Effectively Communicating With Remote Teams In the New Work-From-Home Environment.
Whether in an office or managing remote, how you execute the leadership principles is sometimes a little bit different. There’s a few things you’re going to want to make sure that you do when communicating with remote teams.
While managing remote teams is still new, you really need to reset the expectations – go all the way back to the basics. Start with what your working hours are – It may sound silly, but your office is now your home and there’s no distinction between the two places. It’s easy to lose your sense of normalcy. Can you work at night? Can you work before your shift starts? What are allowed to do as far as your working hours? Our teams are normal business hours – the only people for Rocket Station that work outside of our normal 8-5 hours are analysts who put reports together before they start their day. I love having data before the day starts, but everyone else just has normal working hours.
Availability can also seem weird in a virtual environment. When can I reach out to someone? When is someone available? The chat tools we use make it very simple to set a status. Skype, Slack, and many of the other tools have a color-coding system where you can rename your status, and setting color code to it lets your team know exactly where you are. We have a 3 color system at Rocket Station.
Red means I’m busy – do not reach out for any reason
Orange beings I’m working on something but if it’s important you can call me
Green is I’m going to go you can reach out chat video call however you need to reach out to me is fine.
It’s important that you create an availability process with your team. Communication easily and seamlessly is another one of those basic things that seems totally get lost when we transition to a remote environment.
Home Office Etiquette
At Rocket Station, dress code is the same whether we’re walking into an office or working from our home office, we are business casual every day – unless there’s extenuating circumstances. Video calls, interacting with clients and even interacting with their own team totally change the environment when you’re dressed for the day.
What am I allowed to do at my work station and what am I allowed to do in the office? For us, it’s pretty simple. The same rules applied to your home office as they do in our regular office.
Food – Nobody likes watching someone eat through the computer – it’s gross, so no food allowed at the desk.
Drink is limited to water, tea or coffee in either in Rocket Station mug or a blank cover.
The general rule of thumb is the HR guidelines are the same working from home as they are within the office. Setting the expectations from start makes the overall process so much easier. I highly recommend the creative process for your team about working hours, availability, and overall work environment in a structure that you’re allowed to have in your day-to-day.
You can really help your remote team members by supplying some anchors to their schedule throughout the day. Working from home can come with a lot of pressures you otherwise wouldn’t feel it in office. By having some anchors in the day, we create consistencies for our team. Start of the day, mid-day, and end of day routines are critical for your team to have consistency, stability, and the outcomes that you’re looking for.
Start of Day – every one of our team members says “Good morning.” They check in, they say hello to their groups and their teams, and they let everyone know they’re locked in and ready to go. Every. Day. It’s a consistency that builds rapport, builds relationships, and eliminates the unknown. We all know who is there, who is ready to rock, and who is ready to perform.
Mid Day – we love to have some key activities. Quick check in with our teams and then I like to take a quick break. Weather that’s going for a walk, going for a jog, riding my skateboard, celebrating Dirk’s amazingness. Anything to get the blood moving for 5, 10, 15 minutes. I don’t full on workout because I can’t recover in time to get back in a timely fashion, but just 10 to 15 minutes to do something to get your blood moving out. Getting of your office for a few minutes will be a huge boost to your mental stamina throughout the day. Your midday anchors and having a routine to break up the monotony on the day is really important to a successful home environment.
End of day – we have a schedule, both for work and personal. For work, we log out the same way. You say “goodbye” to everyone when you leave the building. You let everyone know you’re on your way out and it’s a good way for us to stay aligned as a team. Personally I like to reset the house throughout the day. When it’s evening time and I’m leaving my office, I can structure the house to be more of a home. I dim the lights and make it feel more natural, I leave my office and I don’t walk back in. This routine and having a few anchors throughout the day creates a stability and consistency that allows me to perform at a higher level.
Help your team create anchors for their day. Start of day, mid-day, an end of day points that allow them for a little bit of the mental break and more productivity at the end.
You’re going to want to meet with your team more regularly than you’re used to. We have a weekly meeting with all departments, at minimum. Sometimes it’s more. A meeting is defined as a scheduled agenda meeting, where there is progress points or outcomes to be delivered. We have to do that because with everyone working remotely communication just doesn’t flow as seamlessly. We want to make sure there’s nothing lost in translation, no one is confused, and everyone can crush their day without any question.
By meeting regularly we also build relationships we can also build culture and build rapport with each other face to face, getting together as a group, spending a little bit of time talking about our personal lives before the meeting starts, and then getting ready to rock and roll. Consistent, regular meetings with your team – more than you’re used – will go a long way in creating accountability and transparency within your virtual team.
For all meetings, it’s required 100% video on – no black boxes within our team meetings. Seeing someone face to face totally changes the conversation, so it’s important that everyone on your team has their video on. If you set that expectation from the beginning, it’s a whole lot easier to implement. It’s actually really fun in a virtual environment when everyone has their video on, their focus engaged and is ready to perform.
Make it Personal
Build in a little more personal time into your meetings. Natural conversations that happen around the water cooler and at lunch during breaks just don’t happen as much during virtual environments. We need to make sure we create personal time intentionally. If you take some time to start each meeting with a little bit of personal information from each team member, it will go a long way in the relationships.
You have to slow down and celebrate more wins for a couple of reasons. It will help build a culture – when we celebrate people’s wins, we reinforce the positive. It simply makes people feel good, highlights the things we’re reinforcing and therefore other team members know what’s important what we’re focusing on. By keeping everyone updated throughout the day by celebrating wins, your team now knows exactly what’s going on.
We celebrate really small wins within every department. Each department has its own group chat, so for sales every time at discovery call or a sale, we celebrate that. Every time there’s a new client on board, we celebrate that. With every step of the process, we celebrate publicly. Each person has a different role and different tasks assigned to that role. We want to make sure we reinforce when they’re doing amazing things, so we celebrate all small waves throughout the day. All progress is essentially posted throughout all forms of communication – mostly chat, but we let people know the small wins that we have within our groups. This creates camaraderie – it’ll bond your team and it will also improve alignment and improve communication.
Management principles are the same, whether in office or managing teams remotely. But with your virtual teams you have to make sure you’re super intentional about building rapport, about creating stronger relationships, aligning communication, celebrating wins, a more regular meeting rhythm, just to make sure higher aligned throughout the entire day.