In 15 years of managing remote teams, my biggest issue has been with the suitability of individuals to work at home. Clearly, some thrive on working at home, find great freedom and autonomy in it, and are enormously productive. However, others don't fare as well. Some find that the isolation far outweighs the freedom. Some simply prefer working in a more structured, social environment. And some find that home offers more distractions and temptations than they are able to cope with, and their performance suffers. It's important to find this out earlier rather than later, and to give individuals in your team the support they need, rather than trying to shoehorn them all into the same solution.
Even in the best cases, managing remote teams requires a good deal of time and overhead to keep the team effective, motivated and on track. Here are some questions I've found helpful to consider along the way:
1) If you can't "see" someone working, how can you tell if they're really doing what needs to be done? (Weekly goals, frequent project milestones and well-defined deliverables are key, along with clear accountability.)
2) How do you keep the entire team aligned and working together to the same assumptions? (Periodic team meetings are helpful, but individuals can quickly veer off-track if they understand the assumptions differently. Frequent one-on-one conversations with each team member can quickly uncover problems and restore the proper trajectory.)
3) How do you make individuals feel like they're part of a team when they're working at home? (In addition to periodic team meetings, ensure that each person in the team is regularly updated on what's going on with the project as well as with each person in the team. Include plenty of "soft celebrations" like birthdays, etc.)
4) How do you build a sense of comradery among the team members if they rarely see each other? (Team-building activities are great, and more "soft celebrations" like wearing school colors to team meetings or Friday Bug-a-Thons or Obfuscated Code contests. Celebrating successful delivery on key group milestones can strengthen team spirit and provide a big morale boost. And, of course, encourage team members to reach out to each other individually.)
5) How do you facilitate the spontaneous "water cooler" conversations between team members that are often the seeds of innovation? (It's all about the free flow of communication! Slack or Microsoft Teams can be terrific as a common area for these conversations. Wikis work, too (though admittedly old-school!). Use your one-on-one conversations with team members to ensure everyone knows what's going on with everyone else, then encourage one-on-one conversations between team members.)
6) How do you ensure individuals on the team feel their work is valued? (This is often a matter of folks understanding how their work is part of a greater whole. It's often difficult to see the big picture and where you fit into it when you're working in isolation at home. Frequent one-on-one conversations can go a long way to narrowing this gap in understanding.)
Remote teams can be the key to assembling the right team for the job...even if they're not located in the same place. But some special needs arise when this happens. Fortunately, with some proactive efforts, you can facilitate a distributed team's best efforts. Good luck!