Let’s face it: working from home is here to stay. And if you want your business to continue to succeed, now is the ideal time to start transitioning the WFH policies and practices that were good enough to merely get you through the crisis into something that you can scale and continue indefinitely as a team.

While it may not be an easy task, it doesn't have to be as difficult as you think. Here are 3 tips to help you make remote work and collaboration more sustainable and successful:

Tip #1: Establish common goals, policies, and expectations.

It’s crucial to ensure employees are working towards the same goals, informed by your company’s values. It’s even more critical when you’re leading a distributed team that each employee understands what makes the business or team successful and is committed to helping achieve it.

Do your remote employees understand what it takes to help the business succeed? Stop what you’re doing and ask your team members that question. (Seriously. Ask them.) Establishing and sharing common goals is the first step to genuinely connecting your virtual team. Once you’ve nailed that down, it’s time to communicate guidelines that reflect and support your core mission.

Communicate your remote work policies & expectations.

Almost all workplace conflicts stem from poor communication or a lack of clear expectations. Never assume your employees know what you expect. Remote work means different things to different people. Here are a few things to consider as you develop policies for your virtual team.

  • Working hours - when to start; how to handle time zones; hours works vs. results
  • Communication response times - when are you expected to respond
  • Time-off requests - establish a shared vacation calendar
  • Meetings - how often and how long should they be

Keep in mind that regular meetings with management aren't a silver bullet. Establishing clear lines of communication amongst peers is another critical part of the equation, which brings us to the second tip.

Tip #2: Communicate Regularly, Clearly, and Effectively

According to research from Software Advice, 38 percent of employees said communication was more difficult on virtual projects. The same study cited communication as the single greatest threat to successful and productive virtual teams. Modern technology can help, but communication must still be clear, compelling, and regular.

  • Video is your friend - It’s hard to beat face-to-face interactions, but video can go a long way in helping your team bridge that gap.
  • Use collaborative chat channels - Unified communications tools with group chat and messaging can offer topic-based channels for quick brainstorming sessions, status updates, and friendly banter. Bonus: those conversations are archived and searchable, so you won’t sit down at your desk and forget what your coworker just said about that deadline.
  • Make time for small talk during team meetings - You can't replace the break room, but try to start every meeting with a simple icebreaker to help employees find common ground and build a sense of camaraderie.

Now that we've encouraged you to communicate more, remember what they say about too much of a good thing? That rule applies to the next tip.

Tip #3: The flip side: resist the urge to over-communicate

Many well-meaning managers go overboard trying to keep employees connected with emails, IMs, and conference calls. This can lead to a sense of micromanagement, lack of trust, and struggle to maintain work-life balance. This spells trouble, in the form of lower morale and higher attrition. Even more alarming, it can also mean lower productivity and lost revenue. According to Business Insider, fully one-third of the 11 million daily meetings in the U.S. are not productive.

Quick tips for leading more productive and effective meetings:

  • Set an agenda and limit it to 2-3 items. Share the agenda at least 24 hours in advance so attendees can come prepared.
  • Limit the invitees. Consider the agenda. Who are the decision-makers that will be essential to include?
  • Start on time and end on time.
  • When hosting virtual meetings, use video and screen share when possible. These features help foster interaction and keep attendees focused.
  • Institute a no cell phone rule.
  • If possible, reduce meeting durations by 5-10 minutes to give participants time to debrief, organize their notes, and take a breath before subsequent meetings.
  • Do you even need that meeting? Status updates are better suited for asynchronous communication. Save meetings for collaboration and decision-making.
  • Take clear, concise notes! As the meeting organizer, send out a summary and include action items, next steps, and deadlines.

Bringing it all together

Imagine leading a more productive, efficient, organized, and happier team. How might your customers benefit from higher employee engagement and better internal communication? How might your business benefit from smarter communication, higher employee morale, and less turnover? The impact could be tremendous, and with a clear strategy and strong tactics in place to bring your virtual team together, it’s all possible.

Now imagine having all the tools and technology you needed to make it all just a little bit easier. How much time could you save? How many employee pain points could you solve? What if you could save money by bringing all your tools together under one license? 8x8 can help you do all three.

To learn more about 8x8’s all-in-one communications platform and how to adapt to working virtually in the new normal, check out our new eBook, Open for Business: Enterprise-Grade Communications for Businesses of Any Size. Sign up to be reminded when we release upcoming chapters like next week's, How to Choose a Vendor, which will include poll results from this week.