Working remotely can be a challenge for many employees and managers, but it doesn’t have to be. Despite the advances in technology, regular phone calls, emails, newsletters and chat room, communicating across long distances takes a special touch and extra attention to detail.
A few key issues that will arise in any virtual company are miscommunication, keeping focus, gossip, having the right tools, efficiency and culture. If you haven’t thought about how you are adapting your strategy to fit your remote employees – you should probably keep reading.
If you work in or with a remote team your communications strategy will be key to keeping your team up-to-date and in the loop.
It is incredibly hard to read sarcasm or wit within the constraints of a written message, and generally communicators will err on the side of caution and remove the non-essential, and potentially funny or offensive comments altogether. While this allows you to better gauge reaction and understanding, it isn’t doesn’t have the same friendly effect that a face-to-face meeting does. Video conferencing can clear up an ambiguity that the written word leaves behind and helps to develop culture and cut down on emailing back and forth.
2. Keeping focus
Actions often get lost in the noise of a busy virtual meeting or a lengthy thread of emails. Since you don’t spend your time in the office together people’s faces or coffee break visits don’t act as reminders of outstanding tasks. Recapping meetings through notes or minutes with clear and documented tasks and deadlines will help keep things moving forward.
Do not think that just because your employees are at a distance, they won’t catch wind of gossip – positive or negative. It is much better for employees to hear news from you before reading it online, and therefore it is critical to keep the lines of communication open. Transparency is key to developing a working relationship, and of course there is always an appropriate time to share relevant information.
No one can be expected to do well at their job without the right tools. Virtual companies have a unique challenge in that you can’t simply stick your head over your cubicle and ask for help, and so much can be missed or forgotten during a meeting. Having a secure cloud where all vital information is securely kept and available to all makes workflow run smoothly and easily.
There is a level of trust that comes with working remotely, and often that conversation begins at the HR level. However, it is not unreasonable, nor should it be seen as threatening to track working time. This is the best way to ensure your business is working as effectively as possible and that time is not being wasted or there isn’t a breakdown in communication in specific areas.
One of the hardest parts of successfully integrating remote workers into your business is building a strong culture, which would traditionally happen on its own around the water cooler, after work drinks or holiday parties. Social interaction is highly important to many workers and can be a determining point for many in whether they stay in a position. Newsletters, virtual town hall meetings, instant messaging and community forums are a great way to share both the essential and non-essential information, as well as collaborate and share interests.