Many businesses have long allowed staff to work remotely. Whether employees work from home full-time, part-time or simply when the need arises, remote working has made balancing personal and professional responsibilities much easier for millions of people.
But even businesses accustomed to remote workers faced challenges in the wake of the outbreak of the Covid-19 virus. That outbreak forced many businesses to go fully remote in March, posing a unique set of challenges to business owners. One of the biggest challenges with going remote, especially doing so as suddenly as businesses were forced to because of Covid-19, is maintaining communication among staff members. Email and chat applications like Slack facilitate communication for remote staff, but business owners and managers can utilize a handful of additional strategies to ensure the lines of communication with staff remain open.
Set up daily calls. Daily conference calls with staff can be beneficial for the company and improve morale. Especially small businesses can do company-wide calls, while mid-sized to large businesses can schedule department-specific calls. These calls can ensure project deadlines are met, but also can serve as a stand-in for typical chit-chat that can make office environments warm and inviting. Start each call off by asking how everyone is handling remote working and encourage employees to share funny anecdotes about social distancing before getting down to business.
Encourage employees to share their schedules. Some employees may find remote working more challenging than others. For example, employees with young children whose schools or daycares have been closed may need more flexibility in regard to when they work. Managers must recognize that challenge and reassure working parents that they recognize the difficult position they are in. Fellow employees without such challenges also must make this recognition and afford coworkers a little extra time to get their work done, if necessary. While everyone should do their best to maintain a relatively normal schedule so deadlines can still be met, employees should be encouraged to communicate when they can work and when they need to step away. Doing so keeps idle time to a minimum and allows managers to set realistic goals for remote staff.
Set up virtual lunch. Lunch can be a vital component of a strong business culture. Employees may bond over daily lunches together and may even hash out ideas for the company over sandwiches or slices of pizza together. Virtual lunches over an app like Zoom can be a great way to stay connected and continue to foster a strong company culture.
Keeping staff connected while working remotely can be challenging. But there are various ways to maintain a strong office culture even when the office is technically closed.