37 best practices for leading remote teams

April 21st, 2020

Leading a newly remote team because of the pandemic? Here's a full list of best practices to help you out.


Millions of people across the world have been forced out of their cubicles and office spaces and back into their homes to work, meaning many managers are needing to learn the ins and outs of leading remote teams. 

If you’re new to this remote workforce – and new to leading a team remotely – welcome! It can be clunky, confusing, and sometimes a little awkward. But, it can also be hugely rewarding and a great way to optimize your work-life balance.

FFW was built to exist in a global and remote environment. While there’s been hurdles along the way, we’ve learned how to ingrain remote work into our everyday culture. 

That’s why we’ve comprised a list of 37 remote work best practices to help you through the challenges, so you can start reaping all the benefits that remote work has to offer.

Looking for additional remote work tips or best practices for your specific team? Check out more remote collaboration resources here. 

Now for 37 best practices. We hope these help you and your team!

17 tips for improving productivity & communication when leading remote teams

  1. Use virtual and cloud-based tools to stay connected: Tools like Slack, Zoom, and G Suite are the foundation to working in concert within a remote environment. 

  2. And stick with those tools: There really can be too much of a good thing, and virtual tools are a prime example. Stick to a handful and save yourself the headache of bouncing between too many tools trying to find one piece of information.

  3. Try digital white boards: Are you an avid white-boarder in meetings? You don’t have to leave those dry erase markers and kindergarten-style drawings behind. Instead, try something like Vibe

  4. Create a regular rhythm of meetings: Regular meeting cadences keep people informed, projects moving, and teams aligned. 

  5. Schedule everything: In the remote world, things have a tendency to get dropped. Diligent scheduling prevents this.

  6. Make your calendar as transparent as possible: Blocked-out calendars can mean bottlenecks for the important stuff. Let your team see where they can fit in. 

  7. Set manager office hours: That stacked calendar becoming a problem? Set some time specifically for your team.

  8. Encourage your team to send daily progress updates: It’ll help you assess bandwidth, delineate projects, and show the team where they can help out. You’ll also learn a lot more about one another in the process. Win-win-win. 

  9. Have individual goals come from the top: The goals of the company should trickle down to each department, and then to the individuals themselves. When helping your team members create goals, have the company objectives serve as a “North Star”. This ensures alignment with the rest of the company and improves prioritization.

  10. Give extra attention to those who are not adapting well: Remote work is not for everyone. Watch out for your team members who are struggling and offer additional support.

  11. Set time limits: Limits create a restraint that allows for deeper focus. The Pomodoro Technique can be an effective method: Use a timer to work in 25 minute increments, with 5 minute breaks in between each. Every four of these, take a longer break (15-30 mins). 

  12. And time for reflection: Try having two separate chairs for different activities: one dedicated for working, and the other for reading and learning. This will help your brain switch gears more easily. 

  13. Turn cameras ON for meetings: No one wants to look at a name or initials on a screen. Plus, it’s far too easy to multitask when you’re not on camera. 

  14. To increase creative thought, hold workshops instead of meetings: Workshops are interactive, engaging, and interesting. Meetings are… well, meetings. 

  15. Encourage creative solutions to problems: You might feel obligated to solve every problem yourself, but eliciting the advice of your team can reveal new paths and keep them engaged.

  16. Encourage healthy actions that promote a shift into “work mode”: Separating work from home is more difficult when it’s not actually separate. Try a daily walk, meditation, or other healthy activity to teach your brain when it’s time to work.

  17. Ask specific questions to gauge understanding: Rather than asking your team if they understand something, ask them to explain it to you so you know they understand.


11 tips for increasing employee engagement & happiness

  1. Focus on team, rather than individual successes: Try something like a “Wins” channel in your messaging tool for people to contribute group success stories.

  2. Look out for your team’s well-being and encourage healthy breaks: You can still keep an eye out for signs of burnout and help prevent it by recommending a walk or other mind-clearing activity.

  3. Get people into a creative mindset with group activities: Games, group problem-solving, and show-and-tells are all effective. Get creative!

  4. Focus on employee development: With the quarantine in place, this might be one of the best times for your team to focus on how they can personally develop, take new online courses, and read content that will increase their skill sets.

  5. Be adaptable to different personalities: Embrace diversity within your team and learn how to best utilize their unique individual quirks, personalities, and skills.

  6. Increase communication and frequency of check-ins: This is not micromanaging, but a necessity in a remote setting.

  7. Have a team book club: This is a fun way to improve team bonding and knowledge sharing. Hold book club meetings weekly and revolve team members so a different person will lead each week’s discussion. 

  8. Work buddy program: Work with other managers to swap people in your team with employees in other departments, which can foster cross-team collaboration. 

  9. Keep conversations lighthearted and fun: “Doom and gloom” is everywhere right now. Uplift your team using funny meeting backgrounds or talking about their favorite shows.

  10. Show you genuinely care about your team’s well-being: Make sure they’re safe and in a good spot with everything going on. This shows you really care and boosts morale.

  11. Host a virtual event or happy hour: Nothing brings people together like a happy hour! Try a virtual one on the last part of a Friday so everyone can kick off their quarantine in style. Cheers! 

9 tips for better trust & collaboration

  1. Keep investing in relationships: The need for us all to connect is stronger than ever. Keep putting effort into your work relationships to keep them strong, even if you can’t just go out for a quick coffee like before.

  2. Have a place to feature big wins: We have a “Wins” slack channel at FFW to celebrate achievements as a team. These are focused on group efforts, rather than individual people.

  3. And focus on the team rather than individual successes: We don’t have a few “superstars” who are celebrated at FFW – it’s about the group working together to do great things.

  4. Let people know it’s okay to make mistakes: This creates a culture of trust. When people know making mistakes is human, they’ll feel better about admitting them and finding a resolution.

  5. More direct, intentional feedback: Sugarcoating valuable feedback dilutes it and causes confusion. Clear feedback helps your team do better and creates a more trusting relationship.

  6. Increase transparency: Yes, even when you do not have great news. People expect the worst when they don’t understand what’s going on.

  7. Be human and vulnerable: This pandemic is really, really hard for so many of us. It’s ok to share what you’re feeling and going through, too. In fact, your employees will likely appreciate your perspective more than you’d think, and open up about their own roadblocks.

  8. Trust your employees and don’t jump to conclusions: You have no idea what your team might be facing outside of work with the pandemic.  If you have concerns, start a conversation to understand their side of things. 

  9. Talk about nothing for the first ten minutes of meetings: Build your relationships and make up for the millions of micro-interactions lost from not working in an office.

Leading a remote team comes with an entirely new world of challenges. But, it’s also an amazing opportunity to create more of a work/life balance, get to know your team and their lives in a whole new way, and apply creative new approaches to problems.

This pandemic is causing everyone to think digital – beyond just working remotely.

Times are changing, there’s no doubt about it. The need to offer digital experiences is now more critical than ever before. We at FFW are here to help you navigate the digital world – whether through digital strategy, a new platform, or continuous development to gradually evolve your current site. Contact us any time.