Employees are working remotely more than ever today, whether that be from home, a coffeehouse, or a solar-powered van pointed at the horizon. But for all the perks of working in pajamas, there are potential downsides.
Our latest study shows remote employees feel undervalued more often than their on-site colleagues. Specifically, remote employees more frequently feel that coworkers don’t fight for their priorities, talk behind their backs, make changes to projects without warning, and lobby against them. What’s more, remote employees struggle to resolve these concerns. In fact, 84% of those surveyed admitted to letting concerns persist for days, while 47% let them go unresolved for weeks. Such unresolved feelings of underappreciation impact productivity, costs, deadlines, morale, and retention.
The solution isn’t to call in the troops but to foster a culture of communication, and one that reaches beyond the bounds of corporate headquarters. Our research over the past three decades proves the health and success of any team are determined by the quality of communication between colleagues. Teams that can hold candid and effective dialogue—minus the emotions and politics—experience higher morale and results like better quality, shorter time-to-market, better decision making, etc.
Of the 1153 workers we surveyed, 853 shared accounts of leaders especially adept at managing co-located teams. And while those responses revealed several common strategies for spurring a healthy culture of open and effective dialog, here are just three skills sure to buoy collaboration, cohesion, and feelings of appreciation among both onsite and remote employees.
- Convey Explicit Expectations. When expectations are clear, employees are less likely to feel in the dark and thus inadequate to fulfilling their roles. Effective managers encourage engagement by providing clear and explicit expectations for job duties, project outcomes, and deadlines.
- Check in Regularly. Nearly half of surveyed respondents said the most effective managers checked in regularly. And the frequency of these check-ins—whether daily, weekly, or bi-weekly—seemed less important than their consistency. In most cases, managers held standing meetings with their direct reports, usually lasting a few minutes to an hour. Respondents further said check-ins proved more effective when done over the phone, via video chat, or in person.
- Make Yourself Available. Successful managers are available quickly and at all times of the day. They respond to the needs and requests of their team and make extra efforts to keep an open-door policy. They are also familiar with and employ various apps and technologies to communicate. Rather than limiting their communications to email or the office phone, they embrace the challenge of adopting and using apps and methods that best serve their teams’ communication needs.
It comes down to plain and direct communication, and managers are the frontline of this effort. When managers model stellar communication, the rest of the team follows suit. You can’t overestimate the influence a manager has on his or her team’s ability to engage in dialogue and create a collaborative and healthy culture.
State expectations clearly, keep dialog channels wide open, and be available and responsive—these are crucial skills not just for onsite contemporaries, but also for those pioneering the landscape of remote employment. And managers who adopt these skills are more likely to keep teams engaged, connected, and feeling valued.
About the author: David Maxfield is a New York Times bestselling author, keynote speaker, and leading social scientist for business performance. He leads the research function at VitalSmarts, a corporate training and leadership development company. His work has been translated into 28 languages, is available in 36 countries, and has generated results for 300 of the Fortune 500.