Teleworking, telecommuting or remote working have taken huge strides towards being commonplace in this new normal version of reality that we find ourselves in.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, workers are encouraged to stay at home as much as possible and, it’s likely that even when life finally returns to normal, teleworking will be commonplace.
And so, as workers adapt, workplaces need to shake up their existing routine too. The new remote working environment must centre around collaboration, communication and a workplace culture that thrives despite the lack of a tangible ‘place’.
If teleworking features in your new normal, then take a look at our 10 quick tips for keeping the lines of communication between staff and employees open.
1. Set goals
It’s possible that when your team initially started to work from home (or back in the days when you had a single remote, freelance employee), setting and defining goals seemed a bit unnecessary, but now it should feature prominently on every line manager or employer’s to-do list.
Of course, what the specific goal is will all depend on your business and the staff that you’re working with. But by making sure everyone has a clear overview of the company objectives, you’re already well on your way to fostering a great sense of team spirit.
2. Set up communication guidelines
There’s a strange phenomenon that people expect a more immediate response from remote workers. If you know that the person you’re contacting is right across the office then you’re willing to wait, but for remote workers this period of grace is far shorter. Be clear with your communication guidelines, for example, do you use Slack for instant messages but a Zoom call for something that needs an urgent response? As a manager, do you tell staff that you’ll be most contactable between the hours of 9-11 Monday-Wednesday? Whatever it is, draw up a list because good, clear communication is now more important than ever.
3. Ensure you have regular check-ins
Some people love remote working, others find it a little lonely. Whatever camp your employees fall into, you can rest assured that regular check-ins will help them to feel connected to the rest team. Arrange a weekly catch-up where staff can inform the rest of the team where they’re at with various projects and ask for assistance if needed.
4. Embrace new apps
Okay, you may have always used Skype and it’s a great video conferencing solution but could your team benefit from a more well-rounded tool? Apps like Slack, Asana and Trello allow for all manner of communication from project-specific chat boards to the ability to collaborate on a document in real-time. Ensure that all members of the team, especially those that only work remotely, are all using the same programs to communicate.
5. Get visual
Maybe we shouldn’t admit it, but it’s possible for employees to switch off during a long and explanation-heavy how-to conference call so add visual elements to help get your message across. Diagrams are designed to be easy to read and simple to understand, so shy away from excessively long explanations and sum it all up in a handy one-page visual instead. It helps when staff can keep this for reference rather than relying on their notes. Explanations are undoubtedly easier in a face-to-face setting, but getting around this is easy to master.
6. Give feedback and inspire discussion
You might be very happy with a piece of work submitted by your teleworker. You might have shown this to the client and the client was delighted. But, if this information isn’t passed on, your remote employee has no way of knowing. It works both ways and if a piece of work isn’t up to scratch and you’ve had to work on it yourself, they’ll never know without you telling them directly. Make feedback a regular part of your working day and encourage teleworkers to ask if they’re unsure.
7. Minimise interruptions
One of the clear benefits of remote working is that an employee can plug in, get their head down and work uninterrupted (no sign of Geoff from accounts hanging around talking about his weekend when a deadline is looming). Aim to capitalise on this benefit and refrain from calling and emailing your employees at all points of the day. It ties back into point 2, but clear communication rules can help your employees to achieve even more than they would in the office.
8. Ensure days have clear structure
You can’t expect your team to never take a break, in fact, it’s detrimental for them to do so. But if you’re trying to get a group response and half the team are away, it can end up being frustrating and time-consuming. Give days clear structure. Start your day at 9 (and don’t expect a response before this), have an end time of 5.30 and suggest taking lunch breaks at 1. This clear organisation, rather than stifling, will actually benefit your employees.
9. Trust your staff
There will always be certain managers who feel nervous at the prospect of remote working and feel the need to check in often for the smallest requests. For a teleworker, there are few things more frustrating. You hired them because you trust them to get the job done, so leave them to it. Of course, you’re well within your rights to ask for updates but try to make these once a week, not once a day. And, if it turns out that you can’t trust an employee, then hire someone who you can trust. It will make your life far easier in the long run.
10. Don’t neglect the socials
It’s not easy to gather all of your remote employees together for work drinks and in this current age, it’s even less likely, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get social. Suggest an early finish every other Friday and encourage your staff to down tools and join in the social activity with a beer or two. At the end of a successful project, you could even treat staff members to a voucher for a takeaway. A little creativity goes a long way for letting your staff know that they’re appreciated.
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