How to stay connected to a remote workforce
More and more workplaces are switching to remote working. The key to success in this way of working is staying connected to your employees.
So we’ve put together the best ways to keep your remote workforce connected:
Set project expectations
Working from home can empower your employees to use their time more efficiently. But it’s not been fully embraced by all companies who think their employees might get carried away with housework, laundry and Netflix box sets. That’s why it’s important to set project expectations rather than worrying that your employees might not be sitting at their laptop constantly from 9 to 5.
Setting project expectations helps everyone understand what needs to get done and by what time. Maintaining a sense of structure like this is key if you want to stay productive. It also makes it clear how the work they’re doing while at home fits into the bigger picture.
Don’t obsess about activity
It can be tempting to chase your team more regularly when you’re not in the same office, but that won’t do you any favours. Now’s the time to show your employees that you trust them by actually trusting them.
People work in different ways, especially when they’re working remotely, so let your employees work at home just as they would in the office. That means ditching the keylogging or activity tracking software.
Getting on people’s backs if they’ve not touched their keyboard in ten minutes makes them think you don’t trust them, whether that’s the case or not. Plus, people who want to bypass this will tap their keys periodically anyway.
Instead of obsessing about activity, you should be more focussed on connectivity. Make sure everyone’s clear on the communication basics such as having their messaging notifications on, posting regular project updates and dialling into team meetings.
Create meeting rituals
Pulling key stakeholders into a meeting room is easy when you’re in the same office – but staying in touch can get a bit trickier when everyone’s working remotely. We recommend setting up regular meetings and sticking to them. This helps keep everyone in the loop and reduces the odds of someone missing out on crucial information.
This is the same for one on ones. Depending on how people like to be managed, you might want to either hold a regular ten minutes at the end of the day or a longer meeting at the end of the week.
Foster a sense of community
It’s important to keep working at your company culture, even when you and your employees are working remotely. A group chat is a good starting point – a place for everyone to say hello at the start of the day and exchange watercooler style chat.
You can take this to the next level with a few extracurricular groups. Book clubs can work just as well over video calls, as could watching a film at the same time or gaming with each other online. People can even take impromptu coffee and tea breaks over video call if they want.
And don’t forget to keep recognising your team’s achievements. It’s possibly more important to recognise the work of remote staff as it will show them how they fit into the bigger picture – as well as making them feel like more of a team.
We do this in our marketing team every Friday at Perkbox. Whether employees are working from home or in the office, we all gather and take it in turns to read out the personal thank yous we’ve sent to each other through our Recognition platform – followed by a round of applause. We have Friday beers during this as part of our tradition and encourage people to still join in at home if they want!
Take a regular pulse check
It can be difficult to identify problems when your team works remotely. You’ll miss out on plenty of red flags you’d normally spot in the workplace – so it’s important to collect regular feedback from your employees.
Put a formal process in place and make sure everyone knows how they can voice their opinions. Better still, make sure they know they’re expected to do so. Honest feedback shouldn’t be an optional activity, it should be part of the routine – just like attending meetings and sticking to deadlines.
For remote teams, you might want to consider rolling out a feedback tool. We use our own Insights tool to send short, engaging surveys that don’t disrupt our team’s workflow. It gives a real-time view of how our people are feeling without getting in everyone’s way. We can then spot trends which might become bigger issues before they get out of hand.
Hold a weekly debrief
At the end of the week, get everyone in your team on a video call and have a debrief of the last seven days. Take it in turns to share your highlights of the week, one thing you each learned and what you’re all looking forward to most next week. And if you want to make it even more supportive of remote working, let people raise any remote working challenges they’ve got and solve them as a group.
The main purpose of the weekly debrief is to tie all of the above points together. It creates a meeting ritual, keeps people engaged and helps everyone know how their efforts are still important to the company – despite not being physically in the workplace.
Remote working: the key takeaway
The key takeaway is: don’t overthink it. Working remotely shouldn’t fundamentally change much about how you work. Just make sure you’ve put the systems and frameworks in place to help everything run smoothly.
Remote working is about empowering your people to work however they’re most productive. Give them the same trust and flexibility you’d give them in the office and they’ll reward you with the same great work.