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The Ultimate Guide to Remote-First: How to Build and Sustain a Successful Remote Team

Remote work is quickly becoming one of the most popular ways for employees to work. The benefits of remote work are numerous, including increased productivity, cost savings, and access to a larger pool of talent. Remote work, however, is not without its challenges. Remote teams face unique challenges, such as communication, collaboration, and management.

In this guide, we’ll delve into the fundamentals of remote-first management, including how to build a successful remote team, how to create a remote-first culture, how to manage remote teams effectively, how to keep remote teams engaged and motivated, and how to overcome the challenges of remote work.

Building a Successful Remote Team

The key to building a successful remote team lies in hiring the right people. When hiring for a remote role, look for candidates who are self-motivated, have excellent communication skills, and are comfortable working independently. Communication skills should be a particular focus as effective communication is essential for remote teams. Candidates who have the ability to excel within your company culture and work independently should also be at the top of your list.

To ensure the success of your remote team, consider the following questions:

  1. Are remote employees able to work independently?
  2. Do they have the necessary tools (e.g., laptops, internet connection, communication software) to work remotely?
  3. How do you ensure remote employees feel engaged and motivated?

Tools for Remote Teams

Having the right tools is critical to the success of any remote team. The following are essential tools that every remote team should have:

  1. Communication: Remote teams need a reliable and efficient way of communicating with each other. The most popular communication tools used by remote teams include Slack, Zoom, Gmail, and Microsoft Teams.
  2. Project Management: Remote teams need a way to track project progress and collaborate on tasks. Project management tools like Trello, Asana, and Jira can help remote teams stay on track, delegate tasks and prioritize them.
  3. File Sharing: Remote teams need a way to securely share files and documents. Cloud-based storage services like Dropbox, Google Drive or OneDrive can help remote teams collaborate on documents easily without having to send large files over email.
  4. Time Tracking: Tracking time spent on tasks is especially important for remote teams who don’t have managers or supervisors looking over their shoulders. Time tracking tools like Toggl or RescueTime help remote teams stay focused and avoid distractions.

Creating a Remote-First Culture

A remote-first culture is a way of designing a company’s operations and culture to work best for remote employees. Creating a remote-first culture means:

  1. Emphasizing communication: As remote teams communicate mainly through digital channels, it is important to have clear communication guidelines and protocols in place. Remote teams should document their communication norms and best practices, ensuring that remote team members are always kept in the loop.
  2. Encouraging team bonding: Remote teams should have opportunities to connect, share experiences, and build rapport. Regular virtual coffee breaks, remote team games, and online happy hours can help build a sense of community.
  3. Providing professional development opportunities: Remote employees should be provided with the same opportunities that in-person employees receive, such as training, promotions, and professional development. Remote team members should also be given access to tools, courses and resources to help them grow professionally.

Managing Remote Teams Effectively

Remote teams require a different management approach compared to in-person teams. Here are some ways to effectively manage remote teams:

  1. Set clear expectations: Establish clear performance expectations and communication protocols to make sure everyone’s on the same page. Identify work milestones, remote work expectations, and performance indicators, so that both teams and individual workers always know what’s expected of them.
  2. Trust your remote team: Trust is the foundation of effective remote team management. Remote employees need to feel trusted and empowered to work independently, without frequent check-ins and micromanagement.
  3. Prioritize communication: Communication is essential to remote team success. Establish clear channels for communication and provide a communication plan that outlines how teammates should collaborate, how regularly they should have check-ins, and when they can expect responses from colleagues and supervisors.
  4. Show appreciation and recognition: Remote employees can feel isolated and undervalued if they don’t receive recognition for their contributions. Ensure timely and frequent recognition of remote employees by sending thank-you notes, offering kudos on team calls, and highlighting their achievements in company-wide newsletters.
  5. Be mindful of time zones: Remote teams may operate in different time zones. Be mindful of these differences and establish work schedules that are mutually beneficial to all team members.

Keeping Remote Teams Engaged and Motivated

Remote employees can feel isolated and disconnected from the rest of the team. Here are some ways to keep your remote team engaged and motivated:

  1. Provide professional development opportunities: Offer remote employees training, mentorship, and other learning opportunities to help them grow professionally. Encourage employees to attend conferences and other professional events in their area and provide takeaways from sessions.
  2. Offer support for work-life balance: Remote employees may have difficulty separating work from their personal life. Provide them with resources to balance work and life, such as flexible scheduling and access to wellness programs.
  3. Stay connected and engaged with your team: Use video conference calls or team messaging apps to check in with team members regularly. Schedule virtual team-building activities and social events to keep remote employees connected.
  4. Celebrate successes together: Share your accomplishments as a team! Celebrate and recognize achievements, milestones, and anniversaries together to maintain team spirit and morale.

Challenges of Remote Work

Remote work presents its own set of challenges. Here are some common challenges of remote work and how to overcome them:

  1. Communication: Communication breakdown can be a common issue with remote teams. Establish clear communication guidelines and protocols, regularly check in with team members, and ensure team members have access to the communication tools they need.
  2. Isolation: Remote employees can sometimes feel isolated and disconnected from the rest of the team. Encourage remote team members to network and connect with colleagues in different areas of the company. Have regular virtual team-building activities and social events.
  3. Distractions: Remote employees may face distractions while working from home. Encourage remote team members to create a designated office space free from distractions and establish clear boundaries between work and personal life.
  4. Time Management: Remote employees may face difficulty in managing their time productively. Encourage employees to block their schedule to ensure they complete their work on time.
  5. Work/Life Balance: Remote employees tend to mix work and personal life as their office is now their home. Encourage employees not to overwork and take breaks in between work to ensure a healthy work/life balance.


Remote-first management can help companies increase productivity and enable access to a wider pool of talent. However, it requires a different approach to management, communication, and team building compared to traditional in-person work environments. By following these guidelines, companies can build and maintain a thriving remote team. Remote-first management would be the norm in the future of work and companies that master this technique would be able to operate with ease in a remote-first environment.

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