Home Blog Managing Remote Teams: Best Practices for Collaboration and Productivity

Managing Remote Teams: Best Practices for Collaboration and Productivity

August 03, 2023
Male manager sits on a laptop at the kitchen table while communicating with team.

The COVID-19 pandemic has permanently altered the workplace landscape. According to WFH Research, the percentage of workers with hybrid or remote work arrangements increased from 4.7% to 27.2% between 2019 and 2023.1 Remote teams enjoy many advantages, such as a nonexistent commute, reduced gas and lunch expenses, and increased flexibility.2

However, remote work also poses unique challenges for leaders and managers. A 2023 survey by the Harvard Business Review found that approximately 30% of managers believe remote workers are less productive than in-person employees.3 Additionally, a 2021 study suggests that remote work may cause collaboration to become more static and siloed.4

Read to learn about strategies you can use to overcome these challenges and manage remote teams effectively.

Methods To Promote Collaboration in Virtual Teams

Collaboration plays an essential role in many business operations. According to a study by the career website Zippia, top-performing workers spend 45% of their work time collaborating with other employees.5 However, remote teams may find it more challenging to work on projects and socialize with coworkers. The following three strategies can encourage more productive collaboration in virtual work environments.

Encourage Effective Communication

An in-person worker often has many spontaneous opportunities to communicate with their colleagues throughout the workday. They might chat with a coworker about a project while grabbing a coffee from the employee kitchen or stop by a colleague’s office to deliver a quick status update. These informal exchanges help people stay in touch and develop professional relationships.

By contrast, a 2021 study found that remote workers primarily communicate with colleagues through email, instant messages, and pre-scheduled virtual meetings. As a result, they develop fewer social ties and spend less time collaborating overall.4

Managers can promote effective communication and collaboration among remote workers by:6

  • Scheduling frequent synchronous team meetings
  • Establishing weekly collaboration sessions between team members
  • Using break-out rooms to allow workers to collaborate and socialize during virtual meetings
  • Defining communication etiquette
  • Asking team members to work together at the beginning of every project to establish shared goals, expectations, and processes
  • Responding quickly to employee messages to help them feel supported

Implement Remote Work Tools

The videoconferencing platform Zoom became a household name after it exploded in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic. This tool fosters collaboration and communication by allowing remote workers to meet online for synchronous video calls.7 However, Zoom isn’t the only technology you can use to achieve these goals.

Incorporating remote work tools into your daily operations has many benefits. This technology makes it easier for virtual teams to collaborate on projects and share information.8 It also reduces the risk of miscommunication and workplace silos.4

Other examples of innovative remote work tools include:8

  • Microsoft Teams: This tool has chat, videoconferencing, and file-sharing capabilities
  • Slack: This platform allows team members to send each other direct messages and have verbal conversations in shared channels
  • HubSpot Meetings: This scheduling tool lets employees share their calendars and schedule virtual meetings with each other
  • Asana: This project management platform enables teams to organize projects, track progress, and share updates
  • Google Drive: Team members can share, store, and co-edit files

Plan Team Building Activities

According to GitLab’s 2021 Remote Work Report, 40% of remote workers believe participating in social activities helps them feel more connected at work.9

Managers can use a variety of fun virtual team-building activities to strengthen their employees’ relationships and foster collaboration, such as:10

  • Trivia competitions
  • Virtual coffee meetings or happy hours
  • Cutest pet or child photo competitions
  • Multiplayer video gaming
  • Virtual escape rooms
  • Virtual cookie decorating or cooking classes
  • Routine celebrations of personal and professional milestones, as well as holidays and team members' birthdays

Strategies To Boost Productivity for Remote Teams

Data from Gitlab’s 2021 Remote Work Report shows that 42% of employees believe remote work has increased productivity.9 However, Microsoft’s 2022 Work Trend Index Special Report found that 85% of business leaders lack confidence in their hybrid and remote workers’ performance.11 The following techniques can increase efficiency and help managers trust their teams.

Project Management

Managing complex projects can feel more challenging when team members work in different locations. Leaders may find it difficult to ensure that projects progress at a steady pace and that all team members contribute fairly.

Effective project management techniques can boost productivity for virtual teams. Helpful strategies include:12

  • Resisting the urge to micromanage remote employees and instead trusting them to do their jobs
  • Giving workers the flexibility to complete work on their own schedules
  • Eliminating redundant or unnecessary meetings that waste workers’ time
  • Informally checking in with teams to monitor progress
  • Empowering workers to make decisions

Time Management

According to a 2022 study, time management behaviors are one of the top factors contributing to successful remote working.13 Leaders can promote efficiency and productivity by implementing time management tactics, including:14

  • Establishing clear milestones to keep employees on track
  • Scheduling shorter remote meetings
  • Requiring workers to report their progress frequently
  • Helping employees prioritize tasks
  • Adjusting workloads as necessary to help struggling workers

Performance Metrics

Tracking and assessing employee performance can be more difficult when you don’t see them working in the office all day. Performance metrics allow managers to monitor productivity and identify workers needing additional support.15

The specific key performance indicators (KPIs) you need to evaluate performance vary depending on the company and job. However, insightful KPIs may include:15

  • Anonymous coworker assessments
  • Communication frequency
  • Help desk resolution rates
  • Number of tasks completed
  • Sales figures

Unlock Your Remote Leadership Potential With an Online MBA

As workers increasingly push for hybrid and remote work arrangements, learning how to manage virtual teams has become more critical than ever. You can strengthen your leadership skills and learn innovative management strategies by enrolling in Yeshiva University’s online Master of Business Administration (MBA) program.

The rigorous online MBA curriculum covers advanced topics like corporate finance, decision models and management controls and leadership and emotional intelligence. You’ll hone in-demand business skills like conflict resolution and negotiation, which can help you manage remote and in-person teams. Our top faculty also provide personal mentorship to help you achieve your professional goals and develop industry connections. Get in touch with an admissions outreach advisor today to learn how you can begin your online MBA journey.

  1. Retrieved on July 17, 2023, from wfhresearch.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/02/WFHResearch_updates_February2023.pdf
  2. Retrieved on July 17, 2023, from wfhresearch.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/06/GSWA-2023.pdf
  3. Retrieved on July 17, 2023, from hbr.org/2023/01/research-where-managers-and-employees-disagree-about-remote-work
  4. Retrieved on July 17, 2023, from nature.com/articles/s41562-021-01196-4
  5. Retrieved on July 17, 2023, from zippia.com/advice/workplace-collaboration-statistics/
  6. Retrieved on July 17, 2023, from ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9753911/
  7. Retrieved on July 17, 2023, from forbes.com/sites/rogerdooley/2020/09/30/how-zoom-conquered-video-conferencing/
  8. Retrieved on July 17, 2023, from businessnewsdaily.com/15670-free-remote-working-tools.html
  9. Retrieved on July 17, 2023, from about.gitlab.com/resources/downloads/remote-work-report-2021.pdf
  10. Retrieved on July 17, 2023, from forbes.com/sites/allbusiness/2021/07/29/10-virtual-team-building-activities-employees-will-love/
  11. Retrieved on July 17, 2023, from microsoft.com/en-us/worklab/work-trend-index/hybrid-work-is-just-work
  12. Retrieved on July 17, 2023, from forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2020/05/29/project-management-in-the-age-of-remote-working-three-tips-for-managing-team-members/
  13. Retrieved on July 17, 2023, from ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9807077/
  14. Retrieved on July 17, 2023, from shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-magazine/fall2020/pages/10-tips-for-managing-remote-workers.aspx
  15. Retrieved on July 17, 2023, from forbes.com/sites/forbeshumanresourcescouncil/2021/01/11/the-new-employee-kpis-how-to-measure-productivity-and-performance-when-working-remotely/