How to schedule communication with remote employees — often a large dilemma for remote leaders — is a question we frequently are asked while working with various clients. While there are some general principles and few best practices, there’s only one simple answer: it depends.
I know that seems like a copout, but let me share with you some research indicating how often remote employees would like to speak to their direct boss, as well as a few factors that can skew those numbers.
Research from the employee engagement firm, Tinypulse, reveals some interesting answers to the question, “How often do you want direct contact with your manager?” (See survey results listed below.)
18% said, “Multiple times a day”
13% said, “once a month”
31% said, “Once a day”
34% said, “Once a week”
5 % said, “Never.” (Let’s leave these grump cats out of the discussion for now. They’d prefer it that way.)
As you can see, there’s a wide variety of responses, and that makes sense. We all have preferred work styles. It also depends on factors, such as how long you’ve been on the job (newbies require more attention than high performers who know what they’re doing), and the type of work that you do.
These numbers can also be a little deceptive in that the word used is “direct contact.” Are we talking a quick phone call or Instant Message check in, or are we talking a longer, scheduled weekly one on one?
The trick, then, is to work together the way the work needs to be done. As a leader, you need open, explicit conversation about what the worker needs — frequent short contact, or longer scheduled discussions — and what you need to get your job done. Strike a balance; agree upon not only the frequency of communication, but the method. Will you check in by IM each morning? By phone? Webcam? What about the longer weekly or monthly (Is monthly REALLY enough?) check-ins. How will those be conducted?
In general, weekly check-ins are a good standard for one-on-one coaching conversations. But when it comes to the question of HOW to schedule communication with remote employees, an in-depth examination for yourself and your team is much needed. Will people feel comfortable with that little (or that much) contact? Can more frequent, informal conversation help people stay focused and productive? Only you and your team know for sure.
Have the conversations, test your assumptions and don’t be afraid to adjust as necessary.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Wayne Turmel is the founder and president of GreatWebMeetings.com, as well as the co-founder of The Remote Leadership Institute. For 20 years he’s been obsessed with helping managers communicate more effectively with their teams, bosses and customers. Wayne is the author of several books that demystify communicating through technology includingMeet Like You Mean It- a Leader’s Guide to Painless & Productive Virtual Meetings, 10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations and 6 Weeks to a Great Webinar. His work appears frequently in Management-Issues.com. Marshall Goldsmith calls him “one of the unique voices to listen to in the virtual workplace”. He works with organizations around the world to help people use technology to lead people and projects and build productive human connections in an increasingly remote work environment.