Regular communication is paramount to ensure teams remain connected, reducing feelings of loneliness and isolation that can manifest when home working. But how and when should managers communicate with their teams to protect their wellbeing, particularly in times of crisis?
The Walters People Mental Health and the Remote Workplace series investigates how managers and team leaders can support the mental health and wellbeing of remote employees during times of uncertainty.
Take a look at 8 ways you can communicate with your remote team.
Take advantage of technology
A lack of face-time or conversation can be isolating for remote workers, so leverage the communication tools you have available so your employees aren’t firing off emails all day. Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Skype for Business are examples of the video conferencing software that allow teams to stay connected and collaborate, with screen-sharing and IM functionality to make calls both productive and stimulating.
Maintain team interactions
Consider how you can keep your collective team spirit alive by being inventive about the ways you communicate. Are there any office-based rituals you can recreate remotely? There’s no reason why your team coffee-breaks, team lunches or after work drinks can’t continue virtually!
As well as maintaining your team's social scene, be inclusive during your professional group meetings. Aim for inclusion and balance so everyone feels heard, encouraging as much participation as you can so everyone is contributing.
Set communication standards
As well as scheduling regular team meetings, let people know how and when to contact you, and provide best practice on how communications channels should be used. For example, emails for non-urgent requests, IM for quick questions, phone for urgent queries, scheduled calls for project updates and text when you can’t reach a team member by call.
Update as often as you can
To minimise uncertainty, keep your team up to date with what is going on at an organisation level during group meetings, and send official updates around any specific company news (especially news that affects them) so employees have it for reference. Almost two-thirds of UK professionals think COVID-19 will have a long-term impact on jobs and unemployment, so do your best to provide clarity on how the business is navigating the situation to stop speculation and panic bubbling to the surface.
Use the communications platforms at hand to highlight outstanding performances to the team and the wider business that make your employees feel valued.
Check in with individuals
One-to-one, personal conversations are just as important as team meetings to get a sense of how your remote team is feeling. It’s also a chance to intervene early if you’ve spotted any red flags that suggest a team member may be struggling, such as fewer e-mails, not responding to messages, inhibition or complete withdrawal in group communications.
Celebrate your staff
Highlight stand out performances to the team and the wider business that make your employees feel their work makes a difference. When working remotely, it can be hard to visualise your impact, so a short ‘good job’ note, team-wide recognition, or even a “Thank You” lunch delivery reward can boost morale and help team members regain that sense of purpose.
Make your team feel visible
Knowing their opinion matters helps employees who may they lack a voice in their team. Therefore, if remote working is new for your business, encourage feedback from your staff about how they've found it and what might improve their experience.
Understand when you shouldn't communicate
Whilst communication is key, it shouldn’t be around the clock. Try and keep a degree of separation between work and personal - think for example around conducting social chat around WhatsApp groups and respect the boundaries people have between work and home life.
How can you make your team feel supported? Take a look at our guide to prioritise the mental health and well-being of your remote team.