Note: As part of my recently completed Postgraduate Diploma in People and Talent Management at Nova School of Business & Economics, one of the individual papers I submitted for assessment (in January 2020) was on managing remote teams. This is a topic that has been dear to my heart for a long time; little did I know at the time I wrote about it that it would become of interest to so many people a few months later, unfortunately not for the best of reasons. I share parts of my essay here, in order to give a few more clues to those trying out this way of working for the first time.

By investing in remote teams (there probably won't even be another option in the future!), the organisation needs to be able to address the challenges it faces, largely the same as those of a co-located team (such as leadership and processes), exacerbated in particular with regard to communication and relationships. We must also overcome the fact that employees in the same office constantly benefit from the cultural stimuli that are essential to the unity and success of a company, but which are largely absent when people are dispersed and there is no (pro)active concern to create them.


As mentioned, the main challenges of managing remote teams, in addition to those faced by traditional teams, are communication, relationships, and company culture. These challenges are dependent on each other and therefore overlap to a large extent.


Communication is one of the pillars of all high-performance teams, regardless of where their members are located. In the case of teams where most of their members are remote, it may be easier to accept the standardisation of formal communication, but this requires more discipline and, above all, a robust and adequate technological platform. In addition, it is more difficult to maintain informal communication which is essential for team flexibility and agility. The cause, once again, has to do with human nature because in a face-to-face situation we pick up messages that are transmitted mainly through non-verbal channels (e.g. body posture, eye contact or tone of voice).


The basis of any productive relationship is trust, which is also the most elusive factor, even in a face-to-face relationship. According to a well-known Google study (Duhigg, 2016), one of the elements of trust - psychological security - is the main factor in the success of a team. In the case of remote teams, there is also the concern of managers regarding the time that members effectively devote to work and that of members regarding the recognition that is due to them. If there is no special care in defining moments for people to get to know each other, namely when they can share what moves them, it will be very difficult to have remote incentives for this sharing to occur spontaneously.


The real culture of the company is normally the result of daily coexistence, in which the way of doing things (for example, facing problems, responding to clients or interacting in meetings) is passed on, by observation, from one person to another, until it seems natural. There are also key moments in the company, which may or may not be scheduled, such as meetings to present results, celebrations or employee recognition, which define what is valued and what is considered secondary. These moments are absent in a remote relationship, and if nothing is done, in the medium term there will be a psychological detachment from the company and the team's purpose will be broken.


Charles Duhigg, "What Google Learned from Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team, 

The New York Times Magazine, 2016

ALSO READ: What I learned about managing remote teams - Part I

This article is republished under a partnership with Supply Chain Magazine - Read the original article here

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