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

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. Make sure everyone is on the same page, motivated, and happy. 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 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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Having the right tech: 

If your team is working from home, it is crucial that they have the same tools they would need to succeed if they were in the office. They can have all the skills they need, but if they are at a disadvantage of the proper equipment then they won’t reach their fullest potential. And remote work may end up becoming a burden. This could be easily solved with the right technology and resources.

How to make this best practice possible:

To make working from home successful, all employees who are telecommuting need everything in place they'd need as if they were in the office. Having the right tools in place affects productivity and communication. You can help your team do this by telling them to have things they need in stock (pens, paper, stapler). This makes sure they don’t waste time during work trying to find or buy things they’ll need.

There are many tools out there for remote workers to make life easier for them while working. Making sure things like project management, communication, and document storage are working smoothly for remote workers is essential for productivity. For help finding the best tools for remote teams, read this blog post with our top picks


Expert advice:

  • “When working with distributed teams, it can be hard to feel heard if you aren't in the main office - If you're facilitating a meeting, take the time to make sure that appropriate tech is in place so remote employees can hear and be heard physically” -Allison Sproul, Head of Recruitment & HR at CozyKin where they have 4 fully remote distributed employees and employees work remote 2 days per week on average
  • “Buy yourself the best tools available. Even if you don’t like to spend money in your personal life, this situation is different. Don’t ever compare buying a $200 bottle of wine to a $200 piece of software. Those are two completely different things.” - Ionut Neagu 

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

Setting and communicating clear goals:

The power of clear goal setting enforces a team’s missions and values. It allows a team to work cohesively in the direction of a unifying sentiment. There are many types of goals, so making sure they are all understood throughout the company is crucial so that everyone is motivated on what they are working on. 

How to make this best practice possible:

  1. Schedule meetings 

Keeping everyone on the same page about goals is much easier when meetings are put in place to fully develop the ideas and make sure everyone involved knows what to work towards. You can have weekly or monthly meetings where you update on progress of work, share new ideas, and create game plans in order to accomplish those goals. Schedule 1:1 check-in meetings, retrospectives, company-wide meetings or whatever you need to connect on your goals, upcoming projects, and daily tasks.You can begin running meetings that POPPP to make your meetings more effective. 

2.Share MITs

As we do in Compt within smaller teams, you can institute daily MITs (most important tasks). These are the main tasks that you HAVE to finish by the end of the day. It helps keep everyone focused on the most important job to be done so if other things arise, as we know they will, employees still know what they have to get done. This keeps communication open, motivates employees to get their work done, and allows people to hold each other accountable if needed. 

3.Use Project Management Tools

Something else that you can start doing to make sure goals are clear throughout the company is having a specific place the whole team keeps their ideas, projects, and progress. There are many project management tools that can help with this, you can find a project management tool that fits with your company here


Expert advice:

  • “The importance of clear goals . . .  we are still working on it, but having quarterly company wide meetings has been a godsend.” -Sam Tilney, Director of Operations at BuySellAds
  • “If members of your team work in different time zones, then make sure that you have an overlapping period where everyone is working and organize your virtual meetings during these times.” - Time Doctor 
  • “Who is responsible for X should be obvious to everyone. When it's not clear, you end up having more meetings, calls, emails, and conversations than you should. This is a recipe for disaster.” - David Fernández Co-founder of Readsmart (20 Way of Working Tips for Remote Working)

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. 

Helping your team find their best working style:

Understanding how you work best becomes even more important when you consider working by yourself because you won’t really have anyone else who you can copy their habits. Knowing how to maximize your efforts without burning out is the crucial balance necessary when working remote. This can include the right environment, timing, and mentality for focus. By sharing this information with your team and helping them find their working style, you will support them in reaching their fullest potential. 

How to make this best practice possible: 

  1. Find the right environment 

There are many factors that can affect your mood and rhythm when working from home, your environment is definitely one of them. You/your emplooyees now have the power to work from anywhere you want, take advantage of that! You and your employees need to find the environment each of you need to concentrate. There are places you/your employees could work from to create the perfect space for you. One idea is to create a special space at home, maybe in the guest room. It is important to keep your bedroom as your own sanctuary so we don’t recommend working from there. Instead find a place where you will be free of distractions and can get your work done! Other options include co-working places and cafes/coffee shops. 

2.Work during your best hours

It’s also important to create a schedule that allows you to perform your best work. If you know you work most efficiently in the mornings, then do your most important work in the mornings and save the afternoons for other projects. You can also make a schedule for team-wide meetings. So if there are specific dates/times that your employees are free, you can start scheduling important meetings with that schedule. This process allows you to learn about yourself and your teammates, grow and apply the new learning to actions in order to make processes more cohesive. 


Expert advice:

  • “It will help you reevaluate your efforts, and will give your mind a break from life at home. If you can, try working from somewhere that has a lot of natural light … exposure to natural light increases workspace productivity tremendously.” - Tucker Schreiber at Shopify 
  • “Build your calendar in a way that supports the way you work. Control your own schedule and block off time accordingly. Whether that is time to actually get work done, work out, take care of yourself, etc. Make sure you build it into your calendar, so others don't unknowingly take that important time away from you. -Samantha Anderl, Co-Founder of Interimly (20 Way of Working Tips for Remote Working)
  • “Whatever it is you do, I guarantee there are some aspects of the job you enjoy more than others. My advice is do those things in the morning. Schedule preferable tasks in the afternoon.” - Stephen Key 
  • Pay attention to your habits and design your day around your peak productivity. -Sarah Daily, Digital Marketing Programs Manager at GitLab (20 Way of Working Tips for Remote Working)

Helping your team embrace the perks of telecommuting:

People choose to work remotely for a variety of reasons, many of these are highlighted by Goremotely’s graphic below. It’s important to remember why you and your team have chosen this work style to stay motivated and productive with that reasoning in mind.

How to make this best practice possible: 

Remembering the luxury of working from home can help you and your employees stay happy and engaged as telecommuters. Let your employees know they can take the opportunity to travel while working, it’s something so many people would love to do. They can also use the flexibility to work on things that make them happy and even go to networking events. And if you give them the ability to pick which hours work best for them, then tell them to work the hours when they are the most productive. All of these apply to all remote workers, including you. 

Expert advice:

  • “Working remotely allows you to be there for the ones you love, and be more available for them. It allows you to see more places, without ever having to commute. On top of that, working remotely removes almost every distraction.” - GitLab’s The Remote Manifesto 


Benefits of working remotely

Helping your team be healthy & take care of themselves: 

Although working from home can seem like the best option for many people, it can become out of hand if not administered correctly. For example, make sure you or your employees are taking sufficient time off. As studies show, 52% of remote workers are less likely to take time off, even when sick (GoRemotely, 2019). So even though it may seem like the perfect choice, make sure to use this power wisely and in a healthy manner.

How to make this best practice possible:

  1. Know when to stop working

When you can’t see your co-workers walking out the office to return to their personal lives, it can be tricky to know when to draw your own line between work and play. Especially when working from home, this line can become pretty blurry. You and your employees have to know when to stop working, have a division between when you are and aren’t working. Make sure to make this clear to your employees, so they can feel valued because you care about their health. This is where taking advantage of (or offering) a company phone, laptop, equipment, email can help. 

2.Have a process for sick time

As mentioned above, many remote employees don’t take the necessary time off, even when they’re sick. It’s important to put in a process to make sure remote workers don’t work when sick. This should also be included in employee onboarding so that every hire can understand the importance of their health and know that you care as well.  

3.Have a Health & Wellness Stipend 

One way remote companies currently take care of their employees is through health & wellness stipends. These allow employees to spend their allocated budget in whatever they feel helps them best stay happy and healthy. If you want to learn more about Health & Wellness Stipends and how Compt can help you give these to your team, read here


Expert advice/statistics:

  • "Use the flexibility of remote work for good, not evil. Good: Getting up for a sunrise hike. Taking your dog for an afternoon walk. Getting out of the house for lunch. Scheduling time for networking. Traveling while working, if that suits you. Evil: Using all of your time - from waking up to going to bed - to work. Not leaving the house for days. All signs point to burnout, but you just keep going. Use the power of remote work for good, not evil." -Marie Prokopets, Co-founder of FYI which is a fully-remote team

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.

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