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Managing a team remotely – how to be an inspiring leader in these challenging times.


    Working from home has traditionally been to used as a way to increase flexibility, boost morale and engagement and normally applied to individual team members, however when it is mandated that whole teams work remotely, how do you successfully manage your team and continue to inspire them remotely?

    Different times need different ways of performing work, so different ways of managing is going to be required as well. Some of the methods you may have used in the workplace may not necessarily work when managing team members remotely.

    Challenges facing managers

    Many managers may not have managed teams remotely before and may need to change their way of thinking, particularly when they are not able to see their team members sitting at their desks on a day-to-day basis. Managers may need to change their mindset and focus more on productivity versus hours worked and that can be one of the biggest challenges.

    Other challenges when managing remotely can be:

    1. Communication – lack of or too much? There is a fine line between communicating effectively and being a micro-manager.
    2. No clear roles or undefined tasks – your team need to know exactly who is responsible to deliver each task. Again, clear communication is required.
    3. Setting timeframes/deadlines – always ensure your team know their work is due.
    4. Lack of cohesion within the team – how do you make everyone feel part of the team?

    How do you communicate effectively without becoming a micro-manager?

    Communication is key when it comes to managing remotely and when done correctly will help your team remain focussed.

    While you may have checked in numerous times during the day when everyone was working in the office, this could quite quickly become annoying and may make your team members feel they are being micromanaged when working remotely.

    This may be difficult, but managers need to turn the responsibility for checking in over to their team members. Working remotely has an expectation of autonomy and constant check ins will make your team members feel that you don’t trust them, or you’re concerned that they can’t do the work.

    A good way to manage this is to set up milestones and schedule meetings so that they can provide you with updates on where they are at. This will help keep your team members focussed and reassures you as the manager that the work is ticking along.

    Make sure that your team does know that you are available at any time to answer any questions if they need help. Instant messaging is good for asking a simple question, while a telephone conversation may be needed when a team member is stuck and not sure what direction to go in. They need to be assured that you are there for them when needed.

    Deadlines are still important

    With your team members working to their own schedules, it is very important to ensure they still stick to any set deadlines. Your team members need to be given enough time to complete their tasks, but they also need to know that it is still important that they are completed on time.

    Make team meetings fun

    Schedule regular team meetings and encourage your team to come up with different themes – whether it’s a fun hat, silly tie or scarf, just something fun to get them thinking differently.

    Let them chat together for the first part of the meeting – don’t forget that the level of normal engagement between team members won’t be like it was in the work place, so encourage them to have an informal chat before you discuss work.

    Being adaptable

    It is difficult to get the balance right when managing remote teams, however if managers are mindful of these issues and adjust their management styles accordingly, productivity shouldn’t suffer from teams working remotely.

    HBA Consulting specialises in the professional advice and assistance on Human Resource Management , Organisational Design and Industrial Relations matters. Contact us today if you need assistance with coaching or mentoring for managers with teams working remotely.


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