Remote work can seem like a dream come true. No more 2-hour commute each day. No expensive parking or rail pass fees. Instead, you get the freedom to work the way that’s most productive for you.

Running a remote team, however, can be hard. Because you don’t get to see your team every day, you need to rely on individuals to meet deadlines. Plus, getting everyone on the same page can be an uphill battle. So let’s stack the deck in your favor and walk through five of the best practices for running a successful and thriving remote team.

1. Create a clear onboarding process

Systems are vital for remote work. Without them, it’s hard to know if someone on your team is struggling or if work is getting missed. Clear project workflows keep everyone moving at the same pace and let your team know what they can expect next. Because while working without the distractions of a traditional office can actually increase productivity, you can only experience the benefits if everyone is on the same page.

The key to getting your team all on the same page is to dedicate time to a comprehensive onboarding process. Introduce your team to all the processes and equipment they can expect to use day-to-day. Training on software should be part of your onboarding process so make sure to set aside time during induction to get everyone up to speed on what they’ll be using.

You can create a training plan that includes a simulated project that requires every tool you’d use in a day to complete it. You can also use software like Stormboard or WizIQ to develop your new hire and continuing education program.

2. Set clear expectations

When there are no clear expectations, people struggle. That’s why it’s crucial to let your team know what you expect from them.

Set clear working hours

Encourage everyone to share their working hours – either in a shared document, in Slack or through a shared company calendar. This makes it easy to know when people are available for questions, meetings or updates. Setting work hours helps your team work together instead of getting into a silo on their own projects.

Set your team up with the right tools and set clear use expectations

To stay productive, your team needs access to efficient tools for video conferencing, scheduling, and project management. But getting set up is not as simple as adding team members to the account. Create a clear onboarding process that outlines the best company practices and expectations for each tool. For example, if you’re using a tool in Slack tell your team how often you expect them to log in.

3. Create a clear feedback system

You need an effective way to give feedback to individuals and teams. And – depending on the size of your remote company – you may need a system you can train your executives on too.

Introduce regular stand-ups

When you work remotely, it’s hard to keep up and create a sense of teamwork. You can’t just stop by someone’s desk and ask them what they’re working on. That’s where regular stand-ups come in. This can be done at the small team level or the department level, depending on the size of your company.

In a stand-up, everyone quickly shares what they’re working on that day and gets to ask any clarifying questions. It’s an opportunity to get everyone on the same page, make them feel involved and clear any obstacles blocking people from doing their best work. If daily stand-ups don’t work with your schedule or team distribution, you can try weekly or every other day.

Make the time for regular one-on-one with key staff

Talking to key staff members needs to be a bit more structured in a remote setting because it’s not as simple as stopping by their office when you have a question. How often you meet will depend on your needs and the pace of the company. If you’re not sure how often you need to meet, start off with bi-weekly one-on-ones with team leaders and then adjust up and down from there.

4. Create time for the team to get together outside of project work

All work and no play makes for a less productive team. To make sure you’re getting the best out of your people make sure you take the time to organize remote social activities.

Socializing is one of the benefits of a co-located workplace. It’s also something your team may feel they’re missing out on. Social isolation is one of the big hurdles to productivity in a remote team so make sure you consider your people’s emotional well being. Here are a few ideas and tools you can use to build a cohesive team.

Create a digital watercooler

Create a chat space where teammates can talk about work and home life with each other. Both zoom and Slack have fantastic facilities for this.

Run a Secret Santa (or another “secret” event)

It doesn’t have to be the holiday season to engage in some gift-giving and team building. Pairing up teammates to give gifts or spend time together can help break the ice among remote workers. Especially if they can open gifts on camera.

Host a movie night

Netflix party lets viewers sync videos across devices letting your team see the same movie at the same time. There is a built-in chat function that helps simulate the joint viewing experience.

You’re all on the same team

Remote work has a lot of benefits. It can increase productivity and employee happiness and give you access to top talent who doesn’t live anywhere near your headquarters. But for things to run smoothly, you have to keep everyone on the same page. This means clear, consistent communication and plenty of “virtual” engagement. When you put these things in place, work quality – and team happiness – will stay on the up and up.

About the Author: Jocelyn Pick