How to Maintain Relationships in a Remote Office

How popular is working remotely? At last count, more than 1.7 million Canadians work from home at least one day a week. In fact, many businesses don’t even have offices anymore. Instead, everyone connects via email, messaging apps, and phone calls. And why not? There are lots of benefits, from lower overhead to better productivity.

Of course, working remotely has challenges. One of the biggest: how to maintain relationships. Here are a few tips that will help.

Make Sure Your Team Knows Your Schedule

If you’re in an office, it’s easy to know when you’re available—a co-worker just has to see if you’re present. This is harder when everyone is remote, so make sure everyone knows what hours everyone else is working. This is even more important when people are in different time zones. If possible, have your organisation use scheduling software.

Don’t Leave Emails Hanging

Everyday, you get emails that you can’t comprehensively respond to right away. They’re stuff like, “Hey, do you have that TPS Report done yet?” or “Have you reviewed my slideshow for the client?”

In a remote environment, it’s important to communicate early and often. Instead of waiting, reply immediately with something like “Not yet, but I’ll have that done on Wednesday.”

Narrow Down Your Communication Methods

It doesn’t matter which communication app or tool your team uses, so long as you pick one. It’s hard to communicate effectively over Facebook, text, WhatsApp, phone calls, Google Hangouts, video chat, Slack, and a dozen or so other options. So get together as a team and agree on how you’ll communicate.

Circulate Meeting Plans Ahead of Time

Make sure everyone knows what’s on the table for a meeting a few days before it happens. This will help everyone adequately prepare and keep the meeting as brief as possible. If you have team members across many time zones, try and schedule between Tuesday and Thursday. Avoiding Monday and Friday will avoid impacting anyone’s weekend too much.

Include Remote Workers in Office Activities

If your team is part remote and part in-house, make sure the in-house portion of the team includes the remote workers in everything from relevant meetings to office social events. Social events are especially important.

Have Hard Conversations Face-to-Face

Certain topics, like criticism, major setbacks, and team shakeups, demand a level of seriousness that can’t or shouldn’t be communicated over text or messaging. Have these conversations in person, or failing that, over video chat.

Schedule Regular Catch Up Time

Once a week or so, schedule a brief phone call with each of your team members just to chat. It’s important to keep abreast of what’s going on outside of immediate sphere and to let others know what’s going on with you.

Once a month or so, try and meet for more formal face-to-face meetings, if possible. It’s important to get a sense of how the whole person communicates, body language and all. This will help you better judge their written communication.