How to lead a remote team that will actually bring results

Katerina Trajchevska

Katerina Trajchevska


What would you do if the only thing that mattered was how good your employees are and not where they’re located? Would you still restrict your choices to the small geographic region around you?

Zapier, the awesome app that automates tedious tasks, passed 1 million users with a completely remote team. And Basecamp, with over 2.5 million users and a team of around 50 people, even published a book on why to go remote. Not only they’re not afraid to embrace this liberating culture, but they feel the benefits of it and never intend to change it.

Going remote means you can hire the best, regardless of location. Here is how to make sure you will never regret it.

Hire the right people.

Cozy living room, fresh cup of coffee, and a laptop. It’s all it takes for some people to thrive. When hiring remotely, finding the right people is key. It’s easy to get distracted out of the frame of the 9–5 job. That’s why you need to hire doers who can organize their own time and focus on results.

When hiring, we pick team members based on their personality and how that fits in with the rest of the team, and only after that do we consider their skills. — Adii Pienaar, founder of WooThemes

Of course, it’s important that your employee has the least skills required for the position. Yet, when doubting between the rockstar developer and the person with the right personality, always go with the latter. They can develop skills over time, but the trust and collaboration depend on their personality and determination, which hardly change.

Focus on results, not actions.

When people are in your office you feel like you have full control over their actions. It’s easy to see if John has been playing ping pong all day or came in late. Yet, if he brings results, does that matter? Having a remote team you get (and have) to focus on their results, not actions. It may seem like you lose control, but it actually increases the productivity of your team, and yours.

Define processes.

No matter how boring it sounds, good processes are key for a successful company. If you already have some processes with your in-house team, you can also apply them with the remote one. Use your favorite tools to define priorities, track their productivity, and get constant updates about the work they’ve done.

Communication and accountability are the biggest challenges when working with a remote team. When people are in your office, you can stop by their desk and check their progress. When working remotely, you need to compensate with online meetings. Arrange weekly hangouts with your team and have everyone share their progress and goals for next week. That will improve your communication and create a culture of accountability.

Get creative and find what works best for your businesses, but make sure you have your processes.

Build connections.

Your remote employees are your employees. Your team. You need a good connection with them and you need them to be loyal to you. Find time to talk about things that matter, get to know them, learn what motivates them and what their personal goals are.

Schedule regular one-on-ones, invite them for team buildings and plan in-person meetings if you go for a long term engagement. Treat your remote employees as if they were your regular employees. Give them all the perks and benefits your in-house employees get. Send them swag and notebooks and plan a learning budget for them as well. Make them feel like part of your company, and they’ll give you their loyalty in return.

Use video as often as possible.

Seeing someone face-to-face gives people a sense of comfort. Of course, in person meetings are the best, but video hangouts are a close second. Regular video meetings will help you and your employees create a clear image of each other and build a stronger connection.

Videos are common for regular catch-ups, but you can be more spontaneous if you want to. Some teams create virtual water coolers to bring the informal part of the office online. Others have group lunch breaks in the chat room. Get creative.

Use your tools.

Even with our in-house team at Adeva, our days start and end on Slack. We use it for all the jokes, eureka moments, and work discussions. Slack is our virtual office and our remote colleagues are never left out.

You can have your remote team align with your processes and fit in your culture by using the tools you use. Encourage using

Slack for informal conversations if video water coolers feel weird. Create separate channels for that, so it doesn’t affect their productivity. Have them use the project management tools you use and ask them to follow your processes. Present them with your productivity hacks and techniques, or any apps you use for that. The list is long and you should find whatever works best for you.

When you don’t care about the location of your employees, you can afford to hire the best. And if you let them plan their own time, they will be more productive, accountable and happier. Given that you hire the right people, of course. And lastly, as Basecamp’s team say in their Remote: Office Not Required, “It’s not about the money, but saving is always nice.”.

Good luck in your transformation!

What challenges are you facing when working remotely? Feel free to share them in the comments below.

Katerina Trajchevska