This CIO magazine article share 5 key success factors for managing team members, who are not physically in the same office.

The days of workplaces located in a single office are done. Today’s workforce is distributed — across multiple small offices, embracing work-at-home-employees, and spread across continents — and IT has always been at the forefront of that change, eagerly embracing new communications technologies that make it possible. But we’re only a few years into this shift, and the tools and techniques we’ve used to manage a workforce and forge them into a team when they don’t meet at the water cooler every day are in some ways still in their infancy.

1. Sometimes, you’ve gotta talk it out — At the heart of collaboration is communication, and for everyone I spoke to, it was also at the heart of difficulties they had encountered with managing a virtual team. While there are more tools than ever that allow distributed teams to talk to each other (see sidebar), many of them are text based, and those tend to miss a crucial part of communication. Clear communication is a must, and as a team leader, it’s important to pay attention to make sure misinterpretations are minimized.”

2. Avoid information overload with documentation — “The challenge is that there are a lot of informal meetings and office chit-chat that take place where information is exchanged,” he explained. “A lot of distributed teams miss out on the context of what happened or why a decision was made. Miscommunication cropped up because of these last-minute changes, which are somewhat difficult to manage for distributed teams.”

3. Set the tone — The key was establishing the right balance between keeping the home office in the loop but also letting the remote workers take the wheel on their projects. The tone was set that the team had to take ownership of things like this. This element of the lab was an instrumental aspect to having innovation for solutions from within.”

4. Smaller may be better — Some of the leaders we spoke with have changed the way their businesses were organized to accommodate the reality of distributed teams. The main issue we faced was who was ultimately accountable to the success of the customer.

5. Your attention is needed — Your remote employees need the same degree of attention and emotional care as those working in the cubicle across from yours, and sometimes you have to make concrete choices or create organizational structures to provide remote workers with the kind of attention that arises organically when everyone’s working in the same building.