How to Manage a Remote Team in 5 Simple Steps

Recorded: 12-16-2014

Summary: 5 Steps to Managing Remote Teams

The founders of Hubstaff have implemented into the remote business to more easily manage the tasks in their startup.  This was an informal webinar and Q&A session on how the business is managed internally focusing on the daily workflow of tasks.  If you’ve ever wondered how to manage a remote team, this webinar is for you.

Replay of the Live Webinar

Download the Slides

Download the Google Spec Doc

Webinar Recap: 

Hubstaff founders Dave Nevogt and Jared Brown conducted an online webinar entitled “5 Ways to Reduce Stress in Your Remote Business.” During this session, we revealed five steps that businesses can take to increase productivity and how to effectively manage remote teams. Since Hubstaff shared their experiences managing their own team of contractors located all over the world, the webinar provided great insight for how other web development firms, ad agencies and others could use the Hubstaff tools and integrated project management apps to better manage their remote teams. Here’s what webinar attendees learned:

trello_screenshots-0fac7518cf1dd0ab42a8462cffca1f231. When setting up tasks, manage business from the highest level.  When you attack your business from the top down, you’re not getting bogged down with all of the details, which can derail your productivity. So look at your business from a 500-foot view when you managing your priorities and projects. You can follow this rule  too when you list priority items in your project management apps like Trello or PivotalTracker. As you clearly define your business needs and goals, your team will understand what you want to do. Spell out any requirements (members, processes, details). Don’t worry about getting too complicated just yet. The important thing is to get a basic plan down that you can enhance later. Finally, if you are working on a development project, sometimes creating wireframes can help your team understand the specific GUI components.

2. Manage the project first, the person second. If you follow this advice, you’ll operate your business on results, not on the volume of work or tasks completed. This step involves assigning project specifics to your various team members and subcontractors. Using project management tools, divide responsibility for your projects among your team members, without overwhelming any one person with too many tasks at once. Keeping this in mind will force you to prioritize your tasks and manage them better. Describe your tasks with enough detail so that the employee understands everything they need to do without having to come to you for further explanation or discussion. This will save you time in the long run. If you’re using Hubstaff’s time tracking tool, you can easily track specific Trello tasks and cards that you’ve assigned to your team, enabling them to track their work hours to a specific project or task. Then using your project management tool, your team can manage and update the task as they go along. This step of managing your remote business should take no more than five minutes per day, but will keep your projects highly organized.

3. Continually manage remote teams within the system. Using your time tracking and project management applications, you should be able to see at a glance the activity on your various projects. At the end (or beginning) of each day, briefly review what your team accomplished. You can also look at weekly reports, which you can set to automatically email you, from an employee or project level. Compare this activity with your deadlines to manage employees and ensure that things are on track to meet your goals. Next, dig deeper by reviewing specific employee activity. Using Hubstaff, you can review screenshots of your employees working on specific tasks. This can help you quickly understand what your team is doing as well as the detail of their process as they work on a project. This valuable insight can give you knowledge of how your employee works, and also gives you insight to their progress. Rather than relying on status updates from your employee, you can quickly see  if their work is up to par and make any necessary adjustments or recommendations before the projects gets off track. This can prevent rework and can speed up the completion of your projects. The screenshot capability in Hubstaff also allows you to see whether your team member is working in a distracted manner or in a productive zone.

4. Follow-up within your project management system: Rather than spending hours in status or project meetings each week, why not coordinate communication with your team on an ongoing basis right from your project management application? Spend no more than 15 minutes a day moving the project forward by answering questions and responding to status updates in the system. Using your PM tool rather than email, phone or in person meetings not only saves you time, but it allows your employees to store and track discussions directly in the system to access later. If your team needs further clarification, videos are a great tool, especially when you need to explain a concept to remote employees. who can’t meet with you in person. Some great tools we use are Jing and MonoSnap, cloud-based services that allow you to record and send screen captures. Videos are also a great way for developers to show a beta version of the front-end feature, giving managers an instant demo mode. Following up frequently within your project management system can reduce stress, knowing that you have somewhere you can document and record everything that’s going on in your business — in your way and on your own time. It also keeps the backlog of too many projects from getting in the way of your progress, and allows for a very collaborative work environment.

5. Make data-drive adjustments to your business: This step involves going back to the high-level view of analyzing your business. Now that you are using your project management and time tracking tools on a regular basis, you are armed with information about how your organization runs. If projects are slowing, analyze how employees are spending time on that project, and make any necessary adjustments (add more staff, provide feedback to the team member, etc.). When paying your remote employees for their time, you will have more confidence and more accurate billing for the work performed. And with this new business intelligence, you’ll make better decisions that will save your company money in the long run. You will move your projects along smoothly and your employees will have more satisfaction too, knowing that their projects are well-organized and that they have what they need to accomplish their goals. Using Hubstaff employee time tracking and project management tools, your employees can even monitor their own activity on a project, helping them become more confident and productive.

Managing remote teams doesn’t have to be a daunting process. If you set up your system and projects in an organized fashion, set clear expectations, document projects appropriately, and give your employees the right tools to succeed, you’ll achieve the results you’re seeking.

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  • hoodleceo

    Excellent! Thank you. Would like to discuss a few implementation questions with you guys, sometime in coming days.

  • Hey Guys –
    I have tried out hubstaff a year or so ago with our team was not thrilled – I must say, I’m impressed with the growth and development since then. We have a team of about 12 right now and decided to give it a shot with the team. Dave, I know you’ve contacted me a few times in the past about using you and I was hesitant, but I love how approachable you’ve always been. I’ve gone from a team of 2 Virtual Assistants, to a team of 12 in less than 6 months and it’s time for me to really give you a good evaluation here. We start Monday with the entire team and I’ll report back my feedback in the next 10 days or so.

    Thanks,
    J Hunter
    Founder VA Staffer

    • Great, very glad to hear that and thanks. Please let me know if there is any way that I can help, and I look forward to working with you. Yes, we have made many improvements in the past 12 months and many more coming in the next 30 days including app monitoring, URL monitoring, budgets, and our API.

  • Charles Phillips

    Hi Dave and Jared,

    I listened to the live event and it was extremely helpful. Thank you for sharing your time, experiences and suggestions. I have been able to make small changes to the way that I am managing my outsourcers that is already making a difference. One small thing that I picked up on which is helping, is to only have 3 tasks at any given time on my individual outsourcer’s list. Sure, I have other things set up for them to do but all they see are the three assignments, clearly defined. It avoids confusion. It puts the burden of planning on me and the burden of execution on them… which is the proper orientation I believe.

    Your program has already made a significant difference by making my work flow more transparent. Workers understand that they are accountable and I can suggest changes in work habits that help them and the company. I am not heavy handed with this but it helps me provide good leadership which they need and respect.

    Looking forward to future improvement in your program and in my ability to utilized this great tool more effectively.

    Best wishes,
    Charles

    • Yeah thanks charles. Very glad to help. Accountability is key and you hit the nail on the head with avoiding confusion. It’s better to get 2-3 things closed out than make very small progress on lots of projects. Easier on everyone.

  • What are some topics that you’d like to see covered in the future? Let us know!