In today’s business landscape, leveraging remote relationships is a key strategy for success. Whether you have a client on another continent, a freelancer across the country, or even an entire team collaborating across time zones, successfully managing remote relationships is the cornerstone to your organization’s success.
Executives, managers and employees shouldn’t gloss over or ignore that fact that remote relationships are very different from in person ones. Embracing the differences can help you formulate a nuanced management plan that will help your modernized business flourish. Begin with these key steps to optimizing your remote relationships:
Make sure you have a “full stack” communication plan
Communication is the first thing at risk of suffering in a remote relationship. Email and Skype can get the job done, but you don’t realize how much you take coincidental communication for granted until it’s gone. Being in the same space or only a few steps down the hall is a tremendous advantage when you just need a quick question answered, or want to run something by a colleague informally.
The key is to make incidental communication easier. Emailing and calling can feel formal and cumbersome when used for just a quick one-sentence question or just to kick around an idea. Make use of an innovative team chat app such as Slack – these kind of applications can remain informal and help everyone feel as if they’re in the same room.
Using email, Skype and chat in tandem, you should focus on making sure nothing slips through the cracks of this stack. Communicate everything, even if you think it’s obvious or clearly implied. Not only will you make sure everyone is on the same page, but it’s always helpful for the remote worker to have a record to look back at.
Invest in face-to-face time
Another key to managing remote relationships is not letting them get too remote. Whether it’s a client or team member, scheduling some face-to-face time early on can be very advantageous. Remote relationships are definitely trending, but you should never count out the value of a face-to-face meeting.
However, at the moment, establishing a human to human connection in person can set the perfect tone for the relationship moving forward. Scheduling a short orientation trip at the beginning of a remote employees tenure is the best way to do this. But even for the veterans, a once a year trip can serve as a nice reward. Remote employees can definitely begin to feel cooped up, and if your office is in a trendy urban center, it can feel like a rewarding vacation.
Use social media to supplement your personal relationship
Another thing that remote relationships miss out on is the personal communication about outside-of-work life that happens in a “brick-and-mortar” workplace. Emails, Skype and even chat aren’t really conducive to sharing weekend plans or talking about the latest sports games or movies.
Social media, on the other hand, can fix this issue perfectly. While companies initially balked at carrying over professional relationships to sites like Facebook or Twitter, the social media landscape has changed significantly since the “wild west” days of the previous decade. For the first time ever, over half of online adults aged 65 or over used Facebook in 2015.
The increasing presence of older adults has tamed social media activity (more people are cognizant of mom and grandma seeing their posts) and Facebook is more of the “public sphere” than ever. The point is, there’s no more reason to fear witnessing outlandish behavior from your employees on Facebook, so embrace it! Especially for remote workers, social media interaction can make them feel like part of the community.
Above all, you should approach remote work relationships with an open mind and an eye towards optimization– don’t be afraid to innovate or even go against the grain when you deem it best.
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