As many areas have lifted their stay-at-home orders amid the coronavirus outbreak, some employees may not be ready to return to the office just yet. In fact, some employees may not want to return at all. According to experts at Global Workplace Analytics, 25-30% of the workforce will be working-from-home multiple days a week by the end of 2021.

For many employers, this could be a huge shift for their company. While working from home has its perks: no commute, more flexible schedule, no office distractions, it’s also rife with disadvantages that can lead to lost productivity and burnout. As a leader, moving to a more flexible schedule with your employees can be intimidating. Still, there are steps that you can take to keep your team engaged and productive, starting with setting expectations and rules around communication.

As we shift from crisis mode to creating a sense of normalcy, here are some tips and tricks you can implement right now to improve communication with your team while working remotely.

Hold weekly check-in meetings

A person writing notes while having an online meeting
An entrepreneur writing notes while having an online meeting

Schedule an individual weekly meeting with your team members to offer a space for them to come to you with questions or concerns. Weekly meetings provide employees with consistency. When they know they can count on your weekly meetings, they know when to bring up questions and challenges. This doesn’t take away from communication throughout the week, but it provides a dedicated time to brainstorm ideas, solve problems and let you know what they are working on and may need help with that week.

Weekly check-ins can also help you hold tension on the goals you have set with an employee. There are a few elements that you can incorporate into your weekly meeting to help ensure you’re both getting value.

  • Prep – Both participants should come to the meeting prepared with topics for discussion.
  • Check-in – Working remotely can be a challenge on many levels, but especially for building trust and good relationships with your team. Leave some room at the top of the meeting to just check in with one another.
  • Review the previous week – Take a look at the last week. Talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly. Discuss what went well, what could have gone better, and what the learnings were.
  • Goal Setting – Set new goals for the following week.
  • Brainstorm – These meetings are a great space to brainstorm ideas or work on challenges.
  • Leverage time for any administrative opportunities – Weekly check-ins are a great time to address and knock out any administrative tasks.
  • Validate – Take time to validate what needs to be done to reach the goal and walk through what needs to happen to hit said goal.

Weekly meetings are not meant to micromanage employees but create an environment where they feel supported. By scheduling these meetings weekly, you will get a sense of what’s getting done or where employees might need more support.

Overcommunicate

A person having a video call in their home office
A person having a video call in their home office

Communication is more important than ever before. When working remotely, you can never go wrong by sharing too much information with your team. Encourage them to do the same.

To help everyone stay focused and informed on ongoing projects, you should encourage your employees to be proactive and communicate the progress on longer-term projects and goals. Depending on the size of your team, you could set time to discuss these projects as you might send daily or weekly emails with a list of updates.

Here are a few ways you can help your team be more proactive:

Build a Timeline

Help your employees break down long term goals into smaller, more manageable tasks. By outlining milestones, you’re laying out checkpoints that indicate when to share an update.

Use Your Weekly Check-In Meetings

Weekly check-ins are designed for checking in on project status. It’s a great way to also check in on the timeline you’ve built to see if you’re on track to hitting your goals.

Use Google Docs, Box, or Dropbox to Share Files

When working remotely, shared documents are a lifesaver. If you don’t already, now is the time to consider filing sharing services so that projects and communication can live in one shared space. Often these services allow team members to edit and collaborate on projects to move things along faster.

Share your schedule and encourage your employees to share theirs

A planner and markers on a table
A planner and markers on a table

Without being in an office, you lose the opportunity to have an open door for your employees. Working from home can be difficult as people may not know when they can call or reach you. By sharing your calendar, let your team know if you’re in meetings or if you’re available to talk. This can also be important if you plan on working different hours (i.e., if you start your workday earlier so you can end early), it lets your team know.

Open up communication channels

A woman typing a message on her phone
A woman typing a message on her phone


Communication is important now more than ever. Unlike being in an office, where you can have impromptu discussions, working remotely can leave people a little unsure of how to address challenges. If you haven’t already, consider scheduling daily or weekly check-ins with your team to keep communication lines open. If people are counting on you, staying on top of emails, keeping Slack open, and letting people know when you’re stepping away from the computer is especially important. When staying available is distracting, let people know when you will be available to talk if something should come up.

If opening up the floodgates is intimidating, there are other ways to set clear communication rules and channels with your team. Communication rules are a set of rules you create for yourself that let people know the best way to get in touch. Establishing these rules is vital to your productivity, as well as your sanity. As leaders, you should tell your team how they can reach you.

Identify communication rules

Tell your team when they can reach you. The more guidance and boundaries you provide, the fewer misunderstandings will occur, and the more smoothly work can stay on track. This is particularly important if you and your team work in different time zones.

Set expectations around communication platforms

While working remotely, people tend to be more aware of time. If someone sends you an email, they may expect a response from you within the hour. It’s okay not only to let people know how to get a hold of you but also to set expectations around how quickly you will respond. For example, you might not be able to respond to an email in less than 24 hours. So, if something is urgent, you might suggest your employee call you directly.

Resolve issues quickly with a phone call.

Email, text, IM, Slack, and other written methods of communication are prone to misunderstandings. When you sense this is happening, be quick to pick up the phone to resolve issues.

Whether your company is slowly transitioning back to the office or planning to keep your team remote, these tips will help you increase engagement and productivity with your team.

If you need more help with your leadership and don’t know where to start, you don’t have to go at it alone. Schedule a free two-hour session with Cultivate Advisors to dig into your business and develop a plan.

Do you have any ways you’ve improved communication while working remotely? Let us know in the comments!

This article originally published on GREY Journal.