More people work from home today than they have at any other point in history. If you're a manager, you know how tough it can be to straddle leadership styles between your in-house employees and those who work at home.
There are a lot of fears around productivity and communication when employees go remote. Yet the remote workforce has consistently grown over the past few years. And in fact, research shows that managers who were remote before the rest of their team (as OnSIP’s marketing directors can attest) know full well how to keep communication flowing while out of the office:
“Managers who have worked at home themselves are more likely to endorse it for others. Their worries about lost productivity go away. As they and their people get used to using virtual tools, their worries about not being able to collaborate are proven wrong. And they see for themselves, just how much happier and engaged they are without the stress of commuting, being away from loved ones, workplace interruptions, etc.”
—Kate Lister, President of Global Workplace Analytics
Here are five tips for effective communication with remote employees.
1. Schedule a Daily Call
Schedule a call every morning to check in with your remote workers. Use OnSIP's desktop or mobile app—available for free to OnSIP users—so that you communicate easily and even on the go. Discuss what's expected of them for the day, and give them hard deadlines so that they know what they're expected to turn in. This daily conversation keeps everyone on the same page and accountable.
Setting up consistent deadlines and boundaries with your remote employees gives them a certain structure that they tend to lose when they leave the office. Remote workers are capable of the same kind of work as their office counterparts—that's why you let them work at home—but depending on their work style, they need to be given clear direction to know exactly what's expected of them.
2. Chat It Up
Take some time to make small talk with your remote employees. Talk about family, sports, or other common interests that help you bond on a human level. Also keep a dedicated Google Hangout or chat room open so that your remote workers can communicate with the team on an impromptu basis.
Being outside of the office takes away from the sporadic interactions that occur simply by remaining in close physical proximity to your employees. When you're talking about your event-filled weekend or the big game, you are forging camaraderie among your remote workers that translates into effective teamwork down the road.
3. Implement Video Calls
Try to have a few video calls each week with remote workers who are consistently out of the office. The OnSIP app's free softphone can make video calls to any video-capable phone. With free SIP-to-SIP calling, OnSIP’s platform allows you to call your remote employees on the OnSIP app—either by voice or video—for no charge. You can dial the extension your remote employee uses on the office phone system via the OnSIP app to initiate an instant video call.
4. Choose An Office Platform
Make sure that your remote workers and team members have a centralized platform where they can communicate as a group. Some companies use Slack for team chat. Zendesk and Trello are used widely by customer service departments to keep task management unified across multiple locations.
Basecamp and Asana work great as team-wide messaging boards that can store large volumes of files. Pivotal Tracker allows coding teams to keep track of development projects and bugs. Whichever you choose, use a platform that makes communication among team members more productive than individual emails.
5. Schedule In-Person Interactions
For those remaining remote, we encourage small get-togethers if you can do so safely. Some of our own NYC-based folks have gotten together for lunch and even taken in outdoor live music. You may be masked up and socially distant, but seeing your colleagues in person is a treat all the same. Depending on where you are, you may be back in the office, in which case, read on!
Small talk over the phone is a key way to stay connected with your employees. But nothing is more powerful than meeting with them in person. Weekly in-person meetings are feasible for remote workers who live within a reasonable distance of the office. But if your remote workers live across the country, special occasions will probably be the best way to retain proximate contact.
Throw a holiday party each December and ask everyone in the company to attend it. For that matter, any company-wide festivity is a great way to bring everyone on your team together. The in-person bonding that you have with your remote workers at these events transfers into more fluid interactions when you're working hundreds of miles away.