How To Help Your Remote Staff Stay Connected

Remote work can be pretty lonely. You want your employees to feel connected to your organization, but that can be difficult when people are working from home. You also want to ensure that they are doing their work in a timely fashion and that there isn’t any miscommunication happening due to the lack of in-person interaction. We’ve got some ideas for keeping staff connected to you and to each other.

Ensure that your staff have webcams.

If your organization was required to send a bunch of people home during the early stages of the COVID-19 crisis, they may not have all been equipped with great technology. If they are going to be working from home long-term, having a webcam is a must. Being able to see each other’s facial expressions during meetings and check-ins is so helpful in keeping employees connected to each other while working remotely. Help them get some equipment upgrades if needed.

Schedule a regular check-in.

Depending on how many remote staff you are managing, these can be quick daily check-ins, or a longer weekly or monthly check-in. They don’t always have to be video chats, a quick update over the phone may be all that’s needed, but the important thing is to set a specific regular day and time that you will touch base with each other. Send an agenda so that they and you know what topics or project updates you will be discussing.

Consider using an online communication or project management tool.

Slack, Trello, Asana and Microsoft Teams are all popular systems that companies use to communicate with staff and manage document sharing and project timelines. The benefit of using tools like this is that they allow multiple employees to see message threads organized by client or project, share files, manage deadlines and stay in touch with everyone on the team. Sub-contractors, clients or other stakeholders can be given access as well if that makes sense for your organization or a given project.

Even if your employees are not working remotely, such management tools can be very helpful in keeping projects and timelines organized and keeping group discussions from cluttering up your email inbox. The various systems each have their strengths and drawbacks, some are more geared towards communication, others for project management. Do a little research to see which one will best meet your needs.

Set an in-office availability schedule.

Working remotely usually offers greater flexibility for the worker. They can often choose to set their own schedule. However, if that does not work for your company or a given position, be sure to be clear about that with your employees. You can either set up a schedule during which you expect them to be in their home office and available, or you can ask them to set a weekly schedule showing when they will be available. Or if they do work that makes it difficult to be able to answer the phone, it may be simpler for them to set some “office hours” when they are available to take calls and stay connected with you. Since your remote workers will need to reach you from time to time as well, it is recommended that you do the same.

[ Related: Tips on Managing and Working Remotely ]

Schedule some group chats.

Offering a non-mandatory “virtual coffee break” to employees can be a great way to get to know each other and stay in touch. Keep the topics at these meetings non-work-related. Give your staff a chance to find out how people’s lives are going, how they cope with working from home, what their hobbies are, whatever. Have a few topics ready for the first couple meetings in case you need to get the conversation going. Ask things like, “What is your favorite comfort food?” or “What TV shows have you been binging?” or “What was the best vacation you ever had?”

Create a private company Facebook group.

The purpose of a Facebook group for your staff is to encourage them to be able to share a bit from their personal lives, chat with each other, create events and so on. Set some ground rules about not using the group to discuss politics or to complain about clients or the company. Use it to foster connections, host fun contests and more. For instance, you could have a “cutest pet” contest and ask staff to submit photos of their pets. You could promote a fantasy football league. You could host an “Oscars Watch Party” online and keep score to see who can predict the most winners.

Create a monthly or quarterly staff newsletter.

This doesn’t have to be anything terribly complicated, just use it to share any big updates for your organization, upcoming events, client compliments, etc. You can also use the newsletter as an opportunity to feature one or two employees per month. Send that employee a form with a few questions like, “How long have you been working for XYZ Co?” “What is your favorite thing about your job?” “What are your hobbies?” Ask them to submit a photo and then share their profile in the newsletter to help them feel like a valued member of the team and to help the rest of your staff get to know them a little better.

Ask your staff for ideas!

Your remote staff will often have the best ideas for how they could be better integrated into the corporate culture. One company discovered during coronavirus lockdown that many staff members were baking cookies. One of the staff had the idea to do a cookie exchange. Everyone involved mailed out packets of their favorite goodies and received a variety of cookies in return. It became a fun morale-booster. Your company may have a bunch of gamers who can organize online games. Parents may enjoy doing activity exchanges where they share fun ideas for things to do at home with your kids. Encourage your employees to get creative and connect around the shared interests that they have.