Having a significant number of your employees working remotely on any given day is the new normal, and for many managers, the management of people they can’t “drop in on” is a bit of a puzzle. But studies have shown that remote employees are, on the whole, happier and more productive than their in-house counterparts, so companies need to embrace effective strategies for keeping them engaged.
Set a Recurring Morning Meeting
It’s very likely that you and your remote team will not have done a significant amount of work before 9 a.m., but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t schedule a meeting at the symbolic start of the workday. Every project and every action item should all be put on a calendar to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Setting clear expectations will help to avoid confusion and frustration.
During your morning check-in with your team, review your own work to-do list for that day and ask them all to do the same. This gives your team the ability to make agile decisions about how to prioritize work and team up on projects, as well as reassuring each other about what it is that the rest of you actually do all day. Building trust in the workplace is crucial for preventing disengaged employees.
Make Contact Frequently
Reach out to remote workers frequently throughout the workday to make sure they feel involved. Respond to their calls and emails quickly, as they don’t have the ease of access that your in-house employees do. Engaging them often, even for just brief calls and check-ins, reminds them that their office considers them equal members of the team.
Using a few different channels for communication can also be helpful. Instead of sending an email for every request or question, explore collaboration tools and employee feedback apps that enable quick, real-time response and recognition. It’ll feel less onerous and time-consuming than getting an email that requires a lengthy written response. For meetings, explore the use of video conferencing software, so that even when you’re not meeting in person, you’re still engaging face to face and reading each other’s facial expressions and body language.
Build a Community with Technology
Some employers are encouraging the use of online hangouts like Google or Slack as a way for employees to tap into the hive mind, as well as to create a sort of digital water cooler. Real-time reactions to work, current events, or items of shared interest (some employers even pair up buddies based on similar values and encourage digital hangouts) can foster trust and strengthen workplace bonds.
Make your in-person time count. When you do meet with your remote workers, make sure that it feels like it’s worth their while to come into the office. Come prepared, and consider pairing the meetings with some sort of professional development or team building exercise.
Instead of keeping track if someone has been in their chair all day, consider if the deliverables have been met. As long as a remote team member is making their meetings and hitting their marks, they’ve earned your trust. Keep that trust flowing, and your payoff will be increased productivity.
Remote working isn’t going away any time soon, and early adopters have helped define best practices that can guide managers in this new virtual workplace environment. By taking a page from their playbook, managers of remote teams can reap the benefits of having a team that doesn’t need to take up space to create great work.