More and more of our clients come to us with remote teams. Sometimes this looks like offices in multiple cities for better regional coverage; other times its various individuals who work remotely within a team or department; still other times it’s companies who simply elect to have people work from home, regardless of where those homes are.
More and more businesses in this day and age are adding remote work to their offerings. This allows their talent pool to grow as they are not limited to the immediate area of the office. It also has shown to increase productivity levels for some employees. As of 2019, the number of companies with a remote workforce is getting bigger — 66% of companies allow remote work and 16% are fully remote.
However, every business decision has its challenges. Remote employees sometimes report feeling isolated and not part of the team. A recent study showed that three out of the top 4 apps remote workers use most are all about communication – a testament to the unique needs of staying connected from afar. Isolated and discouraged employees often result in decreased productivity; meaning how we engage a remote workforce affects both company culture and the bottom line.
As a leader of a remote team (or remote offices or individuals), you have an opportunity to positively engage and impact your staff near and far. We’ve compiled 5 tips to help you create a killer team that’s engaged, efficient, and accountable to actualizing your vision.
Here are the 5 Tips to Positively Engage a Remote Team
1. Implement a messaging tool for group communications
Whether you use Slack, Google Messaging, or any of the other online group messaging tools – they’re a great way to keep teams connected no matter where they’re physically located.
While email will remain a valuable tool, it is no longer our only option. If you want to be done with “reply-all” gone awry, or cumbersome chains which morph confusingly from one topic to the next, or muddling through and address book to figure out who to include, an online messaging tool may be the thing to change your game. Being able to instantly see and respond to messages, create group chats or streams based on a theme or project, and having the ability to casually interact without the formal feeling of emails all provides a new different way to interacting with team members.
As mentioned before, 3 out of the top 4 apps used in remote work are communication apps. We’ve implemented Slack ourselves here at Werq and have seen an increase in communication, collaboration, and the type of personal connections and trust that we (and studies!) know to bring out the best on a team.
2. Utilize Video Conferences instead of Phone Conferences
Video calls provide remote workers some much-needed face time with leaders and colleagues in their organization.
94% of businesses say video conferencing increases productivity. Wow. That’s a huge stat not to be missed.
Many of our clients have started using video conferencing tools for both internal and external meetings, siting that they feel more personally connected and engaged.
Some have taken it a step further and are using video for messaging, training, and other types of internal (and external) communication. Studies estimate that one minute of video can convey as much as 1200 words of text – that means a LOT more can be accurately conveyed when tone, facial expression, and non-verbals are incorporated. Here at Werq, we use LOOM to send video messages both internally and externally and have seen firsthand the power this format has in both conveying information effectively and building relationships.
3. Schedule Regular In-person meetings
Clearly, with remote teams, in-person meetings aren’t possible all the time. They require travel time, additional costs, and extra logistics needs. However, we do recommend periodic meetups on a routine cadence.
Many of our clients use a quarterly cadence to gather all remote workers together, but if your team is a bit closer (maybe all in the same town) perhaps a weekly meeting is possible.
These in-person meetings go a long way to create strategic synergy and to allow members to build better working relationships.
Make sure you have an established retreat or meeting agenda that provides time for engagement, strategy, and collaboration – and good team bonding experiences sprinkled throughout.
4. Get Personal with Team Members
No matter what the meeting is (whether phone, video,5. or in-person) make sure to schedule the first few minutes to check in on each individual. Give them an opportunity to share something about their lives and connect with you and their other team members. See what you can do to break the ice with a little vulnerability of your own – others are more likely to follow if they see it modeled effectively.
These personal touchpoints help a team relax, which means they’re more likely to share ideas and participate in discussions. It also allows them to learn more about each other and build relationships and strengthen their connection no matter the distance.
These personal check-ins need not (and should not) take too long – but teams are made up of human beings – attending to the human side of your people goes a long way towards bringing out the type of behaviors that allow your team to achieve business goals.
5. Establish Guidelines
With a bunch of different communication options, it can be easy to misconstrue expectations or accidentally annoy team members. The best way to ensure communication is positive and efficient is to establish agreed-upon guidelines for what method of communication will be used for what purpose and to clarify what types of responses are expected.
You may have one team member who really likes phone calls, while another always emails. Or there may be an avid texter working with someone else who finds those constant notifications to be disruptive.
Work with the team as a whole to identify guidelines that everyone agrees on – for example; maybe all off-topic chat should go on a certain group slack, so others can mute when they don’t want to be distracted. Or perhaps the group can agree that phone calls should only be used for urgent matters.
Take it a step farther to spell out what is expected when you’re the one on the receiving end. If the boss emails on a Saturday, are you expected to respond? What about a Slack after-hours from a peer? A phone call during a day booked solid with meetings from a direct report? Take the time to get clear on what response cadence will be most effective for your team/company, and to communicate those expectations proactively.
By having the guidelines clear and agreed upon, team members can confidently engage others without feeling unheard or disruptive. They can collaborate and share easier without the frustration that comes with miscommunication. And as a leader, you can more easily hold teams accountable and engaged when the expectations are clear and all agree to be accountable to them.
Having a remote workforce can have a huge impact on your company, with possible cost savings, increased productivity, and a larger talent pool to build on. However, it’s not without risks. Without positive engagement and leadership, remote teams can feel isolated and frustrated – which results in decreased productivity levels that can lead to missed deadlines, mistakes, and poor performance.
Use the tips in this article to continue to strengthen your remote teams and positively engage workers in their activities. This will result in a stronger team that works hard, collaborates well, and supports your visions – ultimately getting you closer to a peak performing team.