While the freedom to work remotely can be a valuable workplace benefit, it doesn’t come without its challenges. Leaders must trust their employees to be productive and meet deadlines. Employees must be self-starters and disciplined enough to stay on task. Additionally, leaders must find a way to build a culture and connections that are easily lost without daily in-person interactions.
Here are some tips for making your remote team feel connected, even when they are thousands of miles away from one another.
Establish a regular cadence of check-in meetings
This one may seem obvious, but it’s important to touch base with your employees on a regular basis. Many people will do this daily as questions come up and collaborations are needed, but it’s important to schedule time anyway, so that you are sure to meet at least once a week. A good rule of thumb is to hold bi-weekly team meetings, weekly 1:1 meetings with your direct reports, and to have them do the same if they are managing others in your company. While there are a lot of benefits of 1:1 meetings generally, with a remote workforce they are essential to keeping a pulse on how projects are going for your employee, any challenges they may be facing, and their general attitude and demeanor. When in-person meetings are not possible, gauging attitude and demeanor is best done over the phone or video chat than over email.
All hands meetings—virtual and in person
In addition to regular team and 1:1 meetings, make a point of bringing the whole team together several times a year. Meetings can be held over video or in-person if your budget allows—or a mix of both. Meetings can also vary between being business related or for fun.
For example, the Craft Impact team meets twice quarterly—once for a company update via Zoom, and once for a virtual happy hour. We also try to meet annually in person at either a conference or for a company retreat. All of our team members have expressed that these virtual and in-person touchpoints are essential for building and maintaining connections with our colleagues. You can also get your employees involved by having them take turns choosing themes for your virtual get-togethers.
Include your team in setting your company values
Use team get-togethers as an opportunity to discuss your company’s overarching mission, values, and culture. Solicit input from team members about how your company is differentiated, your unique value prop, and what you are working toward in the future. Including employees in laying the groundwork for who you are as a company ensures buy-in and alignment, and ultimately builds a strong and connected company culture.
Utilize systems that support a remote workforce
Use a cloud based messaging or project management tool like Slack or Basecamp and encourage chatting amongst the team. Chat tools can be used for sharing memes, telling funny stories, or simply saying hi to the team each day. Using tools that are built to connect a workforce allows team members to communicate instantly, despite physical distance.
Allow for more flexibility with how your employees spend their “on the clock” time. Sure, there is a ton of flexibility given to employees who work remotely, but you can further increase their buy-in and establish culture by allowing them room to pursue their passions. Encourage and support your team members in foregoing their desks for a day of service or to help host a holiday party at their kid’s school. Having this freedom will motivate your employees to be even more productive when they are in front of their monitor.
There are no rules for running your business remotely, so get creative with how you show your employees that you care. For example, send small gifts or trinkets of your appreciation. When there isn’t a break room to bond over eating too many holiday cookies or to pick up the new company water bottle, you can show your employees some love by sending them surprises in the mail.
Managing a remote workforce isn’t for every leader or every business, but there are advantages. Using the above tips, you can help your team stay on task, as well as feel valued and connected to one another.