Project Management

Managing a distributed team - how to do it well?

Graphic shows Earth, two figures with laptops and Wi-Fi symbols

The management style of a team often depends on many factors. Among them are the competence and even preferences of the manager, the guidelines of top-level superiors, as well as issues concerning the location of employees. With the globalization of company operations, cooperation with foreign partners and the reorganization of work systems, we are increasingly dealing with distributed teams. You can read about what they are and how to manage them effectively in the following article.

What is a distributed team?

A distributed team (also called a virtual team) is a group of employees who communicate and collaborate with each other remotely - using digital tools. Depending on the scope of the company's activities, members of such a team may be in the same city or country, as well as working from many parts of the world. Different geographic locations are also followed by other elements, such as the language spoken by individual employees or the time zones in which they are located. These elements can generate problems in the organization of the team's activities, resulting in a negative impact on its efficiency.

What is distributed team management?

Managing a distributed team involves selecting activities that will maximize work efficiency while controlling all kinds of obstacles and eliminating them on a regular basis. It is also coordinating the work of many people, including those with whom we do not have direct and constant contact on a daily basis. Thus, this task can be described as juggling traditional management models and those adapted to remote work. The goal is to achieve the intended objectives, which should be as clear as possible to all members of the group. Transparency of activities influences a more complete understanding of them, resulting in satisfactory results.

Difficulties and problems we may encounter when managing a distributed team

Managing a distributed team brings many challenges, most of which involve synchronizing the work of all group members. This one can be a problem, including when there is a great distance separating co-workers and often different time zones. The lack of opportunities for face-to-face meetings is not conducive to team integration, and this translates into daily communication. Below we have described some of the most common problems that managers and team leaders of distributed teams encounter.


One of the biggest challenges is managing a geographically dispersed team. If such dispersion involves countries in the same or similar time zone, the problem is basically non-existent. However, when some employees are in Europe and the rest are in Asia, for example, the time difference can be as much as 7 hours! It is difficult to establish common working hours in such a situation, and the possibility of reuniting when an emergency arises is also limited.

Lack of focus and productivity

Organizing remote work is a real challenge for many people. Performing one's duties at home, against a backdrop of many distractions and without the presence of other team members and a supervisor is often difficult. Some find it hard to focus on their tasks and stick to a specific daily schedule that will allow them to complete their tasks efficiently and on time. Hence the decline in productivity, which can project reduced results of activities or, in the worst case, no results at all.

Difficulties in the division and flow of tasks

The limited opportunity for face-to-face meetings, and consequently the lack of developed relationships between team members, can impinge on communication regarding the tasks at hand. Employees may have difficulty understanding their responsibilities, fail to understand their project role or lack awareness of what the rest of the group is doing. Communication limitations often affect work reporting - there is no flow of information regarding the current stage of activities or their results.

Effective tips on how to manage a distributed team

Despite a number of difficulties in managing a distributed team, there are plenty of methods and opportunities that will allow us to master this not easy task. With the right organization of the work system, the correct deployment of employees, or building relationships with your team, we can achieve satisfactory results. Here are some practical tips to help us in this challenge.

Provide appropriate work tools

Adequate work tools are the basis of all teams today - no matter what system they work in. In the case of distributed groups, however, it is extremely important to provide employees with a fast and stable Internet connection, a computer or a good-quality headset to prevent interference during video conferences. However, it doesn't stop there! In addition to the physical equipment, which is the basis for performing duties, it is necessary to select and implement tools that organize work. Today on the market we have access to a number of platforms - in free and paid versions - that will allow us to separate and supervise tasks. These include the popular Trello, Asana or Redmine, among others. Which tool we choose depends entirely on the needs of our organization and the characteristics of the group's activities. There are many possibilities, but all of them have a common denominator - they streamline work and make the performance of duties in full transparency.

Organize live meetings when possible

Nothing integrates employees like live meetings. Interpersonal relations are extremely difficult to maintain only remotely - we often don't know what emotions accompany our colleagues, we can't see their facial expressions, it also happens that we don't understand jokes. These are real problems that affect group understanding! With - even occasional - direct contact, there is a chance to establish more open and friendly relations. The cordiality that develops between team members during formal or informal events has a very good effect on work and information flow. So if you want to get to know your employees and help them integrate, it is worth organizing joint outings or trips. 

Regular video conferences

Face-to-face contact is quite a challenge for distributed teams. What is, however, as feasible as possible and can take place with great regularity are video conferences. Set on a specific day and at a common time, online meetings can serve not only to report on work, discuss concerns and problems encountered, or distribute new tasks. It's also a time for creative work and an ideal moment to organize brainstorming on new projects or solutions. It is also a good idea to introduce integration elements such as a shared meal or thematic workshops. There are many companies providing services of this type, which also operate globally. Videoconferencing does not have to have a purely business function - it's a good time to build relationships.

Constant contact with distributed team members

Joint video conferences, daily or weekly meetings are events that serve the entire group. They help to communicate information or update the stage of work on a project. On the manager's part, however, it is important to be in constant contact with each member of the distributed team. The availability of the supervisor instills confidence and a sense of security in the employees. They do not feel left alone and do not carry the pressure of being responsible for tasks or the entire project. In addition to professional matters, it is worthwhile for the team to have in its leader constant support in organizational or development issues. Transparency and the availability of the manager are two key qualities that build trust and correct relations within the team.

Motivating a distributed team

Employee motivation is undeniably a very important element in the management of both a distributed team and any other group. There are, of course, organization-wide motivation systems, which include employee benefits or career paths, but this part is handled by the HR department in consultation with the company's authorities. But what can a leader himself do to properly motivate his employee? First of all, appreciate and recognize his work and give him feedback on a regular basis - feedback that includes an assessment of the task performed. Praising an employee for a job well done is an unnecessary element for some, but it is very good for morale, helping to maintain confidence and a sense of purpose. Another motivating factor is access to training - development is an extremely important element in any industry today. Expanding the range of competencies, acquiring new knowledge and the opportunity to prove oneself in new areas mobilize and make professional daily life more attractive. A properly motivated team simply wants to perform their tasks well and on time, because they understand their purpose and know the value of their role in the functioning of the entire organization.


The difficulties of managing a dispersed team do not cancel out the positive elements we can achieve by properly organizing such a group. The competence of people often from different corners of the world can bring real benefits to our company. So it is worthwhile not to give up qualified specialists, just because managing them can be a big challenge for us. Selecting the right working tools, being aware of possible difficulties and being transparent with our team will help us successfully build a mobilized and well-communicated team.