Work From Home Series: #2 5 Best Communication Practices for a Remote Workforce

Working remotely has been a topic many clients are asking us during this Coronavirus outbreak. So to help them, VIPdesk has created a series to help everyone learn from our years of remote work experience. Check out our last blog on considerations for setting up your team for success in a home-office environment.

Effectively Communicating with Remote Workers

Over many years, we’ve refined our own practices around communication. I recall a team survey not too long ago that highlighted our own need to improve communication across most levels of our organization.

I am so used to hearing people question the remote model and say they think it’s difficult because, “you can’t see what the team members are doing.” Think about this for a minute… you can’t see what your office mates are doing. Yes, you can see when they arrive, if they attend meetings and if they are sitting in their chairs. But you can’t really see what they are doing throughout the day. When your team works from home, this really isn’t any different. Regardless of where your workforce is based, over 50% of companies don’t have a long term strategy for their internal communications.

Now that the coronavirus is driving companies to consider requiring employees to work remotely, there is much discussion around how to stay connected. Even before coronavirus, stats showed that organizations with effective communication programs are 3.5 times more likely to outperform their peers.

Here are a few of our best practices for how we function with a remote workforce:

Conduct a Daily Huddle with Remote Workers

With our remote team, the most important connection for us is our morning huddle. Some companies do this in person, but we have always done this via a video conference. This practice comes from a book our executive team loves, “Scaling UP” by Verne Harnish.

The daily huddle is short, on-camera and includes four topics. With all due respect to Verne, we added gratitude to the start of every huddle. This is the sequence of topics we discuss:

  1. What are we grateful for
  2. What’s up today
  3. What are key numbers - and calls outs good/bad
  4. Are there any areas we are “stuck” - in which we schedule separate meeting to work through these items

Here are a few additional tips for running the huddle in the most effective way:

  1. Scheduling the time of day - It should be as early as possible (ideally in the morning)
  2. Suggesting length of time - 5 to 15 minutes (ours is 7)
  3. Determining number of attendees - Teams of 7 or fewer people
  4. Who Attends - every person in the company should attend at least one Daily Huddle, but no more than 3
  5. Determining who runs It - Anyone can run the huddle, the format runs with or without a leader
  6. Where does it take place - via videoconferencing and no muting allowed

To add some fun, we go rogue on Fridays. This means no business discussions, only talking about life.

Using a Calendar and PTO Visibility

Even with everyone working remotely, it is still good to know when they are “on” and “off.”  We use Office 365 for our remote team. A big tip here, if there is no way to see if your team is on/off, then your team will feel like they are always on. However, one of the things we do is open viewing permissions to our teammates who can view our calendars. This way, everyone can see what meetings you have and when you are “out of the office.”

With team members working remotely, it suddenly becomes clear that you no longer know when a team member is taking a day off or out of the office. We use internal chat tools to communicate (like most businesses), which allow the setting to be changed when a team member steps away or leaves for lunch.

We also use a shared PTO calendar. This is simply for information purposes. It’s great to be able to view an entire team at-a-glance and see who is on vacation, out of the office, etc.

Bringing Team Members Together through Social Chat Rooms 

Our remote team members don’t have the ability to catch up around the water cooler. So, we use social chat rooms to provide the same opportunity to connect with one another. We have business chat rooms and social chat rooms by topic. For example, Book Club, Pets, Wellness, Holidays, etc. Team members can contribute photos, recipes, advice, news, etc. It’s a far more effective “newsletter” and in real time. Best of all, it gives our team members a sense of camaraderie.

Sending a Weekly Status Report

This is another technique we have for keeping our virtual team members informed. Every Friday, we email our team/department our own weekly status report. It takes less than 5 minutes and highlights key things that we worked on that week, top initiatives for next week, and any roadblocks ahead. This isn’t a CYA technique, but rather a communication technique. Everyone can see at-a-glance what their teammates are working on. What I really love about this tip are the reminders it provides me each week! It also feels good to see accomplishments.

Here are our main bullets:

  • Top accomplishments this week
  • Priorities next week
  • Roadblocks ahead
  • Schedule next week

Measuring an Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS) Quarterly

Finally, how do you determine the effectiveness of communication? We measure eNPS every quarter. While it is a simple survey, it allows employees to share why they provided their score and helps us do a better job in communicating with our remote worker team.

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