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The three Conferences You Ought to Have for Distant Staff

Here’s why three is the perfect number of meetings you should hold for remote workers.

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July
20, 2020

5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Thanks to technology, many companies are still operating, and people are working from home. While remote work offers numerous benefits to both employees and companies, it also presents challenges to everyone, but specifically leaders.

If you’re not used to managing a team remotely, you may be tempted to micro-manage your team. You may want to check in more frequently, ask for status updates and hold regular meetings to foster a team environment. 

The three meetings you should hold with remote workers:

All of this new administration and communication activities may interfere with employees’ productivity and lead to frustration all around. To make remote work more efficient and less aggravating, consider holding only three meetings:

An initial meeting where you go over the processes and procedures your remote teams will use to communicate and work together. A regular meeting with a published agenda, whatever “regular” means to you. It could be weekly for customer-facing teams or bi-weekly for back-office ones.Create optional one-on-one meeting slots for employees. Some may want to touch base with their managers, so having it scheduled like this gives them the chance. Those who don’t need to check in will know you’re open to a meeting should they decide they want it.

Let’s take a closer look at why you only need these three meetings. 

These meetings set proper expectations.

Employees who are not used to remote work may struggle with managing their schedules, and leaders may feel they have no visibility into what’s going on. Many remote work problems can usually be traced back to miscommunication and bad assumptions. Assuming people will answer any message immediately or assuming that working from home is the same as working in the office. (It’s not.) 

Companies can avoid these assumptions and their related problems by creating working agreements, so everyone knows what to expect from remote work. These agreements should apply to both employees and leaders, so everyone understands the situation for all, including:

Guidelines on what messages should be sent via specific mediums: Brainstorm a list of the info you need to share, then agree with your team on how and when it’s shared. That means defining what should be an email, what can be handled in instant messaging (IM), and what requires a phone call.Working hours for teams: By definition, remote work encourages flex working hours, and in these times of needing to schedule household supply runs and parenting duty trade-offs, it’s even more vital. Customer-facing teams may need to agree on a particular schedule, so ensure people feel supported if they need to swap shifts or change things around based on a dynamic home life.Response times and communication tools: Online chat tools like Slack and Workplace by Facebook make it easy to stay connected but can lead to frequent interruptions and hours long chat-fests if people aren’t careful. Encourage employees to block out time for focused work and publish instructions on how to turn off notifications in the tools your teams use. 

These meetings keep work moving forward.

One frustration for remote workers is the constant interruptions of meetings, calls, emails and other communications. People may already find it challenging to work from home without considering the distractions of family and personal life obligations. 

Scaling back the number of meetings frees up those who don’t need to be there and helps people plan their work schedules better. They know which meetings are important for them and the team, and which are better served by others. 

It gives people better control of their calendars and lets them schedule work blocks and personal blocks of time more efficiently. People can manage their personal lives more easily and without stress, because they know what’s critical and what’s not. 

These meetings maintain links between employees and management.

These are extraordinary times, and we’re all dealing with the added stress differently. People want to feel supported by their companies, but not when meetings feel forced or overly scheduled. 

In particular, one-on-one meetings might lead to additional stress and anxiety for employees. Some people find them particularly stressful, so while it’s important to maintain the link between employees and managers, it might be wise to consider different ways to do them.

Consider scheduling them less often to give time back to employees who don’t need to check in with you.Change the format to a text-based status update or even an integrated app into your chat software. For example, Standuply integrates with Slack, allowing companies to hold virtual daily standup meetings with employees without scheduling a meeting.Schedule optional check-in blocks that employees can book with you if they want. By giving them control over when they can book the time it reduces stress for them and leaves managers free to get back valuable time on their calendars too. 

You may be tempted to hold more meetings and check in more frequently with remote workers, but you may be doing more harm than good. Resist the temptation to schedule more meetings with employees and give them more flexibility in their schedules. Try to hold the minimum number of meetings you need to support your employees and make them feel comfortable with remote work.

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