12 Tips for Managing Remote Teams: How to Effectively Transition to Leading Employees from Afar During COVID-19

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The COVID-19 pandemic has forced corporate groups worldwide to leave their office spaces, making the transition to managing remote teams essential. Here, 12 business leaders from a range of industries share tips and tools that have helped them effectively make this huge change.

While many companies have allowed employees to work from home for years, the COVID-19 outbreak has forced a large portion of businesses to transition to full-time telecommuting.

In this article, you’ll learn about:

This change has been quick and dramatic. Seemingly overnight, employees who had the ability to work from home were told that it was mandatory to do so.  

And even though many organizations had well-established systems and processes in place to support part-time remote work, the transition has come with a few learning curves. 

To support corporate teams who are new to telecommuting, especially full time, we reached out to our community leaders for advice on how you can make this transition as smooth as possible for managers and employees alike. We ended up hearing from a variety of business professionals, who all shared their favorite tips and tools for effective remote operations.  

Read on to find out what these business leaders in HR, finance, health and wellness, tech, and more had to say about effectively working from home and managing remote teams

The Top Tips and Tools for Managing a Remote Team

After talking to 12 very different business leaders, a common piece of advice emerged. Each person – despite their industry – agreed on one thing: online collaboration tools are an absolute necessity for successful remote work.  

Below, find out which platforms our panel recommends, as well as other tips they offered for managing remote teams during this unprecedented time. 

managing remote teams karol nowacki
Name: Karol Nowacki 
Position: Outreach Team Lead 
Company: Zety  
Industry: Career Development 
How Has the Transition to Managing Remote Teams Been for You as a Leader?  

“Since our company had the one-day-per-week remote work policy implemented prior to the current health crisis, the transition to working remotely full time wasn’t THAT dramatic for us, as it might have been for others. The first thing we looked at was making sure we are all set up properly with communication channels.” 

Karol’s Top Recommended Online Collaboration Tools for Remote Managers 

“You see, when your team moves to a virtual workspace, you lose the ability to catch up during a coffee break, or when passing each other in the corridor (also literal elevator pitches are a no-go). Therefore, making sure you have smooth communication is key, and tools like Zoom, Slack, Google Hangouts, or good old email will help you with that. These are easily accessible, simple to use and often are out-of-the-box ready to go. I’d advise you to schedule regular meetings with your staff, have everyone connected via video conference so that everyone is out of their pajamas and keeping it professional. It also helps with fighting the feeling of isolation, especially for the team members that live alone. 

Schedule one-on-one meetings with them to see how they are dealing with the challenging situation and how you can be of help. Take it case by case; they will have different obstacles to deal with, from lack of motivation to an unsuitable work environment. 

Encourage the teams to plan and execute their tasks and keep track of them. Online collaboration tools like Trello, Asana, or Google Drive will make your job easier.” 

Bonus Work from Home Tip: Keep Tabs on Employee Engagement 

“Since remote work can decrease your staff’s productivity, make sure you keep them motivated and engaged. Provide your team with all possible updates through communication channels. Occasional online games and food over a video chat can replace social integration and increase your team’s morale, so go for it too. 

And finally, try to monitor the shifting situation as closely as possible; apart from the one-on-ones mentioned before, set up an employee engagement survey, ie. Officevibe (if you don’t have one in place already) to see what the general mood within your remote workforce is. Upon receiving feedback – you can act accordingly.” 

managing remote teams carrie mckeegan
Name: Carrie McKeegan 
Position: CEO and Co-Founder 
Company: Greenback Expat Tax Services 
Industry: Finances and Accounting 
How Has the Transition to Managing Remote Teams Been for You as a Leader? 

“When transitioning to remote work, adopting a few key best practices and using the right software can help you maintain productivity and morale. First, cut back on email. Migrate to a tool that allows teammates to communicate seamlessly during the day and then turn off after work to avoid burnout.” 

Carrie’s Top Recommended Online Collaboration Tools for Remote Managers  

“We use a combined project management and communication tool called Podio. In one system, we can track tasks, manage projects, and chat.  

All remote teams need a highly secure file-sharing solution. While Google Drive is a convenient free option, the company could use your data to advertise to you. For alternatives, check out Box and Dropbox.”

Bonus Work from Home Tip: Update Your Standard Operating Procedures  

“The move to virtual work also presents the perfect opportunity to fine-tune your Standard Operating Procedures. Check existing procedures to identify and fill in gaps. Documenting processes will help you avoid mistakes and delays caused by employee absences, while boosting productivity at home.” 

managing remote teams corey berkey
Name: Corey Berkey 
Position: VP of Human Resources  
Company: JazzHR 
Industry: Human Resources
How Has the Transition to Managing Remote Teams Been for You as a Leader?  

“Here at JazzHR, our team was fully in-person up until the COVID-19 crisis. Our 80+ employees are now 100% remote and have made the transition smoothly, thanks to a number of tools, resources, and new processes.” 

Carrie’s Top Recommended Online Collaboration Tools for Remote Managers

“We rely on Slack for all daily communications and supplement with weekly video calls through RingCentral to maintain face-to-face interactions. From virtual happy hours to more formal strategic discussions, these meetings have allowed us to continue aligning across all departments despite being in different locations. We’ve also encouraged teams to text and call more often and set up more recurring video calls as needed.”

Bonus Work from Home Tip: Support Self-Care for Your Team 

“Besides professional support, we’ve also been intentional in making sure employees are caring for themselves outside of work. Since being remote is new for most of our team members, we’re encouraging work-life balance with simple suggestions like getting outside, reaching out to coworkers for virtual coffee meetings, and signing off when the workday is over.” 

managing remote teams kean graham
Name: Kean Graham 
Position: CEO 
Company:  MonetizeMore 
Industry: Tech 
How Has the Transition to Managing Remote Teams Been for You as a Leader? 

“On a weekday I’ll do three increments of two to four hours. In between, I’ll do something active or social so that when I start a new increment of work, I am refreshed and ready to go. 

I don’t work when people think I should work. I work when I am most alert, and I produce my best work (late at night).” 

Kean’s Top Recommended Online Collaboration Tools for Remote Managers 

“Below are some great tools to facilitate optimal remote work: 

Trello: This project management tool has a great visual Kanban interface that the team can refer to during calls to know the status of each project and agree on fair deadlines. Our team has been able to collaborate more easily using Trello. 
Doodle: This meeting time tracker allows team leads to suggest many times for several team members to have a remote meeting. It converts all the time zones and has an intuitive UI that makes it easy to choose the dates and times that everyone has agreed to. Our team is spread across many time zones, so using this tool to easily choose meeting times has been key. 
YaWare: An incredible time-tracking tool that takes random screenshots of a remote employee’s work session to make sure they are on-track and categorizes their work. This tool has made managing remote working seamless and possible on a large scale. 
Slack: Used for one-to-many non-private communication, announcements, and consolidation of communication/notifications. This has helped our team have more streamlined communication. 
Zoom: Used for video call meetings including the features for breakout rooms and real-time drawing. This has helped our team have more productive video meetings.” 

Bonus Work from Home Tip: Allow Yourself Morning Bliss 

“After you wake up, give yourself at least 30 minutes to not look at emails, Skype, or Slack. Otherwise, this can be a stressful way to start your day.” 

managing remote teams shayne sherman
Name: Shayne Sherman 
Position: CEO 
Company: TechLoris 
Industry: Tech 
How Has the Transition to Managing Remote Teams Been for You as a Leader?  

“This is a great question, especially right now. With more and more teams working remotely, it can be very difficult to retain control … Managing remote teams can be difficult but, with the right tips and tools, it’s possible to get even more out of your team when they’re at home.” 

Shayne’s Top Recommended Online Collaboration Tool for Remote Managers

“Slack has many integrations with software systems you’re probably already using. They also have intuitive video conferencing that stems from channels or private messages so they’re easy to start. They also feature annotation on their screen share, so you don’t spend half your time trying to tell the presenter where to click.” 

Bonus Work from Home Tip: Do Virtual Team Building Activities 

“Set aside time (during work hours) for some team building. Pick out some simple online games and activities that can be done without any specific peripherals and get your team online. This will allow them to work towards a common goal, express some light smack talk, and grow as a team without being physically together. You don’t need to do this every day but once every few weeks will help keep your team strong when they’re apart.” 

managing remote teams julie singh
Name: Julie Singh 
Position: Co-Founder 
Company: TripOutside 
Industry: Travel and Adventure 
How Has the Transition to Managing Remote Teams Been for You as a Leader?  

“As founders of TripOutside, we travel full time and our office is the outdoors! It only makes sense for our workforce to also be remote. Our company culture is open, flexible, and outdoors-motivated – so our team is also able to live and work where they like, hopefully, near outdoor adventure! … We have had incredible success hiring remote workers for our business, and we have some awesome individuals working for us as far away as India and the Philippines. Here are some of our tips for how to manage a remote workforce efficiently and effectively.”

Julie’s Top Recommended Online Collaboration Tools for Remote Managers 

“Communication is very important for managing remote workers. For weekly calls and daily messages, we choose apps like Skype and online chats. These avenues are great for short, quick communications like sending documents and links and answering questions. We find that online chat in particular is super helpful for quick questions and messages that don’t require a lot of explanation. 
Project management tools like Trello, Asana, and Basecamp allow us to clearly break down projects and tasks, and monitor the progress of each goal or task. All three have excellent free trial versions that allow you to track projects, comment on tasks, add labels to assignments, and receive reminders through email alerts. Our favorite of the three is Trello – we just love their features and the mobile app makes it easy to manage everything right from your phone. 

Sharing documents with our remote team is now made so much easier with Google Drive. We can create documents and spreadsheets that our team can also access, add instructions, and review completed work easily. 

Training and onboarding teams, as well as communicating issues and new projects – no matter how far they are – is very critical. For more extensive training and communication, we utilize video training frequently. Tools like Snagit and Loom allow us to create a video from our computers, with voice and screen “sharing” to show exactly what we are looking at and talk them through what we need. Adding subtitles to your videos can be a helpful way to provide additional clarity in your training videos and accessibility to those that might be hard of hearing. The videos are typically large, so we save them as shared documents in our Google Drive, so the team can access them as needed. We use this method for explaining new projects, and talking through site issues, projects, and tasks. Using SnagIt and similar video tools also helps you create more meaningful connections to each team member.” 

Bonus Work from Home Tip: Let Your Team Choose Their Own Hours 

“Keeping them motivated and engaged and letting them choose their own workspaces and hours has significantly contributed to the success of our company.” 

managing remote teams greg brookes
Name: Greg Brookes 
Position: Founder 
Company: Kettlebells Workouts  
Industry: Health and Wellness 
How Has the Transition to Managing Remote Teams Been for You as a Leader?  

“Working from home for the first time can be difficult for just about anyone, and even more so in these uncertain times.” 

Greg’s Top Recommended Online Collaboration Tools for Remote Managers 

“Zoom has basically become everyone’s new best friend, as it provides a wonderful way to still see each other face-to-face and conduct meetings, innovative sessions, and stay updated on tasks and projects. Plus, you can even use it on-the-go with the handy mobile app. And speaking of mobile, Slack is another great way to keep in contact. Imagine your regular social media messenger, but for business. Slack provides all that and more. You can create channels for every facet of your business too, so all of your messages stay organized, in case you need to refer to them again.” 

Bonus Work from Home Tip: Motivate Each Other 

“… One of the keys to being a successful remote worker is to keep motivated. This can sometimes be difficult, especially without the rest of your team physically there to help with brainstorming or getting creative. Thankfully, there are tools for that!”

managing remote teams alexandra zamolo
Name: Alexandra Zamolo 
Position: Head of Content Marketing 
Company: Beekeeper 
Industry: E-Communications 
How Has the Transition to Managing Remote Teams Been for You as a Leader? 

“These are unusual circumstances, where working remotely is quickly becoming the norm. But the good news is that many companies are finding that this is a viable, cost-effective solution, and they may even incorporate remote working on a permanent basis. However, you have to set a few methods in place to ensure overall success.” 

Alexandra’s Top Recommended Online Collaboration Tools for Remote Managers 

“Of course, you can use a regular Google Calendar for this, but a project management system like Asana will work for teams or even your own personal projects. Simply assign a task to yourself, so that you’ll receive reminders and the joy that comes from hitting that ‘complete’ button when you’re finished.” 

Bonus Work from Home Tip: Set a Schedule for Yourself 

“You have to set ‘office hours,’ or you’ll find yourself out in the garden all day and working until midnight, when you’re tired and more apt to make mistakes. Next, you’ll need to prioritize your tasks. I would suggest setting up your regular ‘expected’ work at the start of the week, leaving Thursday or Friday for those last-minute tasks that might come in, or for when additional work is needed on a project that you thought was complete.  

managing remote teams rick bowers
Name: Rick Bowers 
Position: President 
Company: TTI Success Insights 
Industry: Tech 
How Has the Transition to Managing Remote Teams Been for You as a Leader?  

“Teams who work remotely are establishing new team norms using virtual methods. Some teams, who are normally face to face, sometimes leave an open video conference room up all day. Others establish chat rooms. Slack and Mattermost are very popular for that. 

Other teams who are normally face to face and had more distractions than normal are becoming hyper productive. Working from home enables more time for deep thinking if one can minimize interruptions. 

The last factor, related to minimized interruptions, is that some interruptions are natural. Having a pet jump in your lap, dogs barking at the Amazon delivery guy during your conference call, or children asking questions during your video conference are all examples of normal interruptions during your working day. We are recognizing just how human we all are.” 

Rick’s Top Recommended Online Collaboration Tools for Remote Managers 

“Video conferencing tools. Resources like Zoom, 8×8, Jitsi, Facetime, and Google Hangout can all help to establish new norms. 

Real-time chat rooms. Slack or Mattermost are two tools that can help teams stay current with one another. Just watch out – these can also be highly distracting for deep thinking, so be sure to mute them when you have work to do.” 

Bonus Work from Home Tip: Get to Know Your Habits and Adjust Accordingly 

“Self-improvement resources. Resources like the personalized working from home report can help you adjust your remote working preferences for success. Know yourself, be aware of others, and adjust accordingly.” 

managing remote teams angela ash
Name: Angela Ash 
Position: Content Writer 
Company: Flow SEO 
Industry: SEO Services 
How Has the Transition to Managing Remote Teams Been for You as a Leader?  

“After working for years in an office environment, I made the switch to work on a 100% remote basis, and I’ve never looked back. However, with the current crisis, it’s affected even seasoned work-from-home team members. While our roles may stay the same, the manner in which we deal with clients has changed. As many clients are also turning to remote work, they are adopting new Standard Operating Procedures, which can alter the way you’ve been doing business for years.” 

Angela’s Top Recommended Online Collaboration Tools for Remote Managers 

“With many budgets tightening during this time, I’ve found it very helpful to make use of a time-tracking tool – just to make sure to have the proper documentation to provide to clients who may have time-management questions. There are several that you can utilize, such as Toggl and Clockify. This can also help you to see, at a glance, the hours that you typically spend each week. This can be highly beneficial when planning your workflow for the month and beyond.”  

Bonus Work from Home Tip: Be Flexible and Adapt as You Go  

“The key here is adaptation. When working remotely, it’s important to be able to pivot on a dime, illustrating that you can be flexible and innovative to ensure that your clients feel appreciated and, ultimately, understood.” 

managing remote teams datis mohsenipour
Name: Datis Mohsenipour 
Position: Director of Marketing 
Company: Outback Team Building & Training 
Industry: Professional Development 
How Has the Transition to Managing Remote Teams Been for You as a Leader?  

“The transition has been rather easy for my team, because we have been working remotely in a part-time capacity for the past couple of years. Switching to full-time didn’t present any problems. I would like to share a tip for first-time remote managers and leaders: Avoid becoming a ‘micromanager’ at all costs.  

Leaders who aren’t used to managing a remote team may feel the sudden urge to constantly check in on the progress of their team or doubt that their employees are working the hours they are committed to working. Given the current state of the economy and mandated social distancing, it’s likely that most teams are currently experiencing low morale and feeling disconnected. Don’t drag the morale down even further by (virtually) breathing down their necks.” 

Datis’ Top Recommended Online Collaboration Tools for Remote Managers 

“Have a solid project management process in place. At Outback, we use Smartsheet for project management. Each of my team members has a to-do-list, as well as a performance agreement document in Smartsheet where all their tasks and projects are housed. This allows me to check in on the progress of their tasks without breathing down their necks and gives me the opportunity to flag a project or task with them if it looks like it won’t be completed by the agreed upon date. We’re also able to set alerts that notify myself and my team members if a project they are tasked with is approaching its due date but still has a status of ‘Not Started.’ 

We also schedule time once a week via Zoom (typically on Fridays) to discuss the tasks that were completed within the week, any roadblocks that are present for future tasks, and what tasks they should be prioritizing for the coming week.” 

Bonus Work from Home Tip: Put Trust in Your Team 

“This is something you should be doing regardless of whether or not they are working remotely. If you don’t trust your staff, why are they still working for you? Most people – myself included – actually work harder from home. I typically work much longer hours when working remotely.”

managing remote teams crystal huang
Name: Crystal Huang
Position: CEO
Company: ProSky
Industry: Recruitment and Development 
How Has the Transition to Managing Remote Teams Been for You as a Leader?  

“There are many changes as in-office teams transition to working remotely. Getting rid of at-home distractions and becoming accustomed to a flexible work schedule can be a big challenge for some. We recommend training employees to set clear goals they want to complete each day and set aside specific times to work undisturbed.”

Crystal’s Top Recommended Online Collaboration Tools for Remote Managers 

“Project or task management software is a must! Platforms like Asana or Trello that allow teams to collaborate more effectively and see tasks, timelines, due dates, etc. are vital to helping remote workers work together. Other important tools to have are file storage software and audio/video communication software so that teams can share files and communicate easily.” 

Bonus Work from Home Tip: Create and Communicate a Prioritization System

“At ProSky, we recommend employees focus on no more than three tasks at once. We organize our tasks into categories like Priority, Currently Working On, Upcoming, To Do, and Backburner, and set our own due dates. Having a collaboration meeting at least once a week so that leaders can discuss tasks and give advice going forward is also very important.”

Virtual Team Building and Training for Remote Workers

managing remote teams image 1

COVID-19 has caused inescapable anxiety and isolation for many people around the world. Now more than ever, it’s so important to keep your team connected, engaged, and motivated. 

To help businesses continue to support their employees remotely, Outback offers over 20 virtual team building, training, and coaching solutions.  

3 Virtual Team Building Activities 

Using the video communications platform, Zoom, and our smartphone app, we’ll connect your employees all at once, regardless of their location. You can either host the activity yourself or have a professional event coordinator virtually run it for you.  

Here are the three activities you can choose from: 

  • Clue Murder Mystery: Can your group solve who had the means, motive, and opportunity to commit a deadly crime?   
  • Code BreakPut your heads together no matter where you’re located to solve puzzles, riddles, and trivia in this team building competition.   
  • Game Show Extravaganza: Be a part of your own game show as you and your coworkers tackle trivia questions spanning pop culture, geography, sports, world history, and more. 
20+ Training and Coaching Solutions 

All training and coaching programs are now available by virtual instruction. Groups or individual participants can log in to the video communications platform, Zoom, from multiple locations to connect with one of our experienced facilitators.  

Some of our top-recommended programs include:   

Although not a new concept for many corporate groups, transitioning entire departments to full-time remote work can present many challenges. But with the proper collaboration tools and management techniques, you and your team can productively work from home. 

How has your organization handled the shift to telecommuting? Share your experience or any tips you may have in the comments below.

Learn More About Discounted Virtual Solutions for Your Group

For more information about how your group can take part in a virtual team building, training, or coaching solution, reach out to our Employee Engagement Consultants.


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Team Leader
2 years ago

You need to have your goals and objectives well defined beforehand and then plan the workshop. Otherwise, it would be just a waste of time and money. It is better to be well prepared.

William Lock Hart
1 year ago

Well Covid-19 Disrupted many businesses but online advertising was the one boosted.