frequently Asked Questions

Leading remote teams poses a unique set of challenges for team leaders. Chief amongst them are issues related to communication, trust, and staying connected with the team. Businesses need to take active steps to try and resolve any of these potential issues early on. 

Building a strong remote workplace culture starts with making sure that everyone is included, regardless of where they are located. This can be as simple as setting up a video call for when important decisions need to be communicated or worked through together. From that point on, it is crucial to facilitate ongoing remote team-building activities and practices to ensure a remote team is functioning to its full potential. 

Charlotte Evans

Fact checked by Travis Kliever

Charlotte speaks with authority as RemotePad’s recruitment and HR tech maestro. With a background in marketing, Charlotte has worked for major brands in the industry, including leading HR software provider, FactorialHR. Originally from Manchester, UK, with a bachelor’s degree from the Manchester Metropolitan University, Charlotte currently resides in sunny Barcelona, Spain.