How to Setup a Remote Team During Social Distancing

By gswardman May 11, 2020

The Covid-19 virus and the subsequent lockdowns have disrupted the workplace routine. Everyone is disoriented, and in the span of a few weeks, organizations across the globe have their employees working remotely. Most managers, tasked with the onus of managing virtual teams, and most, for the first time in their working lives. The managers have a hard time adjusting and have had to learn how to setup a remote team.

Quarantine has been hard on most people in terms of managing themselves without physical human interaction. Having to follow the structure of a normal workday is difficult while managing people in such conditions such as heightened uncertainty, lots of pressure and a general sense of disorientation.

How to Setup a Remote Team

Working remotely a few months ago was a privilege for a few, and most people had to report to an office. Now, with the Covid-19 virus and the need to practice social distancing, organizations have to re-adjust and re-strategize. If you have never worked with a remote team, here are some ideas on how to set up a remote team.

1. Use Collaborative Tools

In an office, you can rally the team for impromptu meetings to get the team back on track. A remote team requires the right tools and software to steer employees on track, and ensure they work as a team. Here are some tools that you can use for making the remote team successful.

· Slack

Slack is a virtual office and a chat room that allows employees to create a great camaraderie. Depending on your team size, you may want to make use of Slack channels. When the team grows, the chat room may become very noisy, and it only makes sense to divide the chats into specific departments.

When the team is around ten people, you can now start to create various channels such as #support, #marketing, #hacking, #team content, etc. You can also have social channels which you can label #fun, or whatever else you choose to. The channels help in the organization and communication between the teammates to avoid confusion on where to post what.

· Zoom

With home quarantine and lockdowns the world over, it makes sense to hold videoconferences. Zoom is a fantastic video conferencing tool with a mobile app and a desktop client that lets you meet online when you need to. The video conferencing tools from a few years ago were nothing but a disappointment. Today, technology has stepped up by giving us various video-conferencing options such as Zoom.

As a Zoom user, you can collaborate with your teammates on current projects; share and add notes on teammate’s screens and record sessions. Zoom offers excellent video, audio and wireless screen sharing across Linux, Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, etc. Zoom unifies group messaging, video-conferencing and online meetings in general.

· GitHub

GitHub is a web-based platform that is useful for version control. GitHub makes the process of working with other people and collaboration simpler. Team members can work on files and merge the completed changes with the project’s master branch.

GitHub is where designers and programmers work together. They contribute. Fix bugs and generally just collaborate. GitHub hosts many open source projects and different programming language codes. GitHub has a desktop application for both iOS and Windows that allows you to integrate GitHub in your system. Its features include:

a) File Finder

You can create new files, as well as navigate through available repository files faster. This feature comes as a keyboard short cut and is not immediately apparent.

b) GitHub emojis

The remote team can have a bit of fun attaching emojis to their group chats. You can add the emojis in repository file, and Wiki.

c) Creation of folders through the web interface

GitHub has created the WebFlow, which allows you to manage repositories via GitHub’s interface.

d) Drag and Drop Gist code

The Gist is GitHub’s feature that allows you to host snippets of code. Browse and locate huge numbers of code snippets in different languages. Using Gist is easy, drag and drop files on the Gist and the codes in these files will be automatically copied.

2. Daily Standup Meetings

The daily standup meeting aka scrum meetings is 15-minute meetings that are geared towards making your team more productive and efficient. Standup meetings are an excellent collaboration tool because they allow the team to keep in touch in real-time. The meetings asked in a scrum meeting include:

    • What have you accomplished today?
    • What will you do today?
    • What is hindering your work progress?

With a remote team, this scrum meeting is still possible. Set a time when the meeting will be held and have every member participate without fail. Even with social distancing, your team can still be productive and work can go on uninterrupted.

3. Team Composition

In these trying times when we have to contend with working remotely, you need to put together a strong team that will work together without hiccups. Some tips for hiring a great team include:

· Hiring Doers

Hire doers who will get things done, no matter where they will work. Doers do not have to be assigned tasks for something to get done. You may have to give directions and guide them around the most crucial tasks, but in the event, you are not available, doers make things happen by doing the best they can in the given situation.

· Hiring People You Trust

Remote work cannot be a success when you do not trust your team. If you find yourself continually worrying about what a team member is doing, whether they are doing their part, as they should, then you cannot trust that person. Trust is key in forming an excellent remote team.

· Hiring Writers

In a physical office, lots of information is shared amongst employees. In a remote setup, almost everything shared is written. Communication is crucial in a remote team, and good writers come in handy for the team.

· Hire People Okay With Working Away From Social Workplace

Socializing is needed in a remote team, but some remote workplaces may be less social in comparison to a physical office. People who work in remote teams need to try and accept that this is what it is and have a social support system away from work.

The best remote workers are people okay with working away from a social workplace. This is especially true in this period of social distancing where the teammates cannot meet physically to socialize.

4. Solid Reports

One of the biggest stress points to managing a remote team is not having a report on project status and deliverables. You need to know:

    • The Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) they need to report on and how often.
    • The type of updates they need to submit, and how often

If your team is new to working remotely, as most are during this Covid-19 crisis, you need to encourage once a week check-ins, until they become part of your company culture.

5. Video Conferencing

Remote work in these times of social distancing can be stressful as it is. When it comes to creative projects, brainstorming is best done face to face. As mentioned above, there are several video conferencing options available, allowing the team to contribute to the brainstorm session from wherever they are.

You can gather your team once a week and have a chat as a group, which staves off feelings of loneliness and isolation. Explore the various video conferencing options such as Zoom, etc.

6. Pair Employees

As the team grows, it becomes harder to know all the teammates. One way to prevent this is to pair up two employees at random every week for a pair call. You can set up a channel that allows the teammates to chat about work, life or random stuff that may interest them. You might be surprised when they come up with cool new products, or just having fun and getting to know their teammates.

7. Gauge Their Emotional Well-being

The Covid-19 situation has everyone all jittery and on edge. Ensure your team knows that their well-being is your primary concern. Monitor their sense of engagement by firing two questions in quick success at every team member such as:

    • On a scale of 0-10, rate your current stress level
    • Using the same scale, rate your engagement level

Using your intuition, and your impression of the team member may be wrong, thus the need for a quantitative response. Humans need to belong, and feel safe, both physically and emotionally. Your team members need to feel included, safe to contribute and learn, and not be afraid of punishment, marginalization or embarrassment. In short, you need to acknowledge and respect their humanity.


The Covid-19 virus has brought the world nothing but chaos in people’s private lives and the economy has also taken a beating. Most organizations have resorted to allowing their employees to work from home. How do you manage people who work remotely? Using collaborative tools is one of the most commonly used methods of unified communication.

Using collaborative tools such as Slack and Zoom are just a few of the ways you can keep in touch with the workers. Ensure you keep the communication channels open and try to gauge each worker’s demeanor by asking them to rate their stress levels. Working from home may have a toll on most people, especially those who thrive on making human contact. Until we can beat the Covid-19 and social distancing is still enforced, we need to find new ways to keep focused.