Remote Revolution: How to Lead & Succeed in the Work-From-Anywhere Era

Ioana Andrei
By Ioana Andrei, Updated on June 24, 2024, 9 min read

The rise of digital communication and the impact of the pandemic has changed the way people approach the workplace. Today asynchronous working culture is common, teams are spread across multiple regions, and more companies are adopting a remote or hybrid working model.


Almost one in three employees now work remotely worldwide, up from about 13% pre-pandemic. That share is even higher for industries like tech, consulting, and marketing services requiring desk-based independent tasks.


Remote work cuts costs, increases employee well-being and retention, and can boost productivity. However, you need to tackle challenges like miscommunication and a lack of focus along the way.


This guide breaks down the top benefits and challenges, plus example-packed strategies for managing remote teams. Let’s start.



The Benefits of Remote Work

Switching to remote work pays dividends, both financial and otherwise. Here are the top ones.


Lower operational costs


First, working remotely lowers operational costs. You need little to no office space, saving you between $4,000 to $14,000 per employee per year in city-based office rent.


Plus, you’ll save thousands by cutting down on:


  • Office logistics staff hours


  • Utilities like water and electricity


  • Office drinks and snacks


  • Company-sponsored after-work socials


  • Professional cleaning



A larger talent pool


Your workers can be based anywhere in the country—or worldwide. And with a larger hiring pool, your chances of finding your ideal employees increase.


This is especially useful for small and medium businesses based in rural or suburban centers, where the supply of highly trained or skilled candidates is slimmer than in urban hubs.


Advertising nationwide, for instance, could connect an ambitious startup in suburban Phoenix, Arizona with a talented grad from Boston, Massachusetts.



Higher employee retention and satisfaction


Thirty-six percent of white-collar workers want to work from home (WFH) 100% of the time, and 47% prefer between one to four days in the office.


For some, remote flexibility is a deal-breaker. Over 60% of remote employees would quit if their employers forced a return to the office. Meanwhile, about four in 10 office workers would take a pay cut to work remotely.


So, granting flexibility to remote-capable roles increases employee satisfaction and retention. This is because workers can better juggle personal responsibilities such as child care, look after their health, and avoid stressful commutes.



Productivity boost


A McKinsey & Company survey found that 41% of employees were more productive working from home. Children and pets notwithstanding, home environments are quieter than busy offices, leading to more focused work and fewer distractions.


Plus, WFH staff can prioritize asynchronous communications (where senders and receivers don’t interact in real-time) more easily than face-to-face interactions, leading to more efficient workflows.


In addition, they get:


  • Extra energy for tasks thanks to zero commute time.


  • More opportunities for exercise and healthy meals, boosting well-being and productivity.




The Challenges of Managing Remote Teams

You must manage the following challenges to lead remote teams effectively.


Team management hurdles


At the office, it’s easy to check who’s in and pinpoint priorities and obstacles. This, in turn, ensures accountability for tasks and results. Plus, physical presence can increase team cohesion, generating “we’re all in this together” vibes.


Meanwhile, managing remote teams requires new strategies for maintaining accountability and cohesion. For instance, managers must check workflow progress and measure key performance indicators (KPIs) without micromanaging. They also need excellent communication skills to identify struggles and coach mentees remotely.


Communication difficulties


Employees might find it hard to communicate clearly on online channels. For example, you can’t fully interpret others’ body language and voice inflections—even on video calls. Also, there are fewer improvised social interactions (remember the water cooler?) that add context to formal discussions.


Asynchronous conversations could also leave room for error and miscommunication. Say, for instance, your email instructions don’t send, delaying your team’s tasks. Finally, without effective scheduling skills, differences in time zones or flexible working hours could delay vital team meetings.


While just over half of remote workers struggle to connect with colleagues, 37% don’t think virtual work limits interpersonal connection. This suggests that remote teams can communicate successfully with the right digital tools and processes.


Staff focus and well-being concerns


Employees might struggle to separate their personal and professional schedules when working from home. For instance, it’s tempting to sneak a peek at that new email at 10 PM, particularly for teams working across time zones. It’s no surprise that almost 70% of remote workers are burnt out due to digital communication.


Excessive messages and notifications can also distract you during the workday, reducing focus. However, you can prevent overwhelm by changing app notification frequency and enforcing interpersonal boundaries. Besides that, some people (we see you, extroverts) experience loneliness and disengagement while working solo. You can address these cases by offering plenty of team-building activities and local, on-demand hot desks.


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6 Proven Strategies for Effective Remote Team Management



Here are our expert tips for maximizing productivity and satisfaction in virtual teams.


1. Tailor collaboration systems to your business


Effective collaboration, including consistent communication and tailored processes, helps you nail team targets, innovate, and engage staff members.


Start by:


  • Clarifying communication channel purposes: For instance, use the team chat for quick updates, online meetings for in-depth brainstorming, email for longer reports, and project management software for task assignments.


  • Establishing team collaboration workflows: In a recruitment example, the hiring manager produces a job description, HR screens applicants, and the hiring team interviews candidates.


But building collaboration systems isn’t a one-size-fits-all job. Here are a couple of examples of tailoring processes and technologies to team needs.


  • Complex projects with task dependencies and overlapping phases might benefit from robust software like Microsoft Project, while easy-to-use apps like monday or Trello would suit everyday project needs.


  • Creative teams could use workflow flexibility around core meetings and stages, shared notes and whiteboards for brainstorming, plus project-specific software (say, Figma for product design).


Pro tip: An all-in-one communication app like Spike features collaboration essentials like team chat, email, an AI assistant, task tracking, and document editing in one place—keeping interactions quick and effective for remote teams.


2. Reinforce expectations and goals

Clear top-level goals and day-to-day expectations keep remote workers productive and prevent miscommunication. For example, a goal could be a user percentage increase, while expectations describe quality standards and depth of research.


Make employee goals specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound—or SMART. Here are a couple of goal examples for a sales team.


SMART goal example

Non-SMART goal example

Sales team

Sell $100,000+ to the construction vertical in the next financial year.

Get $100 million in sales for a new vertical within 6 months. (not specific or attainable for a small business)

Sales rep

Increase conversion rate from 1% to 2% for construction leads by December 31st.

Be friendlier with prospects. (not measurable, relevant, or time-bound)


Without deadlines and specific, measurable targets, remote workers might be confused and underachieve. Similarly, irrelevant or unreasonable goals can frustrate them and even lead to quiet quitting.


Pro tip: Boost accountability by updating staff members’ job responsibilities throughout their tenure. For instance, a product manager’s responsibilities might first center on website design and, over time, grow to include app design, user research, and more.



3. Foster a trust-based culture

Building trust takes time but strengthens your remote team. For instance, managers trust direct reports with key tasks, and coworkers share struggles and feedback openly—increasing productivity and engagement.


Establish a trust-based culture by promoting:


  • Mutual support: Specify how and when to ask coworkers for support, and lead by example. For instance, reach out to fill a knowledge gap (such as lacking a specialist opinion or a certain resource) but don’t offload your tasks to cut your workload.


  • Open feedback: Facilitate honest, timely, specific team feedback across departments and seniority levels. Best practices include the sandwich method (a positive, then a point of improvement and encouragement) and frequent constructive comments (like “great attention to detail!”)


  • Recognition: Recognize day-to-day achievements (say, “The client loved your presentation!”), key milestones (say, a fifth work anniversary), and above-and-beyond performance (for instance, with a “best customer service” award).



4. Balance productivity and well-being

First, ensure your team has the right information and support. For instance, have quick daily check-ins to prioritize tasks, plus weekly team meetings and 1-on-1 manager time to unblock obstacles. Also, make role-specific resources easily available—including document templates and task guidelines.


For an extra productivity boost, offer your team time management tips and tools like:


  • The Pomodoro technique: Split your work schedule into 25 minutes of work + five-minute breaks. Or, you can customize online time trackers like Clockify to suit your rhythm (say, 50 minutes + 10-minute breaks).


  • The Pareto principle: Prioritize the top 20% of tasks that impact 80% of the result. For example, when researching a new customer market, start by reading and summarizing market reports and leave the PowerPoint presentation design for later.


  • The “eat the frog” rule: Complete the hardest tasks on your list at the start of the day, when your energy peaks. You might, for instance, finish that in-depth report in the morning and send those quick emails in the afternoon.


For balance, provide staff well-being resources and recommendations. Offer, for instance, perks like paid mental health days, free meditation or fitness app subscriptions, or gym membership subsidies. Also share wellness best practices like taking frequent short breaks, getting up often (or using a standing desk), and switching off devices and notifications after working hours.



5. Facilitate interpersonal relationships

Workplace relationships glue remote teams together. So, provide training and mentoring on essential interpersonal skills such as rapport building, nonverbal communication, and conflict resolution. Add some lightness, too, for instance with virtual team-builders featuring improvisation, poetry writing, or “campfire” ghost stories.


Plus, ensure leaders set an example for relationship building. They might, for example, kick off team meetings with ice-breakers, or start informal threads on the work chat (like “Thoughts on a fun five-year-old birthday party theme?”).



6. Refine your flexible work policies

Flexibility allows remote employees to work around their energy levels and personal responsibilities, preventing stress and burnout.


Start by researching what flexible policies your workforce values most. You could get a small team (say, under 20 people) on a two-hour call and listen to each participant. Or, send larger teams an online survey, asking them to rank a series of flexibility benefits in preference order.


Then, prioritize the most popular flexibility policies, while keeping an eye on the budget. You might tailor some benefits to the needs of specific sub-groups to ensure fairness. For instance, parents might especially benefit from flexible start and end times.


Here’s a handful of flexible work policies to consider.


  • Flexible schedule: Start and end time around pre-determined core hours. You might commit to being online between 12-3 pm (for meetings or customer interactions), and work the other 5 hours flexibly.


  • Compressed week: Increase daily working hours to work fewer days a week. For instance, your 40-hour work week could include 10 hours a day from Monday to Thursday and Fridays off.


  • Unlimited time off: You can take however much vacation or sick leave you need for your well-being and productivity. However, you check with your team before taking time off.


  • Job sharing: Two or more part-time workers share one role. For example, two people could share compliance management responsibilities, one working from Monday to Wednesday and the other from Wednesday to Friday.




Thriving Together, Remotely: Why Spike Teamspace Is Your Secret Weapon

Remote work can help you cut costs, boost productivity, and keep employees healthy and happy. At the same time, it might make it harder to communicate effectively and maintain team accountability and focus.


That said, managing remote teams with tailored communication systems, SMART goals, and productivity and well-being tips helps you better reap the benefits. Use an all-in-one collaboration platform to streamline your workflows while bringing coworkers together.


Spike Teamspace offers a chat and email combo (including group chats and 1-on-1 messages), a user-friendly AI message generator, and video calls—plus productivity tools like task delegation and document collaboration.

Ioana Andrei
Ioana Andrei Ioana has worked for 4+ years as a management consultant in the tech and telecom industries. With a wealth of enterprise and start-up client experience, Ioana is also an accomplished SaaS and B2B tech writer.

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