The COVID-19 pandemic forced companies all over the world to abandon their centralized locations for a more remote setup that could keep employees safe. Moving forward, remote work is likely to remain in place for many of these companies. Therefore, leadership needs to be strategic in communicating with remote workers to ensure they feel like part of the team and understand the company mission.
Working remotely has many perks for employees, such as increased flexibility, and for employers, such as cost savings. However, remote employees can feel both physically and emotionally detached, which can result in rapid burnout or suboptimal productivity. Companies can avoid this problem by communicating proactively and taking steps to make remote employees feel included. Some tips to keep in mind when managing a remote workforce include the following:
- Ask about communication preferences.
Too often, managers communicate according to their preferences rather than those of their employees. Since remote work cuts out a lot of opportunities for building rapport and trust, managers must understand how their employees want to be communicated with moving forward. Asking about their preferences demonstrates concern for the employee and respect for how they operate in a work environment. Managers should also ask for feedback about how they are doing with communication. Intention does not always translate as action, and employees should feel comfortable sharing feedback with their managers. Moreover, managers should take this feedback seriously and implement changes.
- Connect daily contributions to the company mission.
When people work remotely, it can be difficult for them to feel connected to the mission of the company. Employees should know that not only is their work important but that they contribute to the greater good of the organization. All team members are important in the mission of the organization, but it is not always obvious how, especially when they are not physically part of the larger company culture. Managers need to communicate with their employees how their work has made a difference on a team and individual level. When employees know their work makes an impact, they are motivated to push themselves harder. Managers also need to ensure that they communicate the company’s mission effectively; connecting daily contributions to the mission is a great way to ensure that all members of the team understand the larger goals of the organization.
- Set clear expectations for all workers.
Managers are typically good at setting clear expectations for employees that they see consistently and can supervise in person. However, these expectations become a little more nebulous for a remote workforce. Companies should have clear expectations for all remote workers, such as guidelines for creating a home office, what to wear while on camera, when cameras need to be turned on, and how fast Internet connections should be. Beyond that, it is up to managers to set expectations about the specific role in question. Setting clear expectations ensures that everyone is on the same page about what should get done when. With remote workers, the workday is not always set, but any specific time requirements should be communicated with plenty of advanced knowledge. Also, remote workers should understand how they will be evaluated in terms of quality and volume of work. Regular check-ins can help keep this conversation going.
- Model a healthy work-life balance.
Another important factor that gets overlooked for remote workers is work-life balance. Without in-person supervision, it can be difficult to tell exactly how much time someone is spending on a task and if burnout is imminent. Burnout has resounding negative effects on teams, so it should be avoided completely. Many people assume that remote workers put fewer hours in, but this is not always the case—making this assumption can lead to resentment and frustration. Managers should encourage their employees to check in on their mental health and take their paid time off whenever it is necessary. Often, managers set the tone in terms of work-life balance, so they need to be conscientious of the image they portray.
- Maintain the organizational culture.
Introducing the company culture to remote workers may prove difficult, but making all attempts to do so can boost morale significantly. If the office is used to having some fun, then try to bring similar escapades to virtual meetings by making breaks for games and other forms of engagement. Of course, it is important not to forget the task at hand, but taking a few minutes for fun can help with team building and make people feel like they are part of the organization.
Also, companies need to broadcast their culture as much as possible. Rather than creating a document for a remote employee to read about culture and values, the company should demonstrate them. Regularly host speakers and other virtual events that highlight the company culture and show people what the organization they are a part of stands for.