COVID-19 forever changed how employers deal with working remotely. Before the 2020 outbreak, about 3.6% of the American workforce worked from home half-time or more. Now, employers are quickly adopting policies for their current remote workers while making plans for future virtual collaborations. If you don’t have a plan in place for your remote team, you’re already behind. You need to be prepared today for what tomorrow may bring. According to Global Workplace Analytics, estimates are that 25-30% of the workforce will be working from home multiple-days-a-week by the end of 2021. Consider using these best practices for remote communication and virtual collaboration.

Help Remote Teams Work Together

Some of your employees work independently but eventually, collaboration needs to exist between coworkers to keep everyone on the same page. The good news is collaboration is possible even is your team is located across the country.

Hire employees suitable for remote work

No matter how hard you try, you can’t fit a square peg into a round hole. Some employees will always struggle to adapt to working remotely and others will embrace it. Use your application process to target candidates with an inclination for virtual work. An ATS uses filters to help search and review candidates based on your specifications. Set parameters in the application process that require candidates to work from home, have proactive communication skills and possess the motivation to work independently.

Set virtual meeting expectations

Put the same amount of importance on a virtual meeting as you would one in-person. Send meeting requests and ask virtual employees to make them a priority. Video calls are more effective when you choose a moderator, wait your turn to speak and be present with your coworkers. A moderator will not only control the agenda but the pace of the meeting, keeping everyone on track. Waiting a couple of extra seconds before speaking can help eliminate talking over each other. And being present, by looking in the camera, helps everyone on the call feel engaged. Don’t forget to ask attendees to use headphones, mute themselves when not talking and use the chat function to ask questions.

Dump the tools and processes that don’t work

Virtual collaboration does a great job of showing exactly what tools and processes your company has outgrown. For example, the video conferencing software you’ve always used now may not meet your needs. Or you may have found you haven’t used your content management software to its fullest ability. A Core HR module with cloud-capabilities allows your HR department to manage employees from any location and a good company will train all employees how to use it properly. As for processes, mix up virtual meetings with catch up sessions to share news or get to know each other better.

Be considerate of time zones

There are four time zones across the continental United States. When the east coast starts working, the west coast is still sleeping. And, when the west coast is still hard at work, the east coast has clocked out for the day. This four-hour difference can make scheduling a challenge. Dedicate specific times of the day for meetings with employees based on their time zones. For example, if you’re on the east coast or in the Midwest, keep your afternoons open for employees in the Mountain or Pacific time zones.

Build a resource hub

Remote workers can’t knock on their manager’s door or visit a co-worker’s desk with questions. Instead, create an online location that gathers all resources together. Start with your onboarding software. A cloud-based, mobile solution gives all employees, remote or not, access to training documents from anywhere at any time. It acts as an electric filing cabinet that holds all of your onboarding documents, employee handbooks and company manuals.

Communicate more than usual

It may seem like overkill, but virtual collaboration works best when you over-communicate. Just because you hold daily or weekly meetings, doesn’t mean the team walks away with the same understanding. If you present a new strategy or project, schedule a follow-up with just the employees involved. Drop a few quick chats to ask if there are any questions. Meet one-on-one with your employees in addition to weekly or daily team chats to keep employees on track and stay ahead of problems. A performance management system can guide the conversation and help you track and record goals and accomplishments as they happen.

Schedule some in-person time

Get your remote employees together in-person. Conferences, team-building events and company parties are all ways to bring everyone face-to-face. If possible, bring your remote employee to your business location. Periodic visits to the company headquarters are a great way for remote employees to develop a stronger bond between managers and co-workers. Face-to-face meetings give remote employees a better sense of your company culture and allow them to provide real-time feedback.

Develop a Rock-Solid Communication Strategy

Protocols exist for working in an office. Some companies prefer employees to use chat or email. Other employers have policies in place that rely on mobile phones. Think of it this way, if an employee needs to call in sick, what steps do they take? Do they text their manager and then leave a message for co-workers in the company’s project management system? A remote communication strategy works the same way. It needs to address how your team communicates with each other virtually. Develop a communication plan for your remote team with these best practices in mind.

Identify the challenges of working from home

Remote work doesn’t happen in a controlled environment; it happens in your employees’ personal space. If challenges aren’t addressed for your virtual teams, their work could suffer. Common challenges include lack of face-to-face supervision, lack of access to information, social isolation and distraction. To understand potential roadblocks for your remote employees, consider constructing a mind map to visually dissect potential problems. A mind map uses a non-linear graphic layout to represent the tasks, words and concepts linked to a concept. Your mind map allows you to brainstorm challenges surrounding procrastination, technical issues, work-life balance and so on. Mind map templates can be downloaded from sources like Canva.

Check-in with your virtual teams

Working remotely can be isolating, especially if some of your employees are back in the office. Remote workers can feel left out when co-workers are back at the water cooler chatting about their weekend or an upcoming project. Keep remote workers engaged by scheduling frequent check-ins. Microsoft Teams and Zoom provide platforms that allow for a quick check-in no matter the location.

Be crystal clear about deadlines and expectations

Deadlines and expectations are just as important for remote workers as they are for in-office employees. Distractions can easily disrupt virtual teams. Keep remote communication flowing by setting expectations for when a remote worker will be available online. Will they keep regular office hours or any time that’s flexible? Regular communication keeps deadlines on track and helps employees remain accountable. Forbes suggests adopting a policy of transparency with your staff.

Invest in collaboration software

Everyone on the virtual team needs to be on the same page about projects and problems. Without open, easy communication, work productivity could suffer. Invest in software that allows your employees to set up group chats, video conferencing and manage projects. Reach out to remote workers to ensure they have the broadband capabilities to keep up with their workload.

Try communicating visually

Flow charts and graphics help paint a clear picture for remote employees. Include these diagrams in your onboarding materials and share them via email or chat when discussing a new task. Utilize the skills of a graphic designer to create visuals your employees can use as a resource for years to come.

Make your remote employees feel like part of the company

Remote workers can easily miss out on experiencing your company’s culture. Invite your remote team to share their lives on company social channels. Build camaraderie by creating virtual hangout spaces and casual get-together’s. Don’t forget to recognize your remote employees’ efforts and achievements either with a quick note or a shout out at a department meeting.

Trust your remote employees

Managers can easily feel like if they can’t see their employees, their employees aren’t working. In actuality, working from home allows your employees to work longer, whenever the mood strikes. Micromanaging remote workers will only alienate them, possibly pushing them to look for other opportunities. Instead, trust in the employees you’ve hired. If you’ve chosen the right candidate, the rest will fall into place much easier.

Schedule a demo today to learn how Arcoro’s suite of HR modules support all your workers, remote or in-office. Our software helps when it comes to hiring, managing and growing your virtual teams.