Experts Weigh-In: Tips & Best Practices to Working Remote

[Last updated 7/8/2020]

 
 

We know you’re working hard to support your remote and in-house employees alike, after all employee success shouldn’t differentiate where your team is located. After conducting in-depth research and surveying several remote work experts, we’ve created a comprehensive list of the top tips and best practices to help your company succeed when going remote. As you make the transition, consider these 8 tips and share them with your team, to make sure you’re all in even better shape.


TIPS CATEGORIES:

If you help your team acquire all these abilities, your company will be remote work-ready!

 
 

These tips and best practices are useful to all remote workers, but are specifically for HR/People Ops Professionals who want to better support their remote team.

 
 

Communicating clearly & constantly:

A best practice for running any team, this one is especially important when you have a remote team. When working from home, you can’t turn around and tap a colleague on a shoulder whenever you have a question, so you must incorporate more intentionality around your communication processes. By helping your remote team succeed with this tip, you are preventing problems that may arise from miscommunication.

Clear and constant communication is all about being purposeful, prepared, and building in a process on what, when, and where people can get the information they need to succeed. This allows everyone in the team to be heard, so everyone feels just as important from home as they would in the office. 

How to make this best practice possible:

  1. Use communication frameworks 

Two excellent communication frameworks that can help ensure clear and constant communication include the “clarify and verify” method, as well as the time-test technique of repeating the content that matters.

Clarify and verify:

Clarify and verify is a technique used by many people from top CEOs to career coaches, and it helps to ensure that the message which was sent to the listener was heard and understood. 

To take advantage, each time you communicate something to another person ask them to repeat back to you what they heard. And the same goes for the opposite direction, when someone tells you something, ask if you can repeat back what you heard to make sure you have clarity of what was communicated.

Repetition:

In today’s world, we have a lot of messages bombarding us at all hours. In order to make sure the most important information makes it through and sticks, we need to regularly repeat ourselves. Whatever information is important, say it until you feel like you’ve repeated yourself too much, then say it some more. 

2. Make small talk with the team

By inspiring your team to build rapport with every member of the team, through small talk, each member will begin to build trust with one another. Having this strong communication also works by getting to know the complete person, not just talking about work. One big problem of working from home is loneliness, so combat that by building a strong community through communication. You should also try to have a team reunion at least once a year to continue to build your company culture. 

3. Set up tools to help people communicate

You can propel this to work for your team by setting up which tools for communication are appropriate for different types of communication. Remember: use video as much as possible! The technology for this has never been better, and seeing someone’s facial reactions helps you understand the situation much better than just through audio or chat. You can take advantage of this technology by having longer one-on-ones with remote employees. This continues to build trust throughout the whole team especially if you give remote employees a full hour in your schedule a week. This can give you and them the time to talk about what they are liking/not liking about working remote, their daily routine, if they feel included in team decisions, and if they think anything could be changed for the better.

4.Develop a process to create “bursty” communication

Another tip is to develop a “bursty” process for communication. Research has emerged which has challenged our belief on what makes teams successful. A recent study which focused on team member communication has found that “bursty” types of communication led to higher-quality output and more productive teams. Bursty communication are chunks of time designated for rapid, energized talks where questions are answered and ideas are aligned so all members can then go back to working diligently. This form of communication is said to be the secret of teams which are in-office or remote because it allows people to communicate everything they need, ask the questions they need, get the answers they need, and then go back into heads-down mode so they can continue their work. Learn more about the research on bursty communication and how this type of planned communication can help your team be their best selves.


Expert advice:

  • “Async all the way doesn't work -- while the majority of remote work should be able to happen asynchronously, it's critical to remember there are moments where hopping on a video call are essential, specifically when giving feedback” -Leah Knobler People Ops for Help Scout which identifies as a remote-first team
 
 

Focusing on consistency: 

In a remote team, being as organized and streamlined as possible when managing can be the difference between success and failure. Within a distributed team, you want to make sure that your off-site employees are just as in the loop as your in-house employees. This copilled with clear communication creates an environment of balance so that no employee feels lost.

How to make this best practice possible:

  1. Balance in-house and remote 

Balancing in-house and remote initiatives is key to creating a cohesive transition of work, ideas, and progress. The trick is to make remote employees feel just as important as those in-house.

 You can do this by creating a habit throughout the company of adding people on calls. Similar to how you would randomly invite a coworker into a meeting, this allows the right people to feel included in conversations they should know about. 

2. Shift brainstorming to digital

Another way to keep consistency throughout the company is by shifting brainstorming to digital tools.

Because you can’t really create a physical mood board or ideate with post-it notes tools like Miro or Whimsical can help capitalize on ideas from all team members. This will keep the juices flowing throughout the company and strengthen bonds across employees. 

3. Offer perks to everyone 

One way that teams are currently creating this balance between in-house and remote employees is by offering perks to all employees. It must stink if a remote employee hears about all the advantages and benefits that in-house employees are celebrating in without them. Don’t let this happen in your team, because trust can be lost! Teams love Compt because it makes all employees feel valued by offering personalized perks for each and every one of them. If you’re interested in making all your employees feel equally loved, learn how lifestyle spending accounts can make that happen here.

[Are you trying to support your remote employees but having trouble? Talk to one of our HR experts in a 15-minute consultation about your remote strategies and how to give them the perks they need to succeed. Schedule a call here.]

Expert advice:

  • “Remote works for some and not others because many companies focus mostly on the technology for remote employees, instead of the process for performance. Yes the technology will result in improvements, but it's essential to return to the fundamentals of work: communication, coordination, and culture. Companies and teams which want remote work to be successful must form clear processes that support these three core principles.” (Sean Graber)
  • “When you switch from an in-house to a distributed team you need to be intentional about benefits, wording, and how inclusive you are with the group. Know going in that you are going to be battling two cultures and keeping the same isn't possible, but can be intentional. Adjusting benefits, and talking about the perceptions and differences in crucial.” - Remington Begg, the Chief Remarkable Officer at Impulse Creative where 60% of the team is remote
  • “Consistency is key to building a successful distributed team. No matter where a team member is located, they need to feel like they have the information, direction, benefits, compensation, and care of the organization in a manner that is in line with any folks working out of a headquarters office.” -Amy Spurling, CEO of Compt which gives 2 days a week to work from home
  • “Hire people who you trust and that align with your company's values--this will make the jump to remote flexibility much easier and increase overall perceived reciprocity.  Say no to candidates who are not a "strong yes" in culture fit.” -Liz VanZandt, Lead Recruiter at Pana which has a few remote workers and allows WFH flexibility 
 
 

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Emphasizing transparency and thoughtfulness:

Remote employees deserve the human emotions they would otherwise receive in the office surrounded by people. By being transparent and holding each other accountable, throughout the company, you can build trust throughout your business so the company culture stays strong. This can also work to make sure everyone is on the same page. And remember to keep those employees who telecommute feeling included in the team. 

How to make this best practice possible:

  1. Make sure everyone is on the same page 

If everyone knows what is going on, everyone can focus on getting their work done. Through clear communication, you can make sure everyone is on task and not lost. Transparency allows everyone on the team to work together towards their goal. 

Something that can make transparency really work is at the end of meetings have people repeat back to you what they have to get done, as we mentioned before. This way you know there was no miscommunication and they understand where their priorities should lie while working. Also, don’t be scared to ask multiple questions, some people might think they are explaining themselves well but it might take more time for the other person to actually comprehend. It’s better to do/say things right the first time and take a little longer, than to do it quickly and then waste time later having to repeat yourself or fix something. 

2. Accountability & giving credit

Something else worth mentioning on the note of transparency, is the importance of accountability, especially in a remote team. If something is not working according to plan because of someone’s actions, it’s vital that someone talks to them about it. This way that person can learn from the mistake and not repeat it in the future. And with accountability, comes giving credit where it’s due. Sometimes remote employees can feel forgotten, not seen and not heard. But by rewarding them when they complete stand out work, you can help them feel appreciated. One way to do this is by incorporating spot bonuses, read how to do that here.


Expert advice:

  • “The trick is to make it easy for others to see what you’re doing, but not overwhelm or interrupt them. Two tools I find essential are an open and visible calendaring system, and a threaded conversation platform.” -Bob Gower, Director of Process and Innovation Management at Citrusbyte
  • “Be intentional about the way you're including your remote team members! This could be something as small as making sure the phone microphone is closest to the person who's talking in a meeting so remote folks don't miss any details. It's these thoughtful moments that remind remote employees they're a valued part of the team! -Lexi Kantor, Senior People Operations Associate at Ovia Health where bout 1/3 of the team works remotely full time, and the other 2/3 are welcome to WFH when needed
  • “Involve your team when considering remote practices. Ask their input every step of the way. Let them know their voice matters when figuring out workflows. And remember it isn’t always for everyone. I have two pieces of advice for anyone thinking about going remote, and I will borrow from our client Basecamp for one of them: Start small. Take an afternoon a month and try it out. Another piece of advice is for owners: Know what you stand for, both as an individual and a company. It's so critical to know that even if you are alone in your thinking when you’re acting from that place of self-knowing and self-confidence, everything is ok and you will be fine.” - Cathy Atkins, President of Metis Communications which is 100% remote
 
 

Remote Work Best Practices for Your Team

The following tips are more specifically for a remote employee. You, as an HR pro, can help your team learn these skills so they can be more successful with their work. 

 
 
Benefits of working remotely
 
 

How many of those best practices do you and your distributed team already accomplish? Just imagine what your team could accomplish if everyone took all 8 of these tips seriously.

Want to stay in the loop with the rest of our remote work/distributed team content? Read below:



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