How to Improve the Employee Experience for Remote Teams
Businesses and employers who invest in the remote experience will reap big rewards over the medium-to-long term. These include; lower operational costs, good work-life balance for employees, and access to a global talent pool. You'll also get flexibility in urgent operational changes, especially across different time zones.
However, poor communication, actionable items and objectives, questionable productivity, and a loss of team spirit can affect the happiness and, thus, the performance of a remote team. A happy and satisfied team will, on the flip side, make your business more productive and cohesive.
7 Keys To Ensuring a Consistently Great Remote Experience (Plus Bonus Tips)
As you’ll discover going forward with your reading, keeping a happy remote team comes down to a few basics. These include:
- Having the right remote tools to do the job (mostly software and systems)
- Ensuring processes such as onboarding and communication are as simple as possible to understand
- Building solid relationships with all team members and a sense of teamwork
- Recognizing your employees and rewarding them, for example, through benefits programs
Whether your team’s job is to sell online courses or resolve tech issues remotely, you need to ensure that their employee experience motivates them and keeps them productive. Here are seven critical pointers to improving the remote experience for your team members.
1. Prioritize Apps That Support Instant Connectivity
Since you are not in physical contact with your team members and neither are they with each other, communication should be quick and straightforward.
How quickly can important issues be raised, escalated, or resolved? Does your communications solution allow for tools such as instant chat and direct emailing or email alerts from right within the app? Does it crash unevenly, or does it require too much maintenance and thus constant downturns?
Constant complaints about how “the manager is taking their sweet time” while unknowingly using a non-performing app will lead to an unhappy team. Invest in the correct application with an easy learning curve, such as Slack. This kind of tool will allow your team to exchange ideas, links, and files with each other easily, encouraging them to collaborate.
Tools like Slack are built precisely to create remote team offices by organizing conversations into channels. You can find everything related to a particular piece of work in a channel - conversations, files, links, updates, and others.
Another great app that keeps all of your team’s communication in one place is Basecamp, which markets itself as the “All-In-One Toolkit” for teams working remotely. Basecamp provides everything a remote team member needs, including to-do lists, schedules, group chat updates, and file repositories, in one compact place.
2. Keep a Flexible Attitude but Keep Deadlines and Expectations Clear
As a remote manager, the best approach to flexibility is to keep all deadlines and instructions clear before assigning any task. You should tag all tasks in order of importance. Working with your team members frequently means you’ll be able to know the capabilities of each one and thus assign tasks accordingly.
Providing flexibility in working hours is one of the best ways to keep your remote team satisfied. And as the guys at VentureSmarter point out, problems always crop up when running a business. Giving your employees some flexibility to adjust to various challenges is an effective way to handle problems as they occur.
For starters, consider any time zone differences that may inconvenience some team members and set standard meeting times that work for each person.
Anticipate periods of downturn and sometimes lateness, but always put contingency measures in place—for example, an extra day or two on the known task deadline. You could also offer incentives for team members to complete tasks quickly, for example, through cash bonuses or even an extra day off.
3. Invest In a Good Productivity App
There’s no piece of software more recommended for companies operating remotely than a good productivity app. But an excellent productivity software solution goes further than keeping a smile on your face as a manager. It keeps your team members happy and allows you, as a manager, to set SMART goals.
Trello provides a typically shared workspace for teams, where they can see tasks under tags or task lists such as “To Do,” “Doing,” “To Be Reviewed,” etc. Once a task is completed, you can drag the ‘card’ assigned to that particular task across these task columns. This is a great use case of an easy-to-learn app with a user-friendly UI.
Instant notifications across Trello will alert team members whenever a card moves to another column or when another team member adds a comment to a card. Thus, they can open the tasks and review them with minimal delay or simply get clarifications for their tasks. This feature allows team members to collaborate efficiently.
4. Have a Clear, Defined, and Replicable Onboarding Process
Onboarding for remote teams is important since much of it takes place in a virtual space and setup. During onboarding, new employees learn, amongst other things, policies and procedures, how to work as part of the team, systems, communication channels, payment processes, etc.
During onboarding, you need to provide reassurances and clarify issues quickly. That is an essential part of providing a good confidence boost to the new remote employee who may feel intimidated by various processes.
Trello’s 30-60-90 day plan for a remote employee’s first 90 days at Trello is an example of a remote employee onboarding process. In brief, the 30-60-90 day plan is a process that takes new employees through important essentials such as introductions, mailing lists, company culture, and more to make your new employee feel welcome and comfortable.
The example above shows a sample 30-60-90 onboarding process. Activities to be completed within a specific time frame are arranged under their corresponding columns. Once an activity is finished, you can move them to the “Done” column, then move on to the next task on the list.
Besides the list of onboarding tasks, you can post resources and reference documents in a separate column. These include training manuals, links, instructions, and anything else that could smoothen the onboarding process for the new employee.
5. Recognize and Reward Outstanding Employees, Immediately
Instant recognition of good work keeps the work gears constantly rolling. It keeps employees motivated since they now have something to aim for.
So how do you reward, recognize or motivate your remote team members? Here is the thing - A mass email blast sent across the organization congratulating everyone for hitting company goals is good. However, good management takes time to recognize key players separately. And there are various ways to do that:
- Giving gift vouchers, bonuses, or cash tokens
- Sending personal or team-wide “e-gifts” and “thank you” cards.
- Shouting out stand-out employees and commending them on team message boards
- A trip somewhere would be nice
- Offer paid learning opportunities
- Making a LinkedIn recommendation
With gifts, only your creativity (and budget) limit you. But don’t be afraid to go all out if you feel like you’ve found something extraordinary.
Wooboard is an example of an application that aims to improve employee engagement, mindfulness, and wellness for remote teams through a rewards-based program.
Wooboard provides leaderboards, achievement badges, virtual Hi-Fis, and a newsfeed where team members can be instantly recognized and team members updated. Outstanding team members can be gifted a Woo or even real-world gift cards accepted across 350 real-world locations.
6. Encourage Team Building Activities
While working remotely doesn’t allow team members to interact 1:1 with their coworkers directly, you can mitigate the lack of personal interaction through live video streaming. One of live streaming’s benefits is that it lets people see each other in real time, making it a good channel for virtual events, such as team-building activities.
Team Building provides an opportunity for your team to bond with each other. The best part is that it doesn’t have to be flights to Bali or Dubai unless you can afford it.
Instead, there are excellent virtual team-building applications, such as Go Game and Slides with Friends. For example, Slides with Friends (screenshot captioned above) lets remote team members view their peers’ live activities and react to them on live video. This adds an emotive feel to the remote experience.
Slides with Friends also offers trivia games, scavenger hunts, and other interactive events designed to provide the full team-building experience.
7. Pay Your Team Members Well
Nothing keeps a remote employee motivated more than a good bank account turn-up after a hard month’s work.
Gitlab has developed a Compensation Calculator that calculates average salaries in different locations using San Francisco as a benchmark. Since most of Gitlab’s workforce is remote, the company uses the same benchmark to calculate compensation. Thus, a Java developer working remotely, say in Denver, might earn 35% less than a developer working in San Francisco, earning $90,000 per year.
With a remote team, you might be talking about developers, content writers, social media managers, SEO experts, and various admins. The salaries of these employees should be commensurate with the prevailing market rates in the specific countries where those remote team members are located.
The world is moving towards fully embracing the remote experience. A crucial part of delivering on all expectations of productivity and efficiency for a remote team is being able to keep your employees happy.
We’ve covered, in this article, seven essential tips that you can use to improve the happiness and experience of your remote team members. Remember, you shouldn’t solely focus on productivity and efficiency as the only metrics showing a smooth-running remote business.
Keep in mind the wellness and personal satisfaction of your remote team. Make it a priority to see everyone in your team satisfied and happy, and they will give you their best efforts in return.
Jon is the founder of two successful e-commerce and SaaS businesses. He's passionate about sharing what he has learned from working with business owners through Venture Smarter.