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Remote Teams - Management Techniques

Remote Teams - Management Techniques

What is a remote team?

A remote team is a group of two or more people who work together for the achievement of a shared goal, but who do NOT share the same physical time and space. Consequently, the relationship between them is not a typical work relationship: Most people who work in the same team share the same place and time, which gives them the opportunity to form social bonds that help to make their work more productive.

People in remote teams do NOT share the same space and time. Consequently, they may NOT form the same kinds of social bonds. The absence of such social bonds MAY make their work less productive.

So we need to know, how to manage remote teams

Challenges in managing a remote team

The challenge of learning how to manage people in remote teams is learning how to create and sustain excellent working relationships with people whom we rarely, (if ever) meet. Specifically, here are six key challenges relating to managing remote teams, which we must recognise and overcome:

  1. Your company culture is NOT continually present.
  2. Communication is impersonal and therefore, misunderstandings are more likely.
  3. Time zones may not be in sync, so work / life balance may be affected.
  4. It is more difficult to observe their performance.
  5. There is less personal rapport and social bonding.
  6. As a result of the points above, remote teams are more difficult to motivate.

Tips for successfully managing a remote team

To develop our skills at remote management, we need at least one solution for each of the above six points. Here are our suggestions for managing remote teams.

Problem 1: Company culture is NOT continually present.

Solution - Take every opportunity to include remote workers in company news, events, benefits and chat. Let them know the organisational goals for the future and the strategic plans that will deliver on the promise.

The more people are told about what is going on, the more they are likely to want to be involved. Conversely, the less they know, the less interested they will be in the company culture. Share as much information as you can. Build colourful visions of a terrific future. Sell the organisation to each and every member of the team. Make them WANT to be a part of it.

Problem 2: Communication is impersonal and therefore, misunderstandings are more likely.

In communicating face to face, there are three channels of communication: Words, voice tone, and body language. When managing remote teams, much more of the communication is in the written form: It relies much more on the proper use of words.

In addition, in a face to face conversation there are spontaneous questions and answers that allow people to check their mutual understanding. When managing remote teams, this spontaneity is often missing, consequently, misunderstandings may be more common.

The solution to the problem: Increase the quality of written communication.

Many people have developed poor writing habits that they have acquired from years of texting on their phones.

In a business context, communications should be of the highest possible standard: Clear, accurate, well-reasoned. If the message being sent requires a specific action to be taken by the recipient, then that action must be made clear and distinct.

If you are managing remote teams, then you owe it to yourself to improve your understanding of grammar and logic. The best way to do that is to buy and study a book called Rex Barks by Phyllis Davenport. It is amazing and will pay you big dividends.

Problem 3 - Time zones may not be in sync.

We are all affected by circadian rhythms, which are natural, internal processes that regulate the 24 hour sleep-wake cycle. Everyone works less effectively when they disrupt their sleep wake cycle. Everyone works better when they work in harmony with a regular routine.

When working in a global context, you may be working with others who are in different time zones, which necessitates you working out of your normal hours. If this is the case, then you owe it to yourself, and others, to schedule the calls to approximate most closely to your sleep wake cycle, and thus MINIMIZE the disruption to your circadian "body clock".

If you do that, then you also minimise the chances of making errors due to fuzzy thinking and inefficient decision making. If you plan your calls carefully, then you can still perform at your best even when working with colleagues from around the globe.

Problem 4 - It is more difficult to observe their performance.

In order to be at their best, everyone needs feedback on their performance. Feedback needs to be based on facts. The first way to gain facts is by direct observation. If you cannot observe a person at work, then you cannot so easily provide feedback. Therefore, you must set up objective measures that you can observe and track. This is best done by SMART targets and measuring the progress that is made or NOT made towards their achievement of goals.

If you want an effective way to set, send and record SMART targets, please take a look at our WhatsNext? App.

Problem 5 - There is less personal rapport and social bonding.

Consequently, we cannot rely on normal social motivators to keep people committed to our cause.

There is an emotional component to every activity. If you manage remote teams, it is important to maintain a steady stream of messages that express thanks, praise and appreciation.

  • Thanks: for the effort the people have put into their work, irrespective as to whether the work was successful or not.
  • Praise; for any successful work.
  • Appreciation: for their continued commitment to the cause for which your organisation is working.

Thanks: for the effort the people have put into their work, irrespective as to whether the work was successful or not.

Praise: for any successful work.

Appreciation: for their continued commitment to the cause for which your organisation is working.

Failure to communicate thanks, praise and appreciation causes remote managers to fail.

If you want to manage people remotely, then be diligent in your expression of thanks, praise and appreciation.

Problem 6 - Remote teams are more difficult to motivate.

There are three forms of motivation: two are negative and one is positive.

  • Negative motivations are motivation by means of fear and/or anger.
  • Positive motivation is goal achievement.

When you are managing a remote team, it is important to use motivation by goals achievement and to keep away from trying to motivate by fear or anger.

We don't recommend negative motivators and they are particularly noxious when used on people you don't know well. You don't have the rapport, nor the status, nor the understanding to use negative emotions of anger and fear to motivate people you don't know.

We recommend that you motivate staff by linking their pay to their performance. The better they perform the more they earn. That is by far the best form of motivation. Motivation by goals achievement will keep people working long and hard, because everyone wants to do well for themselves and their family. All the evidence shows that, if you link their income to their performance, you will not have to do much more to motivate them.

If you are interested in management training, you can check out our range of courses. If you can't find what you're looking for, please get in touch with our friendly team.

About the Author: Chris Farmer


Chris Farmer is the founder of the Corporate Coach Group and has many years’ experience in training leaders and managers, in both the public and private sectors, to achieve their organisational goals, especially during tough economic times. He is also well aware of the disciplines and problems associated with running a business.

Over the years, Chris has designed and delivered thousands of training programmes and has coached and motivated many management teams, groups and individuals. His training programmes are both structured and clear, designed to help delegates organise their thinking and, wherever necessary, to improve their techniques and skills.

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