(This is the third blog in a three-part series focusing on the character of the ideal, remote employee and how to effectively manage a team of remote workers.)
Competitive business managers should always be pushing to create more transparent and effective communication with their team. This is a particularly important goal for businesses with remote employees, as the structure of these organizations strains natural communication. Manager should follow these three remote team building activities to be more in touch with their employees and to boost productivity.
1. Communicate Often
This doesn’t just mean answering the phone when employees call, but proactively reaching out to the team to check on their status throughout the day. This creates a sense of belonging and accountability during the work day. However, it is important to clearly communicate the purpose of these interactions. Make sure employees know that these checkups are meant to aid them with problems, not pester them about unfinished work. For example, ask “Is there anything left today that I can help with?” instead of “Did you get those merchandising audits finished yet?” The effort to create a positive atmosphere of communication will encourage trust between management and employees, making it easier to bring up subjects like performance.
2. Communicate with Purpose
Since the bulk of communication that happens between managers and remote employees is done without body language cues, it can be challenging to know when to change the topic. For example, in an office it is immediately clear that a person is moving from a conversation about daily activities to a more broad topic of brainstorming for the future. But, during a phone conversation, this change is difficult to convey unless the person changing the subject deliberately says so. To avoid lengthy and unnatural conversations, set up perimeters for communication. For example, spend 15 minutes speaking on daily activities and then the next 15 talking about ideas on future goals. Consistent, focused communication like this will help ideas flow more naturally and will offer the employee a guideline for topics to bring up with managers.
3. Communicate on a Schedule
It is easy for a team of remote employees to become distant from work without consistent and valuable communication with co-workers and managers. There are two ways to effectively fight this problem. First, managers should assign a set schedule of working hours for employees. Knowing when each employee is available to communicate will help the entire team reach out to the right person for help when they need it. Make sure, however, that these are hours employees are comfortable working by hiring with a specific schedule in mind. Enforcing unwanted schedules will lead to disengagement and poor communication. Second, managers need to be consistently, not constantly, checking messages. That means that instead of interrupting the flow of work every time there is an email, managers pledge to check their email every 2 hours or 2 days, depending on the team’s needs. That way, less urgent information comes to a place that will be consistently checked while urgent information can be communicated through a different channel, like phone calls.
Overcoming the Challenge
Communicating with remote teams doesn’t have to be a difficult and trying task for managers. With self-regulated, accountable employees and these remote team building activities, managers will be able to overcome the challenge and achieve rockstar communication, leading to a new level of productivity and success.
Erin P. Friar
Erin Friar is a Content Marketing Journalist Intern at Repsly, Inc. and is completing a Journalism degree at Suffolk University. She is a master of grammar and is passionate about creating fresh content to help foster efficiency and overall success in small businesses.