The 5 Essential Rules of Remote Communication That You’re Probably Not Following
If the thought of hiring someone to work outside the office makes you want to break the internet and never touch technology again, we’re willing to bet you’ve heard some horror stories regarding remote contractors and employees. If that’s not the case, then I’m guessing you’re running your company from an “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” perspective. No matter the source of your anxiety, it’s undoubtedly time to reevaluate your feelings on the nontraditional workforce
Telecommuting is not some absurd millennial trend but a widespread, long-term, change to the global workforce. In fact, 3.7 million employees are now working from home at least half of the time, and this number continues to grow annually.
Despite the impressive figures (and we haven’t even discussed cost savings), we see businesses large and small struggle to make the switch all the time. Leaders often assume that if they can’t look at their employees, the work will not get done. In reality, two-thirds of managers report that their remote workers are more productive.
Therefore the issue boils down to a lack of trust between leaders and their work-from-home employees or contractors. And, the only way to fix a trust issue aside from years of therapy, is with excellent communication.
Many companies, particularly in the software development industry, are changing their business model to reflect an agile approach. Whether you take part in the agile methodology or prescribe to the traditional waterfall method of project management, it helps to check in daily with your remote team much like you would with an in-office team.
Granted, if you have more than a handful of remote workers, you’d never get anything done if you tried to check in with everyone every day. But, you can check in with leaders and administrators via Skype, Zoom, or other technology, on a daily basis and they can communicate your message to their teams.
A morning check-in reassures you that your team is working because it holds them accountable. For your team, it ensures everyone is on the same page and their valuable time isn’t being wasted.
One of the many benefits of working with a remote team is fewer distractions. Though this contributes to an increase in productivity as we mentioned before, the need for human interaction will never go away.
This is why it is essential to have a virtual gathering place or a “ water cooler” available for every employee to use. I’m talking about programs like Slack. Create channels specifically for personal topics like kids and sports. Take time at the end of conference calls to let everyone chat about their weekends.
Not only does this type of camaraderie contribute to your company’s culture and make for delighted employees, but it also allows you to see who is working on what throughout the workday across all levels.
Emails Aren't Urgent
Sending an email in the event of a work-related emergency is like deciding to walk to the hospital after getting in a car accident. It doesn’t make any sense!
Remote contractors and work from home employees are not and should not be expected to check their inbox every 30 seconds. Neither should you, for that matter. Leaders and the work-from-home workforce are quickly realizing how unproductive checking their email can be. Instead of encouraging your team to look out for urgent emails in their inbox throughout the day, you should be doing the opposite.
If you or members of your team need something from one another right away, emailing doesn't cut it. This is where applications like Slack come to be incredibly useful in the remote workplace. For your company, maybe it’s Skype or Whatsapp. The platform itself doesn’t matter nearly as much as making sure there is a way for you to communicate with your team efficiently.
Hours, Overtime, and Vacation
How many times have you called your receptionist on a Saturday because you can’t find the client profile you’re looking for? Assuming your company runs Monday through Friday during regular business hours, your answer is (hopefully) never.
It is important that these same boundaries are established and respected when working with remote contractors and remote employees. If they don’t work weekends, don’t contact them on weekends. If they are on vacation, let them enjoy it.
Everyone’s working hours (these may vary person to person) need to be communicated upon employment. When they are off work, they should not be expected to respond to emails, calls, slack messages, etc.
These types of boundaries go both ways. While you should respect your team’s limits to ensure their work-life balance is in good standing, they are responsible for informing you of upcoming changes to their availability like a vacation. Just like the traditional workplace, ample notice must be given for extended absences.
End of Day Reports
For some leaders and business models, this is overkill. For companies just getting started in working with remote contractors, this is a great way to build trust and develop structure.
The end of day reports is especially helpful if it doesn’t make sense to do a daily call with your team. Requiring everyone to send a quick message in Slack or even an email can give you peace of mind and help you plan the next day.
Now that you know how to manage them, it's time for you to get some remote employees! They'll make you proud (and get stuff done faster than you would believe). What's the best way to get awesome IT employees that work remotely? We might know a guy… Just kidding, that's us! Get in touch through here.