As a remote team leader, you need to ensure that your staff is productive and hitting team goals. That requires team leadership skills and a sound system of management in place to ensure your staff can operate independently.

This guide will discuss five strategies you can apply to help you track the performance of your remote team and get the best from your staff. You’ll learn how to better foster team spirit, use appropriate technology to improve inter-team communication, and more. 

1. Use technology for better communication

Effective communication is at the heart of successful remote team operations. You need a system to foster communication between team members and channels for communicating one-to-one with individuals.

One of the first things you should do is define the primary communication channel for inter-team communication. Most remote teams will use a tool like Slack for instant messaging.

You can have Slack channels for general chats. It’s good to connect with people directly and chat. You can do this through video calls or using a Voice Over IP app or platform (like WhatsApp, etc.). Alongside these communication channels, you’ll also want a shared workspace.

Using an online project management platform like Monday, Trello, or something similar will help your team manage projects and deliverables. You can use these platforms to create a knowledge base for your team as well. A good knowledge base will help you manage frequently asked questions and should improve overall team productivity.

The type of work a remote team does and the remote work culture influences how a team communicates. The technology you choose should complement your team’s style of communication. 

2. Schedule check-ins

Buffer releases a State of remote work report every year. For 2020 and 2021, difficulty with communication and loneliness are in the top three reported issues by remote workers. 

A graph from one of Buffer's studies in 2021.

That feeling of isolation is an issue for people working remotely. A good team leader will recognize this and put in place systems to deal with the issue.

Scheduling check-ins with your remote team will help you create that space for your team to connect. There are no limitations on how to lead scheduled check-ins. It all comes down to your team’s needs.

The following are just some of the things you can do and the benefits they provide.

  • Team engagement time: Check-ins can be a time to encourage your team to engage with each other, share work-related obstacles and successes. That connection can reinforce the feeling of belonging to a team.
  • Mental well-being check-in: Check-ins are a perfect way to give your team a platform to speak about their issues. They can speak on challenges they face and things they want to be addressed where employee mental well-being is concerned. 
  • Objectives and key results: Use check-ins to track team productivity against annual targets by tracking your OKR. You can do this for the team as a whole and individuals on the team.

You should do regular team and individual check-ins. These quick meetings put human faces to the digital personas remote workers engage with daily as part of their work. It’s good for the team and the individual.

3. Encourage your team to socialize virtually

According to a study by Harvard Business Review of 1l100 people, remote workers discovered that remote workers feel the most shunned and left out. Encouraging your team to socialize with each other can counter isolation.

There are many different virtual socialization activities your team can do. Setting aside time for your team to connect and just have fun will help people unwind, relax, and get to know each other as more than mere colleagues. Virtual team building sessions, such as escape games, can also reveal your team members’ personalities and build their character.

An image of a virtual team video conference.

You need to make this a part of your team’s routine because there is no coffee machine for people to gather around and just chat in the remote environment. For example, you could do the last team-building activity on Friday afternoon. That makes for a great way to end the working week on a positive note and kick off a weekend of rest and relaxation.

4. Track employee productivity & offer timely feedback

With a good internet connection, you can work from almost anywhere at any time of day. You can take advantage of this as a team leader. For example, you could have a flexible working hour policy. You can start your day between 8-10 am and finish between 4-6 pm.

People who like to start working early or finish that bit later will appreciate that flexibility. It could even make your team more productive.

Of course, you shouldn’t just assume that your team is productive. You need to measure productivity. One way to do this is to set OKR for teams and individuals. Essentially, you define how you will achieve business objectives. Then, you break down the tasks you’ll need to do into quarterly, monthly, and weekly targets across departments and individuals.

The OKR system is used by many of the most successful businesses. You can read more about how Google uses OKR to achieve its business goals in this article.

Another good practice is to track how long it takes to complete routine tasks. For example, you might know from your work with freelance writers that it takes approximately three hours to write a 1,500-word article. You can then use that as a baseline metric for assessing individual productivity.

Finally, you can use time tracking software to measure productivity. Time tracking software is one of the most effective ways for tracking productivity, but it’s also the most invasive. You’ll need to decide if using such software fits with how you want to run your team.

5. Build trust with the team

Relationships thrive on trust. A professional relationship between a team leader and an employee is no different. 

Something that moves company objectives forward is strong remote team collaboration and coordination. Successfully doing this depends on the level of trust between everyone involved. The higher the trust, the easier it is to depend on each other.

Transparency is easily an essential part of building trust. It takes form when you share information with your team and consistently act on your promised word. For instance, if you decide to hire another content writer, you need to inform your team about it beforehand. If you tell them that employees who have perfect attendance in meetings will qualify for an incentive, you should ensure that they receive their reward.

A working relationship built on trust can allow you the space to rely on your team to do their work and fulfill their committed work responsibilities with or without your presence. That’s especially important for remote teams because, most of the time, you don’t have any way of directly checking their attendance, output, and working habits. 

Since honest conversations usually happen in safe spaces built on trust, trust can also impact the overall communication you have with your team.  

In closing

Remote work has become a fact of life for many businesses. Thanks to remote work practices, businesses can hire the best talent from anywhere in the world and offer their employees more flexibility. That’s a great thing for businesses.

The shift to remote work does cause challenges, too. This guide discussed five tips regarding remote team leadership, alongside strategies for tracking team performance. We discussed the importance of establishing an effective system for communication, the importance of staff check-ins, and more.

Implementing these tips should boost team productivity. You’ll also be able to track how your team members perform and quickly identify any issues you need to address.