5 Tips to Successfully Manage a Remote Team

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Working from home is a big draw for people in IT and millennials especially, and IT is one of the industries where work-from-home opportunities are expanding—right alongside the military and fin-tech. The perk is so popular programmers and security experts are even jumping ship to companies that offer more flexible work options.

The number of companies offering work from home options has tripled in the last 10 years, she said. People like working from home because it reduces commute time and helps them strike a better work-life balance.

“Thirty-seven percent of people report they’d change jobs in exchange for working a little bit of the time away from the office,” said Laura Bernardin Janusek, presenting her experience and tips at the Women in Tech Summit (WITS) in Chicago. Employers are finding benefits from offering work from home options, too, reporting increased productivity and savings on real estate.

“This is my reality every day,” said Janusek, who develops software solutions at Modern Teacher and manages an entirely remote team, with the CTO in LA, a senior developer in Seattle and the team of developers in Guadalajara. “It’s something that I know can work really well.”

Most companies leave work-from-home policies to the discretion of managers, Janusek said, so if you’re managing remote teams or thinking about trying them out, here are five tips to managing successful remote teams.

Make Daily Calls
“The No. 1 important thing is getting in sync with your team,” Janusek said. She recommends a quick phone call each day to see what everyone’s working on, where people might be stuck and what you can do to help. It’s the kind of daily check-in used by scrum-style Agile tech teams, sometimes called a standup. For remote teams, this practice helps keep everyone on task every single day.

“Time zones can make it a challenge, but do a daily call,” she said. “Use that call to get on the same page with how your team is going to communicate after that daily call, whether it’s Slack, through a quick ping or in a chat.”

Turn on Your Webcam
When you’re doing that daily group call, get some face time in. “It’s a chance for you to see each other’s faces and see that you are people, not just usernames. Turn your webcam on or do video calls, it’s good for relationship building,” she said.

Track Team Productivity
There’s a misconception remote teams aren’t as productive, but you can upend that myth for your team by tracking metrics, production and timelines with programs like Trello and Jira.

“Have a visual of who is working on each thing and make it transparent,” she said. “You can track how many items you’re getting done each week, and even include a friendly competition element.”

Tracking productivity will also help you get away from watching the clock. “If you’re managing remote teams, you’ve got to start warming up to the idea that not everyone’s schedule is 9 to 5,” Janusek said. “The whole concept is related to factory workers, and companies that could only afford to keep the lights on from 9 to 5.”

Remote working disrupts that 9-to-5 construct, leaving you free to stay focused on productivity.

Get Playful  
Celebrate big and little milestones, and give a shout-out when somebody has a baby, gets married or hits a big work milestone—you might not be in the same room but you can still celebrate together.

“Memes and gifs are fun,” she said. “We do a Fitbit challenge, too, and put it on a live online leaderboard. It adds some competitive playfulness to work on stuff that isn’t day to day job stuff.” 

Connect in Real Life  
It’s good to have some in-person touchpoints for relationship building, said Janusek. “We have a WeWork space and try to have the people who live in Chicago come in on Thursdays,” she said. “It’s not mandatory, but when you can pull it off and get a few people together, it’s always a good idea.”

If you decide to meet annually, sell your management team on meeting up at an industry event, where you can hold planning meetings on or off the show floor. “It’s good for annual planning, good for business and it’s good for remote relationships,” Janusek said. 

Use events like CompTIA ChannelCon to connect with your remote team as well as the rest of the IT industry. Register now for this year’s event in Washington, D.C., set for July 31 through August 2.

Explore ChannelCon's IT Pro Track, which includes opportunities to earn CEUs, and register now.  CompTIA AITP members receive 10% off registration.