How to manage and engage remote employees

Written by: Nora St-Aubin | Illustrated by: Chloé Allard
Updated on: Published on: March 26, 2020 |  Reading time: 8m

As your company shifts to remote work, it’s understandable to feel uncertain about the impact it will have on how you manage remote employees and keep your team engaged. The good news is that as work becomes more flexible, technology is evolving, and the workforce is adapting. So even if you don’t feel totally prepared, there are tools and tactics that can help you and your team make the jump.

We’re here to support you in leading your remote workforce, and in this article we outline the most impactful ways to engage remote employees—with actionable tips each step of the way.

Key takeaways from this article:

  • Have more frequent touchpoints to keep remote employees aligned
  • Continue having one-on-ones and regular team meetings
  • Give specific, timely recognition more often
  • Schedule informal check-ins to maintain connections
  • Take extra time to prepare ahead of virtual meetings
  • Be empathetic as employees adapt to your team’s new reality

You’ve got this, and we’ve got you. 💙

Maintaining team culture & community

Now more than ever, you want employees to feel connected—to you, to each other, to the team goals, and to the company’s culture and purpose. Remind your employees that just because you’re not together physically, it doesn’t mean you’re not still stronger as a whole. Keep an eye on your team’s working dynamics, and support them as they adjust to collaborating with their new work methods.

In addition to creating alignment on goals and initiatives, you want to promote a sense of community and connection among team members. When everyone is working remotely, employees can start to feel isolated and lonely. This impacts team performance as much as employees’ personal wellbeing, so be sure to stay connected with your remote workers on a human level as well as a professional one.

💡 Quick tips: break the ice
Starting calls with a quick icebreaker is a simple way to stay connected. There are many apps, like Trivia, that integrate into your day-to-day communication tools and allow your team to play games and bond seamlessly. At the end of each day, finish with a quick day-recap activity. For example, our team would share a GIF that represented their day.

Uphold team rituals & establish new ones

Those daily or weekly recurrences help your team find their rhythm and offer opportunities for human connection. We made this list of reminders and ideas to help you stay on top of your team’s touchpoints and to assist in managing remote employees:

  • Continue having regular, meaningful one-on-one conversations with your employees, and consider having them more frequently.
  • Hold weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly retrospective team meetings so your employees can continually validate and adjust their methods of working remotely.
  • Amp up your recognition efforts, and encourage remote workers to do the same. Make employees feel seen by giving timely, specific recognition for their hard work.
  • Keep a pulse on employee engagement so you can spot where pain points are arising and take the most meaningful action to support your team.
  • Add an “opt-in” morning coffee or lunchtime video call for the whole team, so they have a daily opportunity for face-to-face connection.
  • Encourage employees to schedule their own virtual meetups, too. It will help maintain their relationships and spur those watercooler conversations that lead to innovative new ideas.

This transitional period is about finding your team’s new normal, outside of the workplace. Remember that it will take time to get there, and check in frequently with employees to see how they’re adjusting.

Keep a pulse on your remote team’s engagement with Officevibe.

Improving remote communication

Communication is crucial to any team’s success, but on virtual teams, it’s even more essential to keep internal communications clear and intentional. Part of managing remote employees is helping to establish the most effective communication practices for your team.

Encourage information sharing, and regularly communicate priorities and progress reports in a rhythm that works for your team. Clearly establish which communication channels serve what purpose, and ask employees to be specific with their updates and requests. You can even create message templates or try out a template for one-on-one meetings if it will help your communication with employees, and your team’s communication with each other.

💡 Quick tip: opt for video calls
Tone and demeanor are hard to gauge through text, and the more face-to-face interactions employees have, the more connected they’ll feel!

Establish team communication norms

Set a baseline for virtual communication collaboratively with your team, and revisit these ground rules frequently to ensure they’re still relevant. Consider the following questions:

  • What information can be shared via Slack or email, and what constitutes a phone call or video chat?
  • Do you want to set times for focus work, or have employees update their slack status to reflect their availability?
  • Are there structures that you could put in place to help streamline communications (emoji reaction meanings, polling, surveys, workflows, templates, etc.)?
  • When communications get muddled or challenging, should you have a collective agreement to hop on a video conference and sort things out?

Share your team’s communication norms in an easily accessible place, so everyone is reminded of them on a daily basis.

Facilitating online meetings & collaboration

As you shift to remote work, some meetings might become irrelevant, others will need to be adapted, and you may discover the need for some you weren’t having before (at least not officially). Start by taking inventory of your team’s recurring meetings and the formats you use, and note where you see potential flags for turning them remote.

From video conferencing to online polling and virtual whiteboards, there is a lot of technology out there to help facilitate remote collaboration. You don’t want to overwhelm your employees with tech, but you do want to ensure they’re set up with the tooling they need to collaborate effectively. Seek out software and other tools that will enable your employees in maintaining their day-to-day.

💡 Quick tip: prepare ahead
Online meetings take a little extra preparation. Make sure that everyone in the meeting has the software and context they need to participate ahead of time.

Run effective remote meetings

We recently went remote at Officevibe, and we’re learning to adjust. Our team coach, Simon, shares his best practices for hosting a productive virtual meeting:

  1. Take the basics seriously: start and end on time, set a clear purpose, have a clear agenda, come prepared, appoint a facilitator, and define next steps at the end.
  2. Use video whenever possible, ‘breakout rooms’ are a must if you have a large group.
  3. Spend some time at the beginning exploring the tools if people aren’t used to them, and make participation easy by preparing templates beforehand.
  4. For longer meetings, schedule a 5 minute break and ask people to remove their headphones, go for a walk, look away from their screen, etc.
  5. When possible try to finish 5 or 10 minutes early so that people are not doing back-to-back online meetings.

It will take some time and practice, but the more your team collaborates virtually, the better they’ll adapt, and start amping up performance.

Officevibe is the perfect tool to help manage your virtual one-on-one meetings.

32% of 3000 employees surveyed in our Remote Work Custom Poll say that they do not have a healthy balance between work and personal life during this crisis. Keep a pulse on Engagement Metrics like Work-Life Balance with Officevibe.

Encouraging work-life balance & wellness

When employees start working from home, the lines between “work” and “not work” can become blurred. It gets easier for employees to bring their laptop with them to the couch at the end of the day, only to realize that they’ve been ignoring their favourite Netflix show as they mindlessly sort through emails—and this can lead to burnout.

On the flip side, working remotely can give employees the opportunity to structure a personal wellness routine that enables more focus and higher productivity. By promoting this mentality on your team, you can help employees become more personally accountable to their own wellbeing and engagement.

💡 Quick tip: check in with employees
Ask your employees how they’re adjusting to working remotely, and what challenges they’re facing. Offer support or talk them through problem-solving when you can.

Help employees build their routine

Share this checklist with your employees to help them build a routine that keeps them productive, engaged, and healthy while they work remotely.

Encourage your employees to make the adjustments they need to find a healthy work-life balance, and open up space for communication around wellness and mental health.

Shifting to a remote team setting is a big adjustment (we know, we’re in the process, too). But with the right mindset, you can help your employees see this as an opportunity to challenge themselves to become a stronger, more resilient team. Who knows, you might even discover some benefits you hadn’t considered!

How is your team adjusting to remote work?