Managing your remote team

Coronavirus presents unprecedented challenges to business. At OpenSesame, we are a fully distributed team with the option for employees to work from home. As a precaution, effective 13 March 2020 though, all employees are working from home and practicing social distancing. Even though some employees have experience with remote team members, working with an entirely remote team is a learning curve for most organizations including ours.

If your company has sent employees to to work remotely, you already know this is an adjustment. If you manage a team, you’ll see that the usual day-to-day interactions in the break room, at the coffee machine, or passing in the hallway are gone, and that you and your coworkers may be feeling a bit disconnected. Fortunately, there are many strategies to keep morale high and reinforce team cohesiveness with a distributed workforce. It just takes a bit of planning. Here are a few tips to help managers strengthen their remote teams.

Use video chat

While you can check-in via email, send an instant message or attend a meeting on the phone, nothing beats the ability to see your co-workers face-to-face in a video chat. Seeing facial expressions, hand gestures and, even your co-workers’ home office and cats or family members helps humanize conversations and avoid misunderstandings that can occur in a text message or over the phone.

Create a routine

In the office, social interactions happen without planning. You can stop at a co-worker’s desk as you get coffee or join a group in the lunchroom for a meal. Working remotely requires more intentionality about creating daily touchpoints for you and your team. Here’s a simple schedule of daily check-ins to make sure you stay connected:

  • Monday: Schedule a half-hour weekly kick-off meeting where each person shares something from their weekend, presents their goal for the week, and notes any “roadblocks” they may need help with. 
  • Team meeting: If you’ve already been running weekly team meetings, keep them up. With less spontaneous moments to share information, the team meeting is important to make sure everyone’s on the same page. 
  • Friday: Wrap up with a half-hour review session. Team members share their week. Did they meet their goal for the week? Sharing successes and failures within your team builds trust and promotes growth and continual improvement. 
  • Daily standups: For the 2 other days of the week, keep the communication going with a 10 minute standup. In this quick check-in, go around the virtual room and ask each person what they accomplished the day before and what they’re working on today.
  • One-on-ones: If you don’t yet do weekly one-on-one meetings with each of your direct reports, now is the time to start. These meetings provide support for your direct and build trust. 
Make space for spontaneous team conversations

Team messaging apps like Slack, Microsoft Teams, or Google Hangouts Chat are part of many company cultures, even for teams that work in the same office. But for remote teams, providing a way to quickly share information, make a joke, show pictures of your dog or just say hi is crucial to keeping a team excited and connected. Just keep it professional and appropriate. 

Respect time 

Lots of communication is important for a distributed team to stay connected. But, it is also necessary  for team members to go into “heads-down” mode to get work done. The key is to communicate this clearly. For example, a note to teammates “Hey team, I’ve got to wrap up this report by noon, so I’m turning off Slack and email until then. If it’s urgent, text my phone.”

Without the natural interactions that happen throughout the day in an office, managing a remote team can be challenging. However, by putting together a schedule, providing lots of opportunities for interaction, and making sure you and your team get to see each other daily, you can keep your team strong, connected and productive. 

We’ve curated a list of courses for organizations to help employees excel working from home and also staying safe and productive. These courses are made available as a public service, free of charge through 15 May 2020. Please use them to help your employees, customers, partners, and families reduce their exposure and spread of the virus. Immediate education and containment are key to saving lives.

Sign up for these free courses at