For so many companies, the transition to remote work following the COVID-19 outbreak was unplanned and urgent. You should be proud if you’ve managed to stay operational and engaged. Now that we’ve got some practice under our belts, it’s a good time to think about how to improve on what you are already doing. We chatted with some of our clients who have been remote working for years, and this is some of the best advice that they shared.
Remote Work Ground Rules
Remote teams lose many of the visual clues that foster communication when everyone’s in the same building. For example, if someone has their door closed, you know not to disturb them. Those indicators are absent in a remote situation, so it makes sense to set up some ground rules.
These days we all use a bunch of different communication channels. You probably manage phone calls, emails, texts, chats, and maybe more. Talk with your team about which ways of communicating make the most sense for each situation. Perhaps there are some things that can be done over text or Slack, but others need the more formal documentation of email. Complicated or emotionally charged conversations should always be handled over phone calls or video chats. Everyone will be happy to have a playbook on how to stay connected.
It’s also smart to check in with the team on the best times for meetings. Maybe your Tuesday at 8:30 AM team meeting that worked great in the office, isn’t perfect anymore. Many people have children at home with schooling schedules or other factors that may make a different meeting time better for all involved.
It’s also critical to define roles and roles and authority. If you don’t have a clear set of roles and responsibilities, one of two bad things can happen to your remote team. The first is that without clear rules, people make their own decisions without getting the right input or approval, causing chaos and bad choices. The second is that everyone is so afraid of making the wrong decision that nothing gets done. You can avoid both if everyone knows their role.
Considerations for Video Meetings
There is a ton of advice online about how you can look professional and polished in a video meeting, which is excellent. Still, there are a few other issues that will contribute to the effectiveness of your video meeting. We suggest implementing a few rules for your team.
#1 Eliminate distractions
Poor sound quality is a significant distraction, so make sure everyone has and uses a headset for the best results. It’s best if everyone who isn’t speaking stays on mute. The background is also important. Not everyone has a beautiful home-office set up, which isn’t a problem, but people should make an effort to ensure that family members won’t be coming in and out of the frame.
#2 Don’t Multi-Task
We’re likely all guilty of multi-tasking during conference calls, but it’s a bigger issue during video meetings. Bringing someone back to the conversation takes time and slows momentum. You are more likely to make a mistake on whatever else you are working on anyway, and it’s plain to everyone when someone on a video call is looking at their phone. If you’ve done an excellent job getting the right people in a meeting with an agenda that matters to them, eliminating multi-tasking shouldn’t be very difficult.
#3 Limit the Number of Active Participants
The number of participants who can effectively communicate during a video meeting depends on the purpose of the call. If just one or two presenters are sharing information, video meetings can include hundreds of participants. However, if your objective is to collaborate and share ideas back and forth, it isn’t easy to manage many more than ten active video feeds at a time.
It’s important to have reasonable expectations for your remote team. Times are challenging for everyone, and for many, remote work is a new experience. You can still get business done and meet your goals, but it’s essential to be realistic and compassionate with your team and yourself.