Whether it’s through the occasional partnership with a freelance contractor, associates traveling for work or a company policy allowing staff to work part- or full-time from home, many agencies operate with remote staff. It’s a valuable way to maintain flexibility and manage brisk workloads, and the ability to work remotely some or all of the time is a desirable perk for many professionals.
Still, agency executives must be able to guide and monitor their staff no matter where they are, so it’s important to develop a strategy that works for your business’ unique needs. To help, we asked 12 experts from Forbes Agency Council to share their strategies for supporting remote staff.
1. Treat Everyone The Same
This working environment can be challenging for everybody for a couple of reasons. You don’t want your remote employees to feel like they are excluded, but you also don’t want your in-house staff to feel like they do more work. Treating everyone the same is key. This means discussing work-related processes in a single software, having weekly video call meetings, etc. – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS
2. Promote A Policy Of Teamwork
Making everyone feel a part of the team is imperative. Consider weekly status updates through video conferencing (Google Hangouts, UberConference) for project updates and team interactions. For daily communication, employ easy-access file sharing, such as Slack. Agency executives have to ensure they have a policy in place for expectations, turnaround times, confidentiality and availability. – Lauren Shirreffs, 2Social Agency
3. Hold Weekly Meetings
Don’t forget about them! Touch base in weekly meetings, even when teams are working remotely. Even short, standing meetings where everyone is expected to contribute can keep those who are working remotely in tune with your overall goals as a company. The least supportive thing you can do is forget they exist. Think: “Distance makes the heart grow fonder,” not: “Out of sight out of mind.” – Bernard May, National Positions
4. Have Informal And Formal Check-Ins
Working remotely can be a great model, but communication is key. It is important to connect informally and formally. We use video calls to make us feel more connected. Direct managers have weekly one-on-ones with their teams. I meet with every team member about every three months to check in and see how they are doing. I also ping people regularly on Slack to check in, thank them or give accolades. – Gina Michnowicz, The Craftsman Agency, A Union+Webster Company
5. Keep Everyone In The Loop For Motivation
Communication is key. Always keep employees in the loop every step of the way with constant motivation. With motivation, employees give their best to accomplish your company’s goals. – Cagan Sean Yuksel, GRAFX CO.
6. Pick Up The Phone
Managing remote staff requires a conscious effort to foster a team environment. I found what worked best was a personal approach and picking up the phone. Tools like Slack are a must, but I found it far more effective to pick up the phone and call each member of my team as often as possible, even for small and quick questions. It made them feel like they were right down the hall and very supported. – Keri Witman, Cleriti
7. Include Everyone In Company Activities
As an owner of a fully remote agency, I know the importance of remote culture. It’s vital to include remote employees in all company activities, whether it’s internal training, project stand-ups or fun gatherings. Services like Zoom make it easy to do so via video conference. While they are not in your physical office, remote employees are still a part of your team, so treat them as such. – Brad Williams, WebDevStudios
8. Ensure Timely And In-The-Moment Communication
We deal with remote or traveling staff on a daily basis, so having the proper communication platforms or timing and cadence in place is key. Making sure people have access to IM platforms, email, and sharable documents and drives allows for streamlined communication and presentation materials. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, HAWTHORNE LLC
9. Engage In Social Interests
Have a continuous social activity that breeds competition and that everyone is engaged in to fill the “small talk and getting to know each other” gaps outside of work. March Madness and fantasy sports are easy ones, and my female employees love the added benefit of rubbing it in when they end up winning every year. – Patrick Haddad, Oopgo, Inc.
10. Use Intelligent Video Conferencing
We always make sure that remote employees feel connected to their teams at headquarters. We are big on team meals and encourage employees to join in when we have lunch together. We’ve just purchased an intelligent video conferencing tool that makes it seem as though our remote employees are right there in the room with us! Having the ability to “see” them has been great for morale all around. – Catherine Seeds, Ketner Group Communications
11. Stress The Core Mission
We all have to rely on other people to deliver what’s been promised to clients. We need experts with the judgment skills to know when to forge ahead completely alone and when to involve others. The more they understand the core mission, the better equipped they are to make those judgment calls. Leaders need to over-communicate on the mission and then let people do what they do best. – Randy Shattuck, The Shattuck Group
12. Share Daily Agendas
We went entirely virtual two years ago and we love it! After 14 years, it was a big change, but it has opened new opportunities. We prepared for going virtual by encouraging team members to work from home one to three days per week for almost a year in advance of closing the office. Our most important new practice is that each team member sends a short “agenda” email to the entire staff each day. – Craig Klein, SalesNexus.com