benefitexpress April 18, 2020 9 min read

How to Become a Remote Work Collaborator

How to work from home, successfully

Times have changed—not only are work spaces more creative and collaborative than ever, but companies are also more encouraging of working remotely. Even before COVID-19 disrupted the world, remote work had gone from a rare arrangement for some to a standard component of many people's workweek. Still, the global outbreak has made remote work more than just encouraged—but in many instances, mandatory.

For some, this is a dream come true; and even an opportunity to prove their strengths as a remote worker in hopes of continuing the arrangement down the line. For others, adjusting to this new normal can be incredibly trying, as working behind a digital barrier presents its own set of unfamiliar challenges. Not to mention remote workers can often feel alone or disconnected—particularly during times like now, when stay-at-home orders sweep the country. 

Luckily, increasing collaboration across remote teams and departments is not only possible, but there are even clear benefits for both employees and the business when remote teams learn how to work together from afar.

Here are key approaches and tools on how to work from home, successfully.

Keep your schedule—including check-ins

A lot has changed over the past few months, leaving many reaching for slivers of comfort and normalcy. Help employees adjust to remote work by reinforcing "business as usual" as much as possible. Whether it's weekly meetings, one-on-one check-ins or scheduled team lunches, don't defer from your regular schedule too much. Not only does it put some normalcy back in our lives, it also helps newly remote employees organize their schedules and workload accordingly. 

Make meetings meaningful & productive  

Keeping people engaged during in-person meetings is hard. Leading virtual meetings is even harder. But it doesn’t have to be! With the right mindset (and maybe a little bit of practice) virtual meetings can be run just as effectively when you use basic meeting best practices.

Tips for Successful Virtual Meetings

  • Keep it concise - Avoid going into overtime to maintain attention and engagement. Come prepared with your most pressing topics and follow an agenda to stay on track.
  • Make it meaningful - Make sure everyone has a clear understanding of what the meeting will cover by providing an explanation and necessary resources beforehand.
  • Highlight takeaways - Meetings are more purposeful when participants understand what's next. Clearly communicate next steps and action items before the meeting concludes.
  • Use video - Technology such as Zoom and GoToMeeting helps to personalize the conversation and keep participants engaged. Plus, being visible will keep people accountable and focused on the conversation—not other tasks.
  • Assign roles - For example, designate a rotating time keeper and note taker. Additionally, ask people for their input and make sure everyone has a chance to give feedback.

Highlight benefits programs 

Now more than ever, it's important to reach out, connect, and take care of one another. That same sentiment applies to your professional relationships, as well. Lots of us are feeling anxious and uncertain right now, and suddenly being isolated at home can amplify these feelings. Thus, it's important to check-in with your employees and be an advocate for their overall wellness.

Use the communication channels available in your benefits enrollment portal such as email, text messaging or mobile app push notifications to put a spotlight on your organization's benefits package and other relevant offerings such as employee assistance programs. For example:

Benefits Communication Topics

  • Do your employees know the phone number to the EAP hotline?
    • Send them a text as a friendly reminder.
  • Do employees have upcoming doctor's appointments to renew prescriptions, but want to avoid medical offices?
    • Create an HTML email series that teaches employees how to use telehealth services.
  • Are employees aware of new, eligible medical expenses for reimbursement in FSAs, HSAs and HRAs as part of the CARES Act?
    • Do a deep dive and provide helpful links on your company's microsite.

Communicate, communicate, communicate 

Did we mention communicate? If you or your team isn't accustom to working from home, chances are there will be some bumps in the road when switching to fully remote. The key to steering through these bumps is communication—especially between managers and direct reports. In traditional circumstances, it's easy to turn to your peer or walk into a colleagues office to chat, but the digital wall of remote work puts a spotlight on alternate forms of communication. Craft a plan that maps out expectations for how often you should check in and how you’ll address questions or new assignments with one another. For some, a simple group chat via Skype, Slack or Microsoft Teams does the trick. For others, it may be a daily virtual huddle. 

Don't forget company culture 

Just because your team cannot be together physically doesn't mean you can't continue to focus on your organization's core mission and values. If your company typically hosts volunteer events, keep it up! There are plenty of at-home volunteer programs to get your team involved in. At benefitexpress, we held an off site, company wide blood drive, encouraging employees to make a donation at their local blood bank. We've also kept the team spirit alive with virtual happy hours, our ongoing employee recognition program, and, most recently a you-pick-two SWAG event for all employees.    

As the coronavirus story continues to unfold around the world, so will your organizations' work-from-home strategy. Set your sights on building a workforce that supports one another and from there you'll develop a team that excels. 

During this time of continued uncertainty, benefitexpress is committed to keeping you up-to-date, compliant and connected to your workforce. Learn more about workplace challenges, health and welfare and compliance with our two-part COVID-19 webinar series, or subscribe to our blog for weekly updates.