Avoid your daily commute, gain more flexibility, and work in your PJs (Well, not really) — these are some of the many reasons why companies and employees are embracing remote work. But it certainly comes with its challenges that may surprise you.
The shift to remote working has created new challenges for team members and their managers. Traditionally, 66% of remote employees experience difficulties with loneliness, work-life balance, collaboration, and staying motivated. We suspect that this percentage has increased dramatically with the involuntary shift to remote work due COVID-19. Today, more than ever, managers need the right tools to overcome these virtual workplace challenges.
At Cassiopeia, we empower managers with insights to boost team collaboration, work-life wellness, and a sense of belonging by analyzing communication patterns. By assessing existing meta-data from the natural streams of work, such as email, IM, and calendars (without processing any text) managers can learn more about the team dynamics and spot issues in a timely manner when leading a virtual team.
I would love to share three data-based tips for managers on how to improve collaboration and internal communication:
1. Optimize your Team Communication
The key to successful remote teams is great communication. With the shift to remote work, a large part of the team communication is shifted to written communication. According to research, the most common form of communication with remote employees is:
- Email (88%)
- Instant messaging (47%)
- Video conferencing (36%)
As we don’t encounter our employees in the office anymore, managers need to set up communication processes to set the proper terms for success.
Choose your communication channel carefully
Use email and chats for factual information, rather than for feedback or subjective information. It’s much easier to express empathy and ease the conversation with humor through a face-to-face video or audio chat. However, this doesn’t mean you should avoid emails and messaging apps. Instant messaging apps, like Slack, are great ways to seamlessly keep-in-touch with your team without the office setting.
Track your communication data and see how much written versus verbal communication you and your team are using and for what purposes. Make adjustments and adopt new processes accordingly.
Avoid real-time-all-the-time communication
There are many instances where more asynchronous communication, messaging without an immediate response (i.e. email and chat), is necessary. Asynchronous communication allows teams to be more productive and less distracted throughout the workday. For parents working from home or employees in different time zones, asynchronous communication is often the way to go. It’s important to carefully consider and create a balance between asynchronous and real-time communication.
Adopt new rituals
Switching to remote work can be lonely and overwhelming for employees. It’s important to keep a strong company culture and adopt new rituals together, as a team. With new technology, there are countless ways to stay connected and engaged in a virtual setting. Set up a virtual team lunch to talk freely with your colleagues or pair up employees to grab a coffee together over video chat. These small gestures can work wonders for remote teams that are missing out on the social aspect of work.
Check-in regularly with your employees
One-on-one meetings are a great way to check-in with employees on a regular basis. Many successful managers establish a daily call with team members to see how things are going and offer their support where needed.
Give positive feedback
In real life, positive feedback is exchanged every day in our body language and tone. When working virtually, it is more important to say “thank you” and “well done” as much as possible. It can make virtual employees gain confidence and feel that their work is valued.
2. Display Consideration in Schedule Constraints
In our WFH report, we found that 22% of total employees (almost ⅓ of parents) claimed they would like their manager to solicit input for meeting times that are more convenient for their schedule.
Using technology, managers can get insights and recommendations for what time is more convenient for people to engage and operate a smarter, more sensitive team schedule.
By assessing the team’s personal needs, managers can build trust and lead with genuine concern.
3. Continuously Assess Your Team’s Pulse
As all communication shifts to online, the power of People Analytics to provide real-time and objective insights is greater than ever before.
Leaders can no longer get the sense of the team collaboration level and individual employee experiences while walking the hallways or using surveys. Employees are “out-of-sight,” don’t have the time, and in many cases too afraid to lose their jobs to share their actual needs.
Managers should use the power of technology to close the leadership gap created by remote work. Assessing their team’s pulse through the insights of objective data enables them to act on real-time insights to improve collaboration and a sense of belonging.
For example, at Cassiopeia, we added a feature that alerts a manager when the amount of meeting hours for a team increases. This insight empowers managers to be sensitive to the team’s workday balance and to not overwhelm employees with too many meetings that overload and distract them from working on their tasks.
Managers can also use data to assess how well new employees are connected within the company. For example, if new employees are communicating less with other co-workers, compared to the team’s overall average, managers should pay attention to this signal and take action to increase connectivity. This insight allows managers to be more conscientious of new employee’s work experience and keep their team engaged.
Effective Virtual Management
With the right practices and tools in place, you can experience all of the wonderful benefits of remote work, and easily overcome the challenges that come with it. Using data to enhance remote work experience will boost collaboration, productivity, and work-life balance for distributed teams. Whether you have been successfully leading a remote team for years or just starting out, remote work is a different playing field with different challenges than the office. Harness the power of data to enjoy the full potential of remote working.
The Authors: Shiran Yaroslavsky and Lauren Hetzroni.