While there are tons of articles out there about remote work, I haven’t seen any get really specific and practical. As InterVarsity has increased the number of remote workers, the Finance and Administration team had me interview every remote staff and remote supervisor to learn how it was going and what we could do better.
I’m having a challenge time scheduling with other coworkers whose calendars aren’t up-to-date.
This week I found out decisions are being made by someone onsite instead of me.
I’m having a really hard time getting ahold of someone — they’re not on chat and I need to reliably be able to talk with them quickly as if I dropped in their office.
I keep finding out about conversations that impact me but no one consulted me.
Being in the office this week was really hard and felt like a frantic whirlwind.
I know it’s challenging to build relationships remotely, but I feel like it’s been harder than it should be. I initiate chat but no one ever does with me.
I took the interviews and scrubbed for identifying details; then had a cross-section of supervisors, remote workers, and onsite staff look over what came up and ideate.
Together, we created 2 things:
- Mindset shift — often, a disadvantaged group is expected to advocate for themselves. We at InterVarsity are specifically trying to shift the work where the dominant group needs to be aware of and advocate for a disadvantaged group. In this case, onsite staff should just as vocal, if not more, about advocating for their remote peers and employees.
- Creating a Remote Supervisor’s Handbook-
The Remote Supervisor’s Handbook
- Decide early whether you will open up the position to be remote — avoid waffling. Your HR team will thank you
- Your budget for each remote staff will potentially need to cover: travel costs, hotel costs, meal costs, etc.
- The job description should explicitly list travel requirements.
- Interview questions you should expect and should be able to answer: What is communication like? How does the on-site team work with remote staff? How can I build relationships? Is this a remote work friendly culture?
- Consider having your staff come-in frequently to start solidifying relationships: a full week once a month for the first 4 months, for example.
- Set up meet ’n greets widely across the building– not just your area.
- Remote staff require more frequent check-ins individually.
- Consider defaulting to video check-ins
- Remote staff tend to feel less sure of how they are performing, regularly encourage them of their contributions.
- Regularly assess the remote working agreement, perhaps once a year or so.
Ask: How are you? How can the onsite team help you to be successful? How can I better help you to be successful?
- Consider having a daily/weekly check-in on video for the whole team
- Encourage the use of chat
- Prepare your team to handle “pop-in” video calls.
- Consider having Team lunches catered and your remote staff present on video — give them a small budget to order in lunch and eat “with” you.
Planning on-site time
- Plan the time together — and encourage alone space.
- Work together to find a suitable housing situation.
- You are the host — Be ready to be with them and take care of situations that come up.
Your available time
- Say hi to them every morning by chat
- Consider having “Open office hours” — time for anyone to pop-in to talk to you via video or in your office.
Helping them to build relationships
- Introduce them to others in the office who have similar interests
- Announce when they will be in the office
Can’t get ahold of on-site staff and unable to pop-in
- Regularly remind your team to be available when they say they are in their calendar (which implies keeping your calendar up-to-date!) — Keeping your calendar accurate is their version of checking the office door.
- Regularly encourage your team to have email and chat up for at least some of the working day.
Remote staff get bypassed with decisions and conversations.
- If you’re present, be the voice that reminds others when they need to talk to your remote staff or other remote staff — and especially don’t assume their place!
- If you find out later, follow-up and ask who specifically has forgotten to include your staff and remind them to include the remote staff.
- Encourage your team to advocate for the remote staff
For any challenging situation remember…
- Ask follow-up questions to make sure you have all the details from all involved
- Affirm the staff that they have been heard
- Create next steps
- Make concrete plans to follow through with
- Are my remote staff as successful as my on-site staff? Why is that?
- How can I use our next 1–1 time to see if they’re having any of the above challenges?
- Who on my team do I need to encourage different working patterns to better support remote staff?
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Ashley Crutcher is the Director of Experience Strategy at InterVarsity located in Madison, WI. She tweets at @ashleyspixels and enjoys cuddling with her furkiddos, crocheting/knitting, ringing handbells, and thinking too much about everything.