Though some teams are used to flexible or remote work, the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed many previously office-based workers into working from home on a full-time basis. The lack of structure and designated work space might throw some employees off at first, but according to Robert Glazer, founder and CEO of the fully remote global partner marketing agency Acceleration Partners, there are steps that both employers and employees can take to create a top-performing remote team — keys “specifically that we’ve found over the last decade and have refined, even during the last six months,” Glazer said on the AssociationSuccess.org webinar “How to Build a World-Class Remote Team.” Here’s a breakdown of Glazer’s top tips.
Create a comprehensive onboarding and training process.
According to Glazer, many companies, remote or in-person, lack successful onboarding procedures. “You can’t show up at day one and have nothing to do,” he said. At Acceleration Partners, the first two or three weeks of a newcomer’s schedule is mapped out, down to the hour — some time is dedicated to training or watching information videos, while other time is focused on group work or meeting colleagues in video calls.
“They really have a full first couple of weeks,” Glazer said, and coworkers are checking in with them along the way. His reasoning for this extensive onboarding process? “In a lot of cases, what starts well, ends well.”
Always use video … with one exception.
Internally, Acceleration Partners has an “always use video” policy for video meetings.
“I can see context. I can understand what’s going on with people, because we’re not in the office,” Glazer said. “We need that connection.”
Glazer noted that the pandemic has forced everyone on to video, which can lead to the very real feeling of Zoom fatigue. For this reason, Glazer said, remote employees can sometimes benefit from being empowered to call into a meeting and take their phone on a walk instead of being tied down to their computer screen. “That is the one exception,” he said.
Encourage employees to establish clear boundaries.
“All the boundaries seem to come down when people work from home,” Glazer said, but there are some ways to encourage employees to maintain work/life balance. One way is for employees to plot out their day, starting with what sort of morning routine they would like to establish before work. “If you leave your phone next to your bed, wake up, start looking at work emails, it is like someone grabbed you out of your bed in your pajamas and threw you into the office,” Glazer said.
Employees can also use this method to plan out when short breaks might help them throughout the day. “For a two-hour period of intense calls — you might want a break after it,” he said. “You can’t go hard forever. You go hard, [and then] you rest and relax.”
Part of planning out the day includes thinking about the types of work to be accomplished, such as heavy cognitive work, creative thinking, or focusing on meetings. “The problem is that your day can all blur together at home,” he said. “You don’t have these social cues or people bothering you, in both a good and bad way — when it’s time to come grab a coffee or otherwise.”
Another way remote workers can maintain work/life balance is by designating a work space, he said. “If you bring the computer to bed, or to the kitchen, now you’re kind of dragging your office all over the house, and that physical separation of in-work-mode and not-in-work-mode is [too] similar.”
Some meetings can be memos.
While longer meetings might work in offices where employees can remain engaged face-to-face Glazer suggested remote meetings need a different approach. “In a remote workplace, I would say you should generally look to cut your meetings in half,” he said. “I really despise ‘update meetings’ — [where] we all get on a call and people just tell us stuff we could’ve found out in another way.”
Remote teams can replace these update meetings with memos, he said. “If it’s something that everyone needs to know about, you send a memo,” he said. “If it’s something that people need to know about and then there [needs to be] some dialogue, you send a memo, people read it, and then you have a meeting.”
Casey Gale is associate editor at Convene.