Businesses all around the country have spent the last few months adapting to working remotely amid Covid-19.
The initial Zoom mishaps aside, it seems as though most remote workers have done a remarkable job making the transition to working from home. Some companies, like Twitter, are even announcing permanent remote-work policies for employees.
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There are several ingredients that contribute to the secret sauce of remote-work success. One of the most vital is the ability to maintain a consistent flow of communication with your team. Leaders that communicate frequently are able to share developing news and updates in the business. From Zoom video conferences to company-wide emails, there are plenty of methods available to reach teams and be transparent in talking about the next steps.
Every business — and its remote team — communicates together a bit differently, too. That’s another ingredient in remote work’s secret sauce. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, so leaders are getting creative with their messaging. Here are a few of my favorite out-of-the-box ideas for communicating with your team.
1. The “5-A-Day” Rule
Ellen Stone is the founder and CEO of Public Offerings Ltd., a photography art agency. During Covid-19, Stone’s team cancelled their regular meetings and events and began remote work.
Initially, it was difficult to motivate team members and effectively move projects forward. In response, Stone implemented the “5-A-Day” rule. “This means all team members should be speaking to at least five members of their team or external collaborators every day,” Stone says.
The “5-A-Day” rule allows for interaction through a wide variety of platforms, including phone calls, Zoom, Google Hangouts, and apps like WhatsApp.
Communicating like this does more than keep work-from-home loneliness at bay — it has also allowed productivity and engagement to blossom within the team. “Our projects are on track and there’s a genuine feeling of collaboration across the company,” Stone says. “The sense of community in our company is flourishing.”
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2. Weekly “All-Hands” Meetings
Maia Monell is the CMO and co-founder of Nav.it Money, a financial management app that uses behavioral science to foster financial wellness. Monell’s team was remote prior to Covid-19, so they weren’t unfamiliar with taking video conference calls or virtual meetings.
They did, however, launch a new version of the app at the start of the pandemic. Registrations quickly surpassed expectations with more than 6,000 downloads in the first 3 days. Monell realized it was necessary to quickly adapt their internal team’s response strategy. A new type of meeting had to be instituted to ensure all teams were consistently communicating and addressing real-time growth.
Weekly “All-Hands” meetings were launched on Monday afternoons. “The joint department heads lead the 30-minute meeting and report on key initiatives and [key performance indicators],” Monell says.
Why choose Monday afternoons instead of mornings? Monell explains that this is actually the ideal time to “ease” the team into the week. It’s a particularly ideal time for remote-working parents to meet up as they balance childcare — and hungry toddlers — with work responsibilities.
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The weekly “All-Hands” meeting is also the prime time to give hard-working employees a round of applause. “We like to call out team members that have been working exceptionally hard over the last week(s),” Monell says.
3. “Chat All Day” Messenger
I know what you’re thinking and I’ll say it now: Don’t judge this subhead’s communication style before you know what it’s about.
Crissibeth Cooper is the head of marketing for KNB Communications. The company runs on G-Suite software, so Cooper and her colleagues keep their Google Hangouts windows open throughout the work day. Essentially, chat messenger stays on and acts as the virtual equivalent of popping into the traditional office cubicle. (Slack makes a similar workplace messaging tool).
“We’re all very good about responding quickly, so there is little lag in getting timely answers,” Cooper says.
The chat history also stays off, which allows for looser conversations. “We share memes, articles and news about things that happen to us during the day,” Cooper explains. “We could be getting an update on growing a plant or sending over a cute puppy photo. The chat is another way of keeping that feeling of closeness alive as we work remote.”
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4. The Good Old-Fashioned Phone Call
Did you know your smartphone may be used to call team members? (Insert a winking-face Emoji here.)
Jokes aside, one of the most effective ways to communicate with your team is also the simplest: pick up the phone and call each other. Or, schedule in a time to call one another. Either way, make the call and take the call.
In addition to her weekly “All-Hands” meetings, Monell has been taking the time to check in with employees that report directly to her. Prior to Covid-19, this meant a 45-minute to hour-long phone call at the end of the week. Now, it’s a 30-minute call made twice, sometimes three times, each week.
The topics Monell and her team talk about vary. Maybe the call is focused on their weekly initiatives. Sometimes they don’t talk shop. Instead, they’ll chat about the silly things their kids or pets are doing and connect a more personal level.
Monell says her team is her number one priority. Taking these calls means the world to her —and the collective team effort of Nav.it has taught her valuable lessons in leadership. “Great leaders are not ‘great’ on their own,” Monell says. “The people they surround themselves with, gain inspiration from, and take time to encourage and mentor are who make them truly great.”
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Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation.com which provides online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, startup bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent services, DBAs, and trademark and copyright filing services. You can find MyCorporation on Twitter at @MyCorporation.