Remote working may be controversial but it’s fast becoming a way of life for many people. More and more companies are offering remote working as a way to attract the best talent.
However, keeping in touch with remote workers can be difficult, especially when people are working on different things, at different times, possibly in different timezones.
Here’s 7 of our favorite tips for keeping communication open with off-site workers…
1. Beware of written communication
Have you ever read an email or text message in one tone, only to realise later it was intended differently? It can be easy to perceive a blunt, rushed email as an angry or annoyed email.
When communicating with remote workers, you need to make sure that your emails and messages come across in the tone that you intended. Always re-read your emails before you send them. Try reading them in different emotional tones to see if there’s any way the recipient can misinterpret them.
“Poorly written messages can easily be misinterpreted and tend to send misleading signals which can disrupt your capacity to think clearly and communicate creatively and effectively. Postpone communication or sending emails when you are stressed. Take time to calm down before engaging with your clients and team.”
2. Don’t be a technophobe
There are hundreds of apps and services available to help you communicate and collaborate with your team. I’m not just talking about Skype and Google Hangouts, there are apps available to help your team collaborate on projects, share documents, manage HR and chat rubbish around the virtual “watercooler”. We wrote about 10 of our favourite apps for kick-ass ream collaboration here.
3. Share the love
Staying in touch is important for any team but with remote workers, it’s important to really make the extra effort. Working remotely puts your team at risk of feeling left out and disconnected from the company and each other.
Make sure you get your whole team together as much as possible. If your whole team is remote, or you work with a lot of part-timers, consider having regular fun days out to encourage your team to build strong relationships and boost company morale.
Encouraging everyone to stay in touch is another great way to keep the love alive. Everyone in our team has access to our shared Contactzilla address book, meaning every team member has everyone else’s contact details synced to all of their devices. This enables everyone to get in touch as they like outside of work and build productive working relationships that last.
4. Be transparent
I’m a big believer in being transparent with our team. I consider our team to be our greatest asset and I don’t like to keep secrets from them. I believe that knowing exactly how the company is doing, and what we have planned for the future, helps everyone at Contactzilla to understand their value to the company and helps them to trust us.
At Contactzilla, we send a weekly internal newsletter to our whole team to let them know exactly what has been happening that week and what we have planned for the next.
Mashable writer Amy-Mae Elliott believes it’s important to be especially transparent about negative developments with remote workers…
“Don't think that because they are distant, remote workers won't catch wind of the news. One way or another, they will, and it's your responsibility to keep your workers appraised of both good and bad developments. It's much better if they hear such news from you, along with a confident comment from someone relevant in the organization, rather than via other means.”
5. Manage expectations
Remote employees need to know exactly what is expected of them. Dave Nevogt, co-founder of time-tracking software suite, Hubstaff, recommends laying out your communication requirements for remote employees in the hiring process. He also suggests publishing your expectations in a manual or staff handbook.
It is up to you whether you want to communicate with your team after specific intervals of time (e.g daily or weekly) or on a per task basis (as with Results Only Working for example) but you need to make sure your team know what’s expected of them.
You also need to make sure remote workers know exactly what goals they need to achieve. Stephen Funari, a corporate attorney and founder of Law Firm Suites believes communication of your work expectations for remote contract workers should be more in depth than that with on-site workers…
Funari said he needs to be “painstakingly detailed with the instructions I give because [contract workers] don’t have the luxury to learn by being around the office.”
6. Be available
Of course you’re busy and it can seem impossible to find the time, but you need to be available to support your remote workers.
Make sure everybody knows how and when to contact you or other managers at your company and make sure everybody has access to the resources they need to support them with their work.
7. Give feedback
With so much going on in the office, it can be easy to forget about remote workers. However, remote workers need just as much, if not more, feedback than on-site workers.
Founder of employee scheduling tool When I Work, Chad Halvorson, believes that the majority of communication with remote workers should be feedback-oriented...
“Part of your regular communication should be on an interpersonal level to help your remote workers “bond” with the company but a majority should be constructive feedback (positive or critical) that helps them see what they’re doing and the way they should be doing it. Not only will the feedback shape the overall outcome, it will reinforce the connection between employer and remote employee.”
Make sure to hold regular performance reviews with remote workers (we find quarterly reviews work best for us) and try tools like TINYpulse and iDoneThis to get weekly or daily feedback from your team.
Need help keeping track of your remote workers? Try Contactzilla for free today.