While more than one third of Canada’s working population already participates in remote work, many employees and their managers are working outside of the office for the first time. Despite the flexibility and freedom that remote work is favoured for, this kind of separation can be a challenge for some. Fortunately, with some basic awareness, you can overcome these unique obstacles to help your work from home team survive and thrive.

Here’s how to do it:

Set up regular check-ins
You may already have weekly, monthly or quarterly check-ins established for your in-office team. However when dealing with remote employees, you will most likely need to ramp up the frequency of these check-ins to ensure that the members of your team feel connected and fully supported. Whether it’s a series of daily one-on-one calls for employees involved in independent work, or daily team call for more collaborative departments, the regularity and predictability of these calls are crucial. With this kind of structure in place, employees can take assurance in knowing that you will consistently be available to support their needs or concerns.

Enable communication channels outside of email
When you’re working in an office, sometimes you can take for granted the ability to speak with colleagues directly. To help supplement this kind of of face-to-face interaction for remote employees, you’ll want to implement various communication technology options. Video conferencing is great for reducing feelings of self-isolation among teams, and it’s particularly helpful if you need to discuss complex or sensitive subject matters. Alternatively, instant messaging platforms are useful for when quick collaboration is needed. Programs like Slack, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams can be used for any time-sensitive communication or simpler, less formal conversations.

Set communication expectations
It’s important to get all members of your team on the same page for the frequency, means, and ideal timing for communicating with one another. Let it be known the intended purpose for each communication channel, as well as identifying the best way and time you can be reached throughout the workday. By setting the expectations for communication across the team, you’ll be ensuring that information will be shared effectively and efficiently as needed.

Take time to socialize
Social interaction is a normal and healthy component of any office environment. For remote teams, it’s particularly important to create opportunities that allow your team to connect and interact outside of work duties. An easy way to incorporate this into your routine is by dedicating some time at the beginning of team calls to catch up with one another. Additionally, you may want to look at hosting virtual office social events. From pizza parties to after work drinks or even a games night, these events can go a long way in helping to promote a sense of belonging.

Offer additional support
As previously discussed, some of your remote work team may find this transition more difficult than others. They may also have some apprehension or trouble expressing their concerns and difficulties. With this in mind, it’s important to speak with each member of your team individually and specifically ask them how their remote work transition is going. By prompting a general question, individuals may feel more comfortable to be open about their experience. From here, allow your team member’s stress or concerns be the focus of the conversation and listen carefully. Be sure to acknowledge the stress, anxiety or difficulties they may be facing while being empathetic to their struggles. You should also try to use encouraging phrases that affirms your confidence in your team. With this approach, your support and encouragement can help your team find a better sense of purpose and focus in their remote work.