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Remote work is no longer a temporary solution or a means to an end. It’s now our reality. Learning how to build efficient, reliable and engaged teams in a virtual world is more important than ever before. When GoodHire surveyed 3,500 American workers regarding the state of remote work, they found employees would forgo benefits such as salary increases and work perks to continue working at home. In fact, 68% said they’d choose remote work over office work.
So, what does this mean for leaders? Many are adopting strategic new ways of thinking when employing teams.
Socially, a lot is lost when employees work from home: The water-cooler chat that helps employees bond is lost, and after-work drinks are rare. And we lose aspects from our work, too: Team spirit can dissolve if employees only ever communicate virtually, and many usually only speak to those they directly work with. There’s less accidental contact.
Some staff suffer from loneliness while working from home or struggle with work-life balance, impacting their productivity and output. That’s why leaders are instilling new ways of working that focus on building up the trust of a team that works remotely. Here’s how they’re doing that:
Work out a routine of mutual trust
Over the past two years, we’ve frequently heard the horror stories of companies requiring their employees to be on eight-plus hour video calls to monitor their work habits. Or employees who have been scared to leave their desk for even a few minutes in case their manager thinks they’re slacking. This constant surveillance isn’t good for anybody and sends the message to your employees that you don’t trust them.
It’s better to set expectations for your team of what you hope they will achieve on a daily, weekly or monthly basis — and trust they will do it. Make sure everyone is clear about how you want them to work remotely, how frequently you want communication throughout the day and the best ways to do this. Focus on their results rather than the day-to-day activity. Micromanaging won’t be beneficial for anyone.
Encourage honesty and transparency
Assumptions are made frequently when it comes to remote working. Without those visual body language cues, messages can come across as abrasive or blunt when they were never meant that way.
Employees need to be taught and encouraged to “never assume.” If they detect an unusual tone in an email or message, remind them to always follow up with a clarifying question or video chat to ensure everything is okay. Sometimes, as a leader, this means listening even more closely than usual and reading between the lines to understand your colleagues’ feelings if they’re struggling to open up.
It should be expected in the workplace to have a balance of email communication and video chats — and in-person meetings when possible. Having this variety will ensure no mode of communication dominates the working relationship. It’s also helpful to have individual check-ins with the people you manage and encourage them to do so as well. When you can’t see a colleague working in the same room, you might miss body language or facial cues that depict their frustrations or feelings. It would be best if you made a conscious effort to ask them.
Make a point of sharing successes and wins
In the office, it’s easier to have casual conversations about great feedback you’ve received, a project you’ve completed or a client you’ve impressed. These conversations come naturally when you’re in-person and boost employee morale. That’s why it’s helpful to make these conversations intentional while working remotely.
Make a conscious effort to share successes and wins weekly or bi-weekly with your team. This is easy to do when you include time for “celebrations and shout-outs” on your meeting agenda at the beginning or end of a recurring meeting. These moments are essential for both maintaining employee morale and team cohesion.
Don’t forget about social team-building
Don’t forget about socializing! When teams are happier and more comfortable, they work together better. Make space for activities that allow them to disconnect from their day-to-day workload, and give them time to invest in building their working relationships. Otherwise, everyone stays so focused on their work that they forget the humanness of their colleagues.
Perhaps it’s a weekly virtual happy hour or a “lunch and learn.” You could start a weekly meeting 15 minutes later for people to come and chat without the need to begin immediately with the agenda. Another option is to ensure some in-person meetups for people who feel comfortable. Creating these intentional moments where work isn’t the sole focus will do wonders for the team.
Encourage them to switch off
And finally, remind your employees there is an end to the day. It’s long been discussed that working from home means more workers find themselves working late into the night. Model the need for work-life balance, and discourage overworking. Employees who are overworked and unable to switch off won’t deliver their best work. As a leader, don’t just remind them of this — behave in a manner that demonstrates you believe this.