Managing a remote team comes with its own set of unique challenges, especially for companies with remote employees located in different time zones. Employees may struggle to feel like they are a part of a team when working alone from home all day. They may struggle to feel heard without the option of an in-person open-door policy. They may also feel burned out from merging their work and living spaces.
Great leaders anticipate problems like these and know how to respond in a way that benefits all. To that end, 15 Fast Company Executive Board members share their best tips for supporting remote employees.
1. COMMUNICATE MEANINGFULLY WITH TEAM MEMBERS.
Shape your leadership to individual team members’ needs and find ways to meaningfully communicate with them. Build 1:1 relationships with your team members and work hard to know what makes them tick. Set reminders, save important dates, congratulate them on successes and celebrate them in the way they want. They need to know you care about them and that their work provides value, impacting the future. – Karl Giuseffi, Talent Plus Inc
2. MODEL GOOD BEHAVIOR
Model the behavior you want your employees to emulate. If you want your employees to be accountable, to be on time, to over-deliver for clients, to be enthusiastic, and to have a healthy work-life balance, then you need to work and act like this yourself. Remember, everyone is watching you over Zoom. The way you act sets the standard for your entire distributed work community. – Barry Fiske, Merkle
3. UNIFY BRANDING AND VALUES
We have employees all across the world. Whether it’s Paris or Atlanta, we ensure that our company has a unified brand with a regional approach. We suggest to new markets what has worked well previously as it pertains to cultural development while respecting a city’s local atmosphere and flavor. This strategy has helped us grow rapidly and we were just able to launch in Italy, Portugal, and Belgium. – Christine de Wendel, sunday
4. OPTIMIZE YOUR BUSINESS FOR REMOTE WORK
Encourage remote work as a standard. Guidelines for how to include and support remote employees are a start, but the organizational structure must also represent this support. At ActiveCampaign, our leadership team is spread across numerous states, so we’ve built our team from the start on a remote model. As your team grows, it’s important the foundation of that team is optimized for remote work. – Jason VandeBoom, ActiveCampaign
5. TREAT EMPLOYEES EQUALLY
Avoid creating a culture of first-class (in-office) and second-class (remote) citizens, whether explicitly (by showering opportunity on those that are physically present) or implicitly (by not providing an infrastructure that enables remote employees to engage, contribute, and get recognized). Build a “remote first” culture. If it works for remote employees, it will work for in-office employees. – Scott Brighton, Aurea
6. CONSIDER EACH EMPLOYEE’S NEEDS
Leaders need to consider the span of needs across the organization. Each employee will value something different based on their individual work-from-home environment. What is the size of their family unit? Do they require specific work hours? Can they benefit from caregiving services? Effective remote support comes with personalization. – Tom Futch, Freshly
7. HOLD CAMERAS-ON MEETINGS
Our company is fully remote and has been since we started in 2015. We have twice-monthly, company-wide meetings on Zoom with cameras on. Departments take turns presenting, so we get to see our team members from around the world regularly. We use Slack and Asana. We have in-person leadership team meetings. We plan group volunteer events and offer “Netflix watch parties” as a group activity. – Jason Hennessey, Hennessey Digital
8. SUPPLY THE RIGHT TOOLS
Great leaders support remote employees by ensuring that every member of their team has the right tools for the job. If they are working on a computer, make sure it is fast, has enough storage, and has the software that is needed to do the job right. If they use the internet for their job, make sure that their internet is lightning fast…and pay for it to ensure it is! – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency
9. GET THE RIGHT TECH
For 20 years we have supported and retained remote employees with a technology-first approach. Once a viable foundation exists, engagement and connection can be fueled. Becoming a Slack Beta Tester in 2014 helped our company participate in the remote economy at scale, both learning and teaching through feedback loops. Today, we invest in tech to “bring people in the room” with us wherever we are. – Michelle Hayward, Bluedog
10. MAKE EMPLOYEES FEEL SEEN.
Great leaders make sure that remote employees are seen and heard. They ensure that everyone feels connected to the workplace even when they are not physical in the same location. We all want to feel like we make a difference, and for remote employees, this can be even more of a challenge. Great leaders draw out the best in their people through powerfully connecting with them. – Tony Martignetti, Inspired Purpose Coaching
11. CONNECT AND ENGAGE—INTERNALLY AND EXTERNALLY.
It is important to stay connected and engaged. So schedule regular one-on-ones and skip levels. Facilitate team meetings and all-hands sessions. Maintain internal and external communications to all markets where employees live. Foster opportunities for community volunteerism and support across markets. Host team in-person sessions when possible and book leadership visits in various markets. Lastly, be intentional about offering promotion opportunities at an equal rate. – Paola Doebel, Ensono
12. CURATE YOUR WORKPLACE CULTURE.
Our team is strong, motivated, and supportive. While the term “workplace culture” tends to get used a lot, it could not be more apparent here. Our culture enables us to value one another on a deeper level, which facilitates agility that leads to overall growth and success. That’s a benefit of solid work culture: It extends beyond the four walls of the office and supports remote employees as well. – Andreas Pettersson, Arcules
13. PROVIDE TRAINING AND EXPECT MISTAKES
Trust the team. Help employees level up with training, consulting, and coaching. Spend time to dial in on the little things that, when resolved, unlock lots of potential for the employee. Expect mistakes, and be gracious when they happen to foster a culture of acceptable risk-taking. – Robert Brill, Brill Media
14. SHARE PERSONAL ANECDOTES
We have found the greatest support does not come from work, but from the sharing and communicating of personal milestones (e.g. talking about kids, pets, or their plans for PTO). For remote workings, in particular, discussing all work makes things too sterile and actually takes away from organizational culture instead of enhancing it. – Tyrone Foster, InvestNet, LLC
15. LET EMPLOYEES TAKE BREAKS
So underrated, but one way of supporting remote employees is to give them breaks. In a remote world, where everyone is glued to their screens, we forget to even walk around the house for 15 minutes to refresh our eyes. Or bigger, taking a week off to destress. Great leaders can see through their teammates and offer something as simple as breaks without them asking. Good karma points indeed! – Candice Georgiadis, Digital Agency, Inc