Use these tactics and tools to keep your remote team unified, productive, and engaged.
Ubiquitous connectivity, mobile technology, shifting generational expectations, and life events (such as the COVID-19 outbreak) have all swiftly contributed to the growing number of people working from home.
Leading a remote workforce requires a different set of tools to sustain relationships and maintain productivity across a team.
Below are tactics and tools for leaders to boost engagement, create unity, and extend company culture among a remote workforce.
5 Ways Leaders Can Extend Company Culture to Remote Workers
1. Establish a Digital Water Cooler
On a remote team, watercooler talk (random and non-work-related conversation)is nonexistent. However, there are ways to cultivate the healthy aspects of water-cooler talk with a remote team.
Slack or Basecamp are chat services that are ideal for creating "channels" where watercooler talk can happen. Labeling channels such as “LOL” or “watercooler” can create a virtual place where the team can connect and build rapport with one another.
2. Openly Knowledge Share
Leaders should consider sharing industry news, company updates, financial status, etc. via a reoccurring virtual town hall meeting.
In addition, encouraging remote employees to share their work or non-work related knowledge is also a great way to cultivate culture. SnagIt or Screencast lets users share videos and images, and has mark up tools like blur, spotlight, magnify, and stamps that make it easy to share and teach others. Zoom or Skype are video conferencing services that also enable users to meet virtual and knowledge share.
3. Provide Recognition Digitally
High fives and pat on the backs aren’t possible when remote working. Leaders must consider new ways to recognize their team digitally.
15Five is a continuous performance management solution that helps leaders extend digital recognition, feedback, and coaching to their remote workforce. In addition, Tango Card makes it easy to send digital rewards (e-gift cards) to your team.
Read this to understand how emojis (and other visuals) can help clarify the emotional intent of our communications. This becomes increasingly important when remote working because we are less reliant on facial expressions.
It’s easy for remote workers to feel disconnected from the company brand.
Sending company swag (mugs, t-shirts, phone chargers, etc.) to your remote team can help to keep them connected to the company brand. Also, since remote workers are likely working alongside family members and/or roommates, send additional swag to include them.
5. Meet in Person (Eventually)
As powerful and enabling as technology is, it can’t replace the human-to-human connection. The secret to cultivating and sustaining culture among a remote workforce, is in-person meet-ups. In-person meetings create opportunities for employees to bond, build trust, relationship build, and have fun. All core to building enduring team culture.
For example, the 900+ remote employee company, Automattic, gets the entire company together every year for a “grand meet-up” in a beautiful location.
Once you establish a healthy culture among your remote team, turn your attention to the below tactics for leading your remote workforce effectively.
Here are 6 Tactics for Effectively Leading a Remote Workforce
1. Set Clear Expectations
Remote work is usually less structured than non-remote work, therefore clear expectations are critical. Clearly outline the expectations and then offer the necessary autonomy and trust for the team to execute.
- Mission and vision
- Yearly, monthly, and weekly goals
- Hours of operations
- Available resources and tools
- Preferred communication methods, channels, and timing
- Contact info and guidelines for support
- Project and/or task ownership
- Team availability (when, where, and how to be reached)
A lack of consistent connection, can leave remote workers feeling isolated and disconnected from the organization's goals and mission.
- Schedule routine virtual meetings
- Designate a specific time (daily, weekly, or monthly) where the entire team is online at the same time allowing for quick collaboration or help if needed
- Consider an "open status policy" (similar to an "open door policy") where your online status (busy, away, available, etc.) is accurate so that remote workers know when they can connect with you
3. Choose the Right Channel
Today’s workers have gotten fairly good at blending digital and non-digital communications in non-remote working environments. However, in a fully remote working environment, all communications are digital and a new set of rules, know-how, and abilities are needed.
When communicating with remote workers, ensure your intended message aligns with the appropriate channel. Here is a quick overview on how to use today's primary communication channels.
- Phone: long, detailed, difficult, and/or emotional conversations
- Email: objective and brief information
- Chat: informal messages, general announcements, news, quick team collaborating
- Video (Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, etc.): focused, long, feedback-rich, emotional or difficult conversations
4. Communicate Transparently
When communicating with a remote team, transparency is paramount. A remote team is able to be more productive and autonomous when they are well informed.
To allow a remote team to function smoothly as a single unit, make information transparent from the sense of being easily accessible and readily available by using file-sharing services like Google Docs, Dropbox, etc.
The ability to track and measure progress is empowering to any worker, and it’s no different for remote workers. However, the tools used to track progress for remote teams can be different. Consider time tracking, task management, and/or activity tracking tools to review what the team and individuals are accomplishing.
- Hubstaff or When I Work are time tracking tools
- Asana is a cloud-based task and project management tool
- Monday.com is a work operating system that powers teams to run processes, workflows, and projects in one digital workspace
- Trello helps to organize and prioritize projects and track progress
- IDoneThis helps remote workers aggregate their daily activity into a single report
Setting boundaries between personal and work can be challenging for remote workers. The new independence of a remote worker leading to laziness and low performance can be very top of mind for managers.
"The greater danger is for [remote] employees to overwork themselves and burn out. It's the manager's responsibility to guard against this outcome," says David Hansson, New York Times Bestselling author of Remote: Office Not Required, says,
Help employees take the appropriate time for themselves and maintain work-life balance by utilizing tools like OfficeVibe, CultureAmp, and TINYpulse which can effectively monitor employee morale and engagement.
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