Thanks to advancements in technology, the demand for remote workers continues to grow. Some simply need to telecommute part of the week in order to better manage life and work needs. Others work from anywhere in the world, offering unique skill sets that companies can leverage. Firms who need specific programming languages or graphic design skills, for instance, can hire someone, regardless of region, making it easier to get top-tier talent.
But managing fully remote teams requires a slightly different skill set. You can’t wander by a desk to touch base and get a feel for how your employees are doing, nor can you always expect them to keep work hours that match yours. Communication between team leads and staff is crucial to avoid wasting time and creating frustrations.
In order to help highlight issues before they become real problems, I asked members of Young Entrepreneur Council this question:
What one mistake should be avoided when managing a remote team?
Their best answers are below:
1. Create an onboarding process
Establishing an onboarding process can be challenging for a virtual workforce, but it is essential when it comes to integrating new hires and building a positive company culture. Create online presentations, training courses and interactive content, such as videos and images. You can also schedule a Skype meeting to give your remote team a sense of real-time connection with their colleagues. – Dave Nevogt, Hubstaff.com
2. Help remote workers establish frameworks for routines
Too many entrepreneurs expect remote workers to be great self-managers. But, in reality, most of them need help in establishing the right framework for their work routine. This is why you need to set up the workflow and clearly define goals and ways to track these goals. The lack of frequent communication usually amplifies the absence of that framework and causes frustration on both sides. – Artur Kiulian, Colab
3. Stay aware of time zone differences
If you have employees scattered across the country or if you are the one who is away, be aware of what time it is where they are. That will affect their deadlines and different work events, such as conference calls. Schedule these for times that work for everyone. It’s a small detail, but it makes a big difference. – Colbey Pfund, LFNT Distribution
4. Consider tax laws when hiring remotely
When you create a remote workforce within the U.S., you need to realize that there are tax implications when hiring across various states. If these team members will be considered employees, some states will require that you report — and pay — additional corporate income tax in their state. Also, if you sell a product, you will have to collect sales tax in each state your employees work from. – Diego Orjuela, Cables & Sensors
5. Focus on the important things
Your primary concern should be that goals and targets are being met. Trusting and validating employee work through online tools that a remote employee is doing right by you and customers will quickly lead to a productive working relationship. I gave up on caring where remote employees choose to work a long time ago, as long as our company’s performance standards are maintained. – Tim Maliyil, AlertBoot
6. Avoid micromanaging
When you have a remote team, the natural instinct is to micromanage their daily tasks to make sure nothing is falling through the cracks. However, I find constant check-ins or requests for updates to be counterproductive. Create a system that allows for daily or weekly check-ins and updates but doesn’t distract from their workflow. – Leila Lewis, Be Inspired PR
7. Keep remote staff connected to daily life and conversations
Remote team members are as much a part of the company as onsite workers. Managers should make an effort to keep them connected with the life of the company and the conversations that shape the team’s work. I like to have a short daily meeting with remote workers and frequent team meetings that bring together remote and onsite workers. – Justin Blanchard, ServerMania Inc.
8. Don’t rely too much on email
When managing remotely, it is important to check in with your team, and I suggest doing so via the phone or video chat. Sending emails can be effective, but they make it difficult to have an open discussion. Calling in allows my team and I to freely discuss everything that is going on and any concerns they may have. Being on the same page is essential to success while working remotely. – Abhilash Patel, Abhilash.co
9. Regularly hold video calls
Most communication happens non-verbally. If you are not doing video calls, you will not be able to communicate and learn enough about your team. Video calls will provide visual clues on what someone thinks of you and your idea. Several free tools are available, like Skype and Google Hangout, to make it easier. Reaction and clues that you see on a video call can help you fix issues for your remote team. – Piyush Jain, SIMpalm
10. Hold a weekly meeting
Weekly staff meetings are important, especially when working with a remote team. Our staff is spread throughout the globe, and having one set call a week helps us all stay on track. The meetings help give a sense of accountability, with each team member knowing what they are responsible for and what they need to get done. – Brian David Crane, Caller Smart Inc.
11. Make sure there’s successful collaboration across cultures
Increasing internet speeds combined with the advent of cheap collaboration tools means that you now have the ability to hire or be hired by anyone in the world. But technical ease does not translate into a sudden ability to work successfully across cultures. If you take the time to understand the right way to leverage global talent versus expecting business as usual, you will reap the benefits. – Patrick Linton, Bolton Remote
12. Watch out for people looking to work the system
I’ve worked with over 100 remote freelancers during the past five years and only two of them have accepted the job and outsourced it to a friend without transparency. Both times, the quality was low and it caused confusion with the rest of my team. In general, it slowed down our projects. It’s a rare occurrence, but one that needs to be squashed the second it surfaces. – Ajay Paghdal, OutreachMama
13. Offer opportunities for growth
14. Avoid being too casual
Your remote team is there to work and they are looking to you for direction. That means providing a formal agreement, set of roles and responsibilities, and clear expectations. If you make it too casual, they will get frustrated by the constant changes and inability to know what they are supposed to be doing. – Zach Binder, Ipseity Inc
15. Recognize that the system won’t work for everyone
Working remotely is not for everyone. There is a lot of opportunity for distraction, and your teammates must be top-notch communicators to thrive. The easiest mistake to be made managing a remote team is not sticking to clearly defined and mutually agreed upon daily goals. We’ve adopted the hybrid model for our full-time team members: Two days in office, three at home. – Meghan Larson, Adistry
This post is part of our contributor series. The views expressed are the author's own and not necessarily shared by TNW.