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Managing Remote Teams

Your Team Wants You to Abide by These 3 Unspoken Rules of Remote Team Management

Talking with people remains the absolute best way to communicate, even though technology allows you to avoid it.
Your Team Wants You to Abide by These 3 Unspoken Rules of Remote Team Management
Image credit: South_agency | Getty Images
Guest Writer
5 min read

Remote work is easier than ever before due to the internet, digital communication tools and the software as a service (SaaS) business model. Sure, you can still sell products online from the “comfort” of a cubicle, but you can do the same with a laptop at home or in the local coffee shop.

The remote working trend has become increasingly more popular over the years and is now so pervasive that companies like Dell, Amazon, Apple, GitHub and American Express allow their employees to work remotely (depending on the position), and 43 percent of American employees spend at least some time working remotely. Remote teams have become common not just because of the convenience factor but because people who work remotely are often more productive than their office-based counterparts.

But life unattached to a central office isn’t all good or all easy. Remote team members create some serious managerial challenges you probably wouldn’t encounter if those workers were in-house with you daily. Unfortunately, many of those difficulties and the rules of management that should be associated with them are rarely discussed among team members. To break that silence, here are three unspoken rules of remote team management that you and every other leader should adhere to.

Related: Don't Even Try Managing a Remote Team Without These Tools

1. Don't text important conversations.

Miscommunication is rampant with text messages. According to Psychology Today, experiences help people determine the meaning of a text message. That makes sense when you think about it. With text, the receiver can’t take tone of voice, cadence or body expression into account. They have to depend on what that phrase has usually meant in past conversations.

If a boss texts their employee, for instance, “How is that report coming? I’m excited you’ll be done with it soon,” one person might think, Nice! My boss is excited to see the work I’ve done, while another worker thinks, Of course… my boss doesn’t trust me to get the report done on time.

To avoid miscommunications like this, save important conversations for a phone call or video call rather than hastily sending them over text. This will not only clarify expectations and break barriers of miscommunication but will create meaningful dialogue around especially important matters.

Related: The 7 Things You Need to Know to Text With Good Etiquette

2. Respect your workers’ personal time.

Nothing kills employee satisfaction quicker than making people work overtime consistently every week. But too much overtime doesn’t just kill employee satisfaction; it kills productivity, too. CNBC reports that productivity drops dramatically in employees who consistently work 50-hour weeks. After 55 hours, workers are practically worthless.

Unsurprisingly, overworking remote employees is far more common than overworking in-office employees. There are two main reasons for that. First off, remote workers often don’t clock hours at all or do so irregularly, making it difficult to know how many hours your team is actually working. Second, various time zones can make it challenging to know when people are clocked in, done for the day or on a break.

A risk of managing remote workers is unintentionally straining your team and killing productivity. For that reason, use physical notes, digital reminders or time-tracking software to ensure you respect your remote team’s personal time. This is ever more critical when time zones are drastically different.

Related: 5 Ways to Ensure Remote Employees Feel Part of the Team

3. Schedule in-office days to build trust.

Managing a remote team often means never meeting your team in person, but it doesn’t have to, and it shouldn’t. Generally speaking, employees work harder when they know, like and trust the people they work with. Sadly, the opposite is also true. As Harvard Business Review reports, disengaged workers have 37 percent more absenteeism, make 60 percent more errors and are 18 percent less productive than engaged workers. It pays to keep your workers engaged in what they’re doing. Allowing your team to bond in-person is a great way to keep everyone interested.

This doesn’t need to happen so often that it’s wildly expensive, though. Consider bringing team members into the office once every six months or even just once a year. If some of the team lives internationally, then try to re-create the effect for those people by bring them on via video call during important discussions. When people can bond with their teammates face-to-face, it increases trust between them. They are more productive, experience fewer miscommunications and often become more loyal to the company.

Stephen M.R. Covey, author of The Speed of Trust, proclaims, “Whether you’re on a sports team, in an office or a member of a family, if you can’t trust one another, there’s going to be trouble.” My best remote workers are the ones I trust the most because I took time to build relationships with them.

Remote workers are generally happier and more productive than in-office employees -- assuming you manage them correctly. If you don’t, they can be less loyal, more frustrated and more overworked. Remote work is what you, the boss, make it.

How Much Does Your Remote Team Actually Need to Know?