Somewhere between the trend towards a growing gig economy and the increased globalization of the workplace, virtual or remote teams are becoming more and more common.

Remote teams have many advantages over the traditional workplace structure of previous generations.

First of all, it attracts more qualified workers, a huge benefit in an increasingly competitive market. Secondly, it offers flexibility for people who have other responsibilities of work, studies, or their own projects.

It also provides more flexibility for the employer as it opens up the search for qualified workers to the entire world, regardless of location. Lastly, it increases overall productivity by primarily decreasing or eliminating commuting to work, as well as a higher level of satisfaction.

Although these are fantastic benefits, there are obviously some drawbacks to remote teams, most of which revolve around a lack of communication and camaraderie, as well as some lulls in productivity.

Today we’ll look at seven of the best ways to tackle these problems and help business owners successfully manage remote teams.

Set a work schedule

It is important that you get your remote teams organized. Although many of them may have a very good idea of what is needed of them or how to do it, they won’t be able to read your mind.

In order to keep everyone on the same page—which will help not only with productivity but also clear communication—you’ll need to organize a work plan for your entire team.

It may not have to be very detailed, depending on the work being completed. However, it should be adequate so that the tasks are understandable and measurable.

Keep informal communication open

One of the biggest reasons for remote teams failing is because they don’t have those random, casual conversations. In traditional workspaces, this comes naturally as people walk to get coffee, see each other in the hallway, or generally just mention a non-work topic.

When you’re part of a remote team, you miss these impromptu casual sessions. This is mostly because there seems to be an incorrect idea that all communications on services such as Skype, Slack, Basecamp or Google Hangouts should be business only.

While that seems productive, it ignores the basic human need for socialization and interaction. Instead of just stating that informal communication is fine in your remote teams’ communications, you should initiate on a regular basis.

Be strict in certain parts

Alternatively, there are many remote teams failing due to the fact that they never got a good grip on their own organization or processes.

In these remote teams, they can become so comfortable with each other that they end up disrupting the work flow and focus only on socialization. While some is great for team cohesion, too much can lead to significant drops in productivity.

It is important to not be too loose or too tight when it comes to allowing your employees to communicate. One way is to tactfully push people towards focusing back on their work; i.e., asking a “by the way” question so that you can steer the conversation without shutting down the mood.

Track everything

It is important that you as a manager of remote teams or business owner get a sense of how much work your teams are actually doing. It can be very disastrous if you believe that someone is making progress, only to realize 6 months later that that person has been quite ineffective in his or her work.

Most remote teams pay based on hours worked, so that makes it relatively easy to see how long each person worked. You can use time tracking software, but there is also more powerful task management software that includes this feature.

Be (mostly) flexible with work hours

One of the joys of working remotely is that you can set your own schedule. This allows for people to do the work at their most productive, rather than the traditional 9-to-5.

Although this is very beneficial, it can also lead to confusion if it is taken too far. For example, teams generally need to communicate with each other. If there are 3 people on the team, and one person works from 9 to 5, the other from midnight to 8, and the third from 5 to 11, there will be no chance for them to talk to each other.

This will slow down the work and cause your projects to be significantly delayed. Allow flexibility, but there should still be overlapping hours between your workers.

Dedicate one-on-one time with employees

When your remote teams are communicating rapidly in group chats or with one-word emails, it can seem fast and productive. However, there are many times when you’ll need to have some one-on-one time with each employee.

This may seem time-consuming, but in fact it does have great benefits. The employee may have a different understanding than you when it comes to the same task or same set of directions. In order to clarify that, you will need to spend some time checking up personally and making sure that everything is going OK.

It’s also great for motivation, as it shows that you are concerned with the employee’s well-being.

While remote teams may be difficult for some, there are many others businesses profiting greatly from this new system. In order to have it work for you, you’ll need to follow these tips to improve team cohesion, communication, and most importantly results.