Many business owners are uncomfortable with the idea of working with remote employees. Traditionally, roles have required customers to be in the office to be successful. Today, the work landscape has evolved to be remote as well. With this change, business owners are unsure of what steps to take to create a successful remote position. Here are three great ways to help you create successful remote employees.
Create a virtual watercooler
In an office, employees sit down at their desk, say hello to each other, and chat on and off throughout the day about both business and personal matters. In a remote setting, it’s important to establish a similar way to connect with each other.
At Infusionsoft, our remote team considers Slack our virtual watercooler. Team members can post both business and casual matters organized by channels. When setting up your Slack channel make sure to balance the business conversations with fun too. For our team, we have channels such as “random” and “dreams.”
Random is just that! We wish each other happy birthday here, ask what plans are for the weekend, etc. And the Dreams channel is all about sharing our goals and dreams with each other. Since one of Infusionsoft’s core values is “We believe in people and their dreams” we like to support each other in dreaming big. This allows employees a chance to catch up and connect; plus, it’s a great alternative to filling up the inbox with questions that could be addressed interactively instead. Is your group into fitness? Consider starting a channel to share recipes and workout tips. In the article “How to Build Culture in a Remote Team,” co-founder and CEO of Zapier Wade Foster shares some easy and fun ways to create a collaborate environment. Wade mentions how tools such as Slack, GIFs and memes, and GotoMeeting keep his team connected and engaged in their role.
Establish core team hours and expectations
In the article “5 Lessons on Collaboration from 5 Ultra-successful Remote Startup Teams [Infographic],” Irina Nica highlights five remote teams and their keys to remote success. One key indicator of success is to “make transparency one of your core values” and to create ways of communicating important information on projects, statues, and so on. Make sure as you onboard your own remote employees that you have clearly communicated when your team will meet virtually each week. Although each team member might have different hours, it’s important to establish core team hours so that employees can engage and support each other. For example, I have team members that work 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. and others that work 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Our core team hours then are 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. I make sure to communicate a “master schedule” in a Google Doc so everyone is clear when team members are online versus unavailable. I also schedule team meetings and huddles only during these core team hours. During our quarterly reviews, I make sure to ask if the team member would like to continue their current core hours or switch things up going into the next quarter and update my Google Doc accordingly. It’s critical that you set expectations that core hours are a time to connect and converse. If I notice someone is not active at this time with the team I will call them to see how things are going and ask them to engage with us online.
Hiring the right candidate
Working independently and accountability are key elements to working remotely. During your hiring process, make sure you understand your candidate’s communication and organizational skills. How do they feel about communicating with others with video conferencing and instant messaging? Make sure to determine their comfort level with virtual communication. It’s also important to uncover whether they take a proactive approach to problem-solving. You will need team members that are willing to speak up when they need assistance. And without a manager looking over their shoulder, you need an employee you can rely on to get the job done. Determine if your candidates are on top of deadlines and have a history of completing projects on time.
Once hired, take the time to ask questions and learn about each of your remote team members personally. This sets the stage for a successful virtual relationship. In the article “How to Create a Remote Team that Works,” Marie Pawlak touches on the importance of trust in your remote employees. As a remote leader, I meet with each of my team members remotely once a week for 30 minutes via Webex. This one-on-one is a chance for me to get to know my remote team member personally as well as professionally. We use this time to talk about performance, customer concerns and also leave some time to catch up on how the weekend was or how their family is doing. By creating this personal relationship, it’s easier to believe in the person working for you remotely.
The work landscape will continue to trend towards remote work. With these three ways to create successful remote employees, business owners can have confidence that remote employees will be just as productive and valuable as in-office employees.