Whether your middle market work team is fully remote or commutes into the workplace only occasionally, whether some members of the team work remotely while others don’t (a blended team), managing remote workers and remote/blended teams presents a unique set of challenges.

Working remotely has been a growing trend for a long time, driven by virtual technology and employee desire for more balance, but COVID-19 served to greatly accelerate the trend and has transformed remote working (working from home) into today’s “new normal.” A survey recently conducted by IBM (in April, 2020, just after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic and nearly everybody began remote working) found that the majority of employees now want remote work to be their primary method of working. And 75 percent said they’d like to continue working remotely at least part of the time, commuting into work maybe once a week.

Many middle market companies have responded to these remote working trends with new policies and enabling technologies that enable full-time or “blended” remote working. An oft-overlooked part of any remote working set-up is managing remote teams, which is the focus of this post.

Challenges for Managers of Remote Teams

Whether your middle market work team is fully remote or commutes into the workplace only occasionally, whether some members of the team work remotely while others don’t (a blended team), managing remote workers and remote/blended teams presents a unique set of challenges.

For example, it’s tougher for middle market managers to build trust and proactively identify team morale problems when people and teams work remotely. When everyone’s in the same location, MBWA (managing by walking around) is a popular way for managers to “take the team’s temperature,” chat with team members, build trust, and do quick one-on-one check-ins. Well, you can’t effectively MBWA on Zoom.

Managers and team members may also struggle to build trust and interpersonal cohesion when they don’t have F2F (face-to-face) interactions over coffee or lunch or chit-chat before meetings. Moreover, teams working from the same location could occasionally have fun get-togethers outside work to promote team-building and cohesion. Again, building a cohesive team culture is a challenge during a time of social distancing, and nearly impossible to do on Zoom.

7 Tips for Effectively Managing Remote Middle Market Teams

What follows is a framework that each middle market manager should tweak and iterate for her own team’s individual needs. Every middle market manager is different and every team has its unique working styles and organizational culture (i.e., how they do things).
With that caveat in mind, here are the 7 tips:


No team, working remotely or blended or in any other way, can work effectively unless they have clarity about what they’re tasked with doing and why it matters to their middle market company. It ‘s the primary role of managers to share a roadmap for where the team is going, how they’ll get there, and what success will look like when they arrive. 

What might a strategic direction for the remote team include? Middle market company managers should communicate a vision (what do we as a team want to achieve? what’s our reason for being, our why?), the team’s values (what’s important about us?), the methods (how do we get to where we want to go, tactically?), potential barriers (what is standing in our way and how do we remove those obstacles?), and metrics (how do we know when we’ve succeeded?).


Remote teams need a documented plan to guide them, quarterly and annually, something they can refer to when they get off track and something that can help the remote team (and individuals) make decisions that align with the strategy/plan. The plan should obviously be built with inputs from the team, funded with sufficient resources, and broken down into realistic, attainable goals that the team (and its members) “own.” Lastly, the plan must be supported by clear tactics.


Managers should enable and empower team members to use apps and tools that the entire team can use. As this Harvard Business Review article on remote work explains, “if your company doesn’t have technology tools already in place, there are inexpensive ways to obtain simple versions of these tools for your team, as a short-term fix.” Whatever apps/tools you select for your middle market team, you need to ensure that (1) these apps/tools are secure; and (2) your remote team understands how to use them. You should consider using training videos and online assessments to measure training outcomes for your remote team. Don’t forget to train team members in how to avoid/defend against cyberattacks and malware attacks.


Middle market managers and their teams need to meet regularly in order to remain aligned around their goals and collective expectations. It’s a best practice to mix up your meetings, including monthly all-hands meetings, weekly team progress meetings and monthly 1-on-1s to check in with individuals.

Managers of remote teams should use virtual meetings to build trust and team cohesion: you should even consider starting each team meeting a few minutes early so your people can have remote chit-chat, social discussions about other areas of their life that actually help lead to shared empathy and shared understanding.


Managers have an important role in supporting the career development of remote team members. Managers and team members need to keep learning and development going as a way to enable collective success and personal career development. Middle market managers should be discussing individual career aspirations, development/training gaps, and goals with each remote team member at least quarterly. Such discussions are also a good way to drive employee engagement and understand the deeper motivations (and strengths) of each team member, which can help managers better deploy the team to particular tasks.


Whether you manage teams remotely or not, you need to measure both team and individual performance, sharing those performance insights regularly to drive accountability and improvement. As management guru Peter Drucker famously said, “that which gets measured, gets accomplished.”

Hold frequent updates to keep projects on track. Make dashboards accessible to the team to show relevant performance metrics (i.e., revenue/pipeline goals). Fortunately, a wide array of performance measurement tools are readily available.


It’s hard to have fun when working remotely. Managers should research and deploy the various online tools that are emerging to support online fun for teams. You might plan team games like trivia or organize a virtual happy hour devoted to anything but work. Managers and remote team members alike want to feel seen as individuals and feel a sense of belonging, so find creative ways to develop that collective cohesion for your middle market team.


While managing remote teams is a challenge, it’s also something you’ll get better at from experience. Follow the 7 suggestions above and tailor each to your own, and your team’s, unique working styles.