Leading remote teams – challenges of managing remote employees


Suddenly everyone is working in the home office? How to control your team? In order to have the ability to lead distant teams, not just the technology has to work flawlessly.

Due to the corona virus, many supervisors prescribe home offices for their employees and themselves. But leading remote teams has many challenges.

However, how can you direct a group from a distance? And how can you manage remote teams successfully?


Here is the managing remote workers toolkit 2020 – 8 tips


Because of the corona virus, many companies are now sending their employees to the home office.

And some managers are creating their first experiences with what it is like to lead a team that is at different locations.

But it can work very well!


Maybe my experience will help you:


  1. Leadership should be your top priority


My most important experience of the past couple of years: If you direct from a distance, you need to see leadership as your main endeavor.

I want very close contact for my team: For instance, I need to know quite precisely what my workers are good at and what they enjoy doing.


Because if you work alone in your house office, you need to be satisfied with the work itself. After all, there’s no lunch break and no snacks in the tea kitchen.

Because I really don’t see anybody sitting annoyed in front of the desk and I do not hear anyone cursing about a job.

Even if your workers only work in their home office for a limited period, I suggest calling individual colleagues regularly to inquire how things are moving.


  1. Set your mind to the idea that it functions


Many managers believe that they need to be on-site themselves. And there are good reasons for this: You no longer can see who is working and how they are working.

You also can’t see how the mood in the group is, and who is walking around the hall in a bad mood.

Meetings become more difficult if you can not work with post-its and flipcharts and may only find the facial expressions of others by means of a video picture at most.

But I know from my own experience: It works anyway.

But much will depend on your own mindset. If you are positive about working from home and making it a success you can convey that idea also to your team.

On the other hand, if you are negative on remote work or not convinced yourself that it works, you will not be able to motivate your team to think that way.

It’s possible to communicate closely despite the distance. But it’s important to create a sense of unity as a team.

If you have that close unity within your team you have a great foundation to even have tough conversations on the telephone.


  1. Ensure clear structures


Obviously, it is also vital in teams that work together online, it must be clear who has to do what and by when.  It must clear to everyone who decides exactly what to to do. And who’s responsible for what.

Clear structures are of course always important to lead a team. But with remote working teams, reputable agreements and clear obligations become even more important.

This is truly is crucial. Otherwise, you might not even realize that a job has fallen through.

In our team, two programs help us to do this:

  • Firstly, we have a document in which our tasks and planning progress is outlined and a clear structure of who is responsible for which tasks in each week.
  • Second, we work with Microsoft To-Do. Here, everybody has a precise summary of what they have to do and by when.


Both tools are in the cloud. So all colleagues can get them and watch live if anything else changes. And gives everyone a clear understanding and sense that the team is still working together. That also counteracts the sense of loneliness for each remote worker.


  1. Help your workers manage themselves


Not every fantastic worker can also be good at working from home.

On the other hand, you will find colleagues who find it difficult to focus. After all, you will find an unbelievable number of distractions lurking at the home office: the refrigerator, the laundry, the parcel carrier, and countless other distractions.

A fixed structure can help.

We begin about each working day using a short telephone conference in which everyone says what they’re doing at the moment. That also gives everyone the opportunity to get support to finish the task in time.

This way even a worker who has difficulties adapting to the new situation may not feel overwhelmed and left alone.

When giving everyone the opportunity to get support from others in the team without giving the impressing of failure will strengthen the team as a whole.

Some coworkers also have their lunch break in their calendars. If at all possible have a share in this.

BUT: Resist the urge to talk about job-related things during this time! This is free time and the team members need to feel that.

Even if some highly motivated ones in your team want to talk about work issues, ask him kindly to contact you after the break.


  1. Set up a virtual workplace


Those who work in a home office quickly feel lonely and cut off from communication. Accordingly, in my opinion, every remote team needs a team chat.

Even if your team works remotely with each other for a very limited time, it may be worthwhile to introduce a conversation app.

We work together with the open-source alternative Rocket:Chat. Of course, there are countless others as well. One of the most know apps is WhatsApp or Slack. At least at the basic edition, these apps are free.

Her is how we use it in our remote office:

We log in when we start in the morning. Here we share when we’ve just seen something funny on the internet. Here we coordinate our projects.

Additionally, this is where everybody shows off briefly when they leave for their lunch break – since there is nothing more annoying than needing to reach someone who’s not even there.


Within our chat, we write several hundred messages daily. Two of my employees have sent each other over 8000 messages in a few months.

Does that frighten me? On the contrary. In a distant team, the possibilities for misunderstandings increase. All of a sudden, about two of these are working on the same task – without realizing it.

Communication becomes a lot more significant, as it doesn’t occur automatically.

So make good use of a group chat and encourage everyone to use it frequently. Also, allow a bit chit chat here – just how it would happen also when everyone would be together in the office.


  1. Allow your workers to shoot chat breaks


That idea of a group chat certainly also has it’s a downside. If a message pops up continuously concentrated work is not easy.

It’s therefore important that nobody is required to be permanently available via the chat.

Anyone who wants to concentrate for an hour or 2 logs off temporarily. if there is an urgent need to contact him it is still possible to call him.


  1. Create clear rules


How fast should coworkers respond to your message? Is it okay to go shopping in the day and work more hours in the evening? Do colleagues that are taking a break need to log off?

That may sound trivial. But if these questions are not clarified, it may lead to frustration and misunderstandings. So, clear rules are essential.


  1. Acquire the necessary tools


If you send your staff to the home office at short notice because of the coronavirus, you hardly have time to introduce new applications and tools at precisely the exact same time.

On the flip side, it is also clear: When there are not any practical tools, that allow everyone to work efficiently, no cooperation is possible.

It’s not always necessary to buy expensive equipment and software. Often times the good and clever use of free tools and office software are enough.

The key is to make clear how to use these tools as a team and to establishes rules on how to use them, who shud use them, and how.


These tools are, in my view, indispensable for more efficiency in the office:


  • A video conferencing tool (we use two of these: GoToMeeting and Jitsi. Jitsi is an integral part of our messenger Rocket:Chat and free of charge)
  • A messenger (as an example Slack or Rocket:Chat)
  • A software for task management (by way of instance Trello or Microsoft To Do)
  • A VPN access to access the business server