How to best support remote employees

By Jenn Riek
Location point on globe

The way we think about work is changing. Technology has taken huge steps forward in allowing us to stay connected wherever we are. In a 2020 survey, 4.7 million employees (3.4% of the workforce in the United States) work from home at least half of the week, and 44% of employees surveyed say part of their team is full-time remote.

An estimated 25-30% of the workforce will be working-from-home multiple days a week by the end of 2021. More and more employees are embracing the benefits of remote jobs, from increased flexibility and no commute to being able to spend more time on hobbies or with family.

However, with a decrease in in-person contact, there can be some growing pains. Reduced human interaction, difficulty accessing important information, new distractions, and blurred lines are all new challenges to be navigated by employees and companies alike.

It’s important now more than ever to lay the groundwork for up-to-date resources and a sense of connection. Here are our tips and tricks for helping your company thrive in a digital environment.

Connect employees with all the information

The average employee spends 19% of a 40-hour workweek searching for and gathering information. In previous eBook chapters, we’ve covered how to document resources such as policies and procedures, benefits, and employee onboarding materials. But where should those resources live so they’re easy to find?

To give everyone the access they need, your company needs a one-stop-shop for all things HR. It should be a destination for all help-related content that employees will need to interact with throughout their entire hire-to-retire journey. These resources include the aforementioned policies and procedures, benefits, pay, onboarding resources, opportunities for growth, and where to go to fix your tech.

Book

Use Confluence to create all help-related content that’s easy to reference and collaborate on!

This is a lot of great information, but employees are still going to have questions. If you and your team are constantly responding to Slack or emails or checking every single page for new comments, you’ll never be able to get anything else done.

Tools

Tools like Halp turn your Slack channel into a ticketing help desk, which keeps all requests and questions organized. Or use Jira Service Desk for a more robust IT service management system.

Sometimes your company will need to navigate uncertain times, and employees will need up-to-date information ASAP. For fast-paced, need-to-know scenarios, Atlassian uses a space in Confluence called One Source. This is the perfect place to host resources such as Founders updates, situational FAQs, and more.

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Founders update

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Communications (Employees + Customers)

House

Work from home & Remote

Group of people

People & Workplace

Atlassian logo

Hiring & Onboarding

Map

Travel

Building

Events

Atlassian Foundation logo

Foundation

Tools icon

People manager resources

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Finance

Book

The basics

Pencil and paper

COVID-19 remote work survey

“Figure out a communication plan that you can actually deliver on and continue to deliver on,” says Tami Rosen, Chief People Officer of Atlassian. “Be consistent because that’s first and foremost. Without information, people will create information, and that’s where people get more stressed out.”

To make content more engaging for employees, add videos from founders, calendars, or other enhancements with macros and integrations.

While it might seem one-way, seeing the literal face of the company leadership team can help employees feel less alone and more reassured.

Encourage employees to share their feelings about the situation. Ask them to comment and like updates and posts. Establish a rapport of open information and open feedback in the form of remote work surveys. This digital dialogue will help your team take the pulse of the company and align your response and resources to what’s needed.

Meeples in front of storage of resources

Equip managers with resources

Managers are transitioning too, and it’s important to give them the backup they need to lead. Some might be grizzled veterans of the online 1:1 while others are just starting out.

Tip 1

Over-communicate

When a team is working remotely, casual run-ins in the hallway or at lunch are no longer a possibility. It’s all too easy for a team or a team member to get out of sync on a new decision, the status of a task, or a recent update. To make sure everyone is in the know, it’s better to share more information than less through Slack messages, @mentions, and emails.

Tip 2

Host regular check-ins

A set schedule of 1:1 check-ins is the difference between being aware and being caught off-guard. Adjust the frequency as needed.

Tip 3

Set up the right environment

All employees work differently. While one might be comfortable with a laptop at the kitchen table, another might need a standing desk and noise-canceling headphones. Consider giving each worker a small budget to transform their home into a home office.

Tip 4

Be mindful of local time zones

When scheduling meetings, consider local time zones. It might be 10 a.m. where you are, but is one of your team members already sitting down to dinner?

Analog clock

Google Calendar allows you to enable multiple time zones, and global clock web extensions are also a big help.

Tip 5

Get it in writing

Documenting decisions in a shared space like Confluence ensures everyone is on the same page in terms of approach, roles and responsibilities, action items, and key decisions.

Tip 6

Build virtual team habits

You and your team don’t have an in-person happy hour or a literal water cooler anymore, but that doesn’t mean all camaraderie goes out the window. Consider setting a consistent no-work virtual hangout, or start each team meeting with a quick personal/professional check-in to take a pulse check and maintain a sense of connection.

Tip 7

Check on the team’s emotional health

Remote work can be isolating, as well as difficult to turn off work at the end of a long day. By checking in regularly and encouraging honesty, you can identify burnout or loneliness early on.

Tip 8

Work open

“Work Open” is about being transparent about what you’re working on and when. Update Slack statuses frequently (“heads down”, “grabbing lunch,” “out for a walk,” etc.) Share a Google Calendar or have daily standups. Start the day with YTBs (what they did yesterday, what they’re doing today, and any Blockers). This allows teams to give updates and gain full context of what and how everyone is doing.

Tip 9

Acknowledge humanity

We’re all finding the way that works best for us. In a survey, 96% of employees said they believe showing empathy is important to advance employee retention. You don’t need to share all of your feelings, but a little honesty goes a long in making your employees feel comfortable about sharing theirs.

”One of the key silver linings is getting to know people at a different level, and you’re connecting with them because you’re now in their homes,” Rosen says. “You’re seeing their children. You’re seeing their pets. I think the connection process, even though it feels weird because you’re on Zoom all the time, is stronger because you’re getting to know people more and you’re also willing to allow people to be a little more human.”

It might seem like a lot of things to be mindful of all at once, but as long as you, your managers, and your employees continue to communicate, you’ll do great.

Confetti

Schedule time for fun and self-care

All work and no play makes Jack burned out!

To help break up the workday and fight the feeling of being tied to the desk, plan a company-wide calendar of virtual events.

Virtual events

  • Set alerts for daily stretch breaks.
  • Give employees the option of starting the morning with a yoga class or a guided meditation.

  • Hook in a DJ to provide chill music to work to.

  • Let employees compete for Cutest Pet with a virtual pet show.
  • Help everyone transition out of work with a cooking class or a trivia night.

  • Schedule activities that can include kids like a drawing lesson or a magician.

Make sure to factor in time zones so everyone can join in! You can record these events and post them online for anyone who couldn’t make it or to enjoy again.

Equally as important, empower your remote workers with information about self-care. Working from home once a week is not the same as working remotely full-time. It’s vital that employees know the difference between a regular busy schedule and something more serious, and that they know how to address it.

With more employees than ever working digitally, there is a wealth of great resources available, and the collection is growing all the time.

Out of sight, but never out of mind

Transitioning from face-to-face interactions to all screens, all the time can be tricky. But with information and communication, you and your remote workers won’t skip a beat.


Employee training