Managing a team of staff who work in a variety of locations can seem a daunting task but with the right management, remote teams can be as productive or even more so than teams working alongside each other.
The greatest challenge is believing in your staff and trusting them to deliver. It is essential to have a very open two way channeled approach to communication. This is easily achieved via conference calls. These can be between the manager and a particular team member or even involving the entire team at the same time. This has a multitude of benefits as discussed later on.
It is necessary to speak to your staff regularly but also allow them the opportunity to air thoughts, ideas and grievances either in private to their Manager or with the team as a whole. Make communication a regular feature. Make sure meetings, conference calls and private calls are in the diary to be certain remote teams work to their full potential.
If your staff are measured on achievements, or output, they are more likely to have the commitment to deliver. Managers need to agree with individual staff what is expected of them so they are fully aware of each other's roles, requirements and responsibilities. But this is only the tip of the iceberg regarding remote team management. Staff need to feel part of the team; a person not just a number. Again, communication is the key. If it is not possible to have regular face to face meetings, then alternative arrangements must be put in place. Conference calling, involving the entire team is undoubtedly the preferred choice of successful remote managers.
Work Management and Time Management are also key features to success. However, staff can easily feel demotivated or even demoralised if they feel neglected by their Manager. Organize training in self-motivation and team working plus the required IT, regulatory and health and safety training. This can be done in a centralized location, having the added benefit of bringing the staff together as a team. Perhaps there are on-line (Computer Based Training, CBT) modules available. Whatever your choice of delivery, it can help staff feel a sense of belonging to the firm as a whole.
Broadcast the team's progress and above all, their successes and achievements! Make team productivity results and milestones reached by the team readily available. They should be visual and easy for all members of the team to understand and share in. This could be by way of regular e-mails or even a page on a dedicated intranet site.
Be imaginative with how you will support staff to achieve an ethos of team working. Arrange social events, if possible, even if this is not terribly frequent due to distance restraints. Set up an on-line team chat room so individual staff can experience the usual office banter, albeit in more isolated circumstances.
The difference between success and failure of your team, whether you achieve great results or only just hit your targets hinges largely on the organizational and interpersonal skills of the manager.