Our topic of discussion today is four ways to deepen engagement with remote workers. We’ve been doing this for quite a while now. I’ve been in the business for more than a decade and Great Work Online has been around for four years. We always try to find how we can have that engagement with our remote team.
1. Hold Regular Virtual Team Meetings
The number one important thing for you to be able to have that engagement with your remote team is to have regular team meetings. At Great Work Online, we do have weekly meetings with all of our project managers. It’s more of a like catching up about what happened last week, what is our goal this week, giving updates and concerns, is there any issue with regards to the clients that they’re handling, or just brainstorming.
When you do that regular catch-up meeting with your project manager or virtual assistant, it is also like having the time to know the person. By doing this, you get to know things like – what they’re thinking about, how they work, are they struggling, how are you as a leader, or if the owner of your business could help your team members overcome challenges.
It is important to make the distinction with your virtual team, whether you’re dealing with a project manager or all of your freelancers individually, that on top of any regular communication you would have with them – which could be once a week, once a day, could be 10 times a day, or multiple times a day – having a regularly scheduled weekly check-in is still very, very valuable.
You know, Pam, I know that you meet, or not necessarily meet, but you chat and discuss, whether it’s by text, or a quick video meeting, or email, with the project manager and all of our other extended team members on a day-in, day-out basis. Even if you’re doing that with your team, you need to have a regular check-in for those quick one-off interactions throughout the day about a specific topic, or a specific client, or a specific project. It’s good to have a weekly meeting to kind of tie everything together to how things are going with ‘Project A’, and ‘Client B’, and this over here.
You take time to make sure you’re up to date on all the projects, not just the ones that have been on fire that you’ve been having lots of communication back and forth. And as Pam said, it gives us time. Usually, those in the moment conversations are very – I have a question and I need an answer. The client sent me an email. I need to get back to them. You have to tell me this. or What’s going on? So a regularly scheduled meeting gives you time to kind of relax to block the time out of your calendar. And it doesn’t have to be all – Update me on this project. Hey, how’s your week going? How was your weekend?
Especially now, which I think is very topical that, people are running the gamut of different emotions. Everybody is affected by what’s going on right now with COVID-19 regardless of where you live, whether you’re in a country where things are very shut down. I’m hearing from other people that as restricted as things are in the Philippines, it’s even more so in other countries. I’m hearing that Vietnam is even like way more restricted than what we are here. Yet in Canada and the United States, people still have a fair amount of freedom to roam. A lot of businesses and offices are shut down, but city parks are still open. People are still able to go out with walks with their dogs and their kids and enjoy some outdoor activities. No matter where you are and what the situation is, everybody is affected.
It gives you a chance, business-wise, to check-in and makes sure you’re going from A to Z on all of the projects that are going on with your team. It also gives you some slower time, not so rushed, to be able to just do that personal check-in and not just now, when things are really stressful, but all the time. And I know we start our weekly meeting with our project managers with us. We do them on Monday mornings, it’s – How was your weekend? How are you guys doing? What’s new? What’s exciting? I think it’s really important to build that personal rapport with your virtual staff because you don’t have the benefit of chat over the coffee cruller or sitting own and having coffee.
Especially if you have an online business and you’ve got a distributed team, it’s impossible. But with the technology that we have right now, it is possible to get in touch and check-in with your team members. I remember, we did a town hall meeting and we gather all of our teams before on your regular basis. And then we kind of like stopped. I can’t remember why. But with having a regular weekly meeting with our project managers, that never stopped. It’s a weekly thing for us and it’s a must because that’s the only way I’ll be able to know exactly what’s happening with the rest of our client’s projects and how are we gonna do better if they are experiencing challenges. And we do a brainstorm.
It really depends on how big your team is. If you have this one-on-one relationship with a virtual assistant or one particular freelancer, that’s fine. It depends on your availability. If you are available on a weekly thing to have a catch-up meeting with your freelancer, then that’s fine. Do that. Set a time wherein you’re going to meet your virtual assistant or your entire team. Set the time because, for me, I don’t find it reasonable and efficient if you’re just going to pull each everyone randomly like – Hey, I’m free today for a 30-minute catch-up. Are you free? I don’t think that’s gonna work efficiently.
Also, you need to consider the schedule of your freelancers. If they know that every Monday at 10:00 AM, they have a meeting with a client, they will block their time. And they will find another schedule to have a meeting with you. But if you’re going to go randomly within the week, then I think it’s going to be difficult. You’re just going to create stress for your team members.
We used to hold town hall meetings once or twice a month before. It didn’t work out because I know everybody is busy. I’d rather have them deal with clients and projects than have a meeting with me talking for an hour. So we all agreed that, for now, it’s productive and it makes sense to have that town hall meeting once a month.
2. Find Out How People are Feeling
Our next tip is to find out how people are feeling. It also correlates to that regular meeting with your team. So whether it’s a one-on-one meeting with a virtual assistant or a meeting for your entire team, it helps you get to know how they are. Like what David said, check-in on how they are right now. With regards to us, the majority of our staff are here in the Philippines, but we’ve got some other freelancers who are in Europe, some parts of Asia, and some in Australia. So we have freelancers around the globe and every country has a different situation now that they are in home quarantine. I guess, for us, we are so used to working from home, so it’s kind of like normal for everyone. But then again, it’s different.
We’ve talked to some of our staff. Last week, we did our town hall meeting and it’s fun because you get to know and kind of like have a taste and a bit of a feeling of how is it there on their end, in that part of the world. And by telling their story of they are dealing with the situation right now, they get this sense of belongingness. They have the sense of – I am not just a freelancer doing the tasks, but I am also part of something, part of the team. And being a previous virtual assistant or freelancer, for me, having that feeling is really something. It made me feel that I am part of the client’s success. And if you can also extend that feeling to your team, that they are not just a freelancer, but they are part of your team, part of your success, part of your dream, part of your failure, it will just deepen your engagement and your relationship with them.
When team members feel like they’re not just an employee, you’re not just a freelancer, that they’re actually part of the team. Everybody will have their own terminology for us. We call our people our team because we really are. We’re in this together. We try and make sure that all of our freelancers actually feel like they’re part of the team. They just don’t have that tag – Hey, this is my team member, my teammate. We want them to feel that they really are a part of the bigger solution. And that’s what we talked about in our last town hall meeting. We kind of checked-in with everybody – Hey, how’s everybody doing? Or where are you at?
We found out, that one of our team members from the Philippines, but living in Hong Kong, we’re stuck in the Philippines right now. And I didn’t know that. I just assumed that she was in Hong Kong. She came home for the Chinese New Year. And then the quarantine and lockdown happened. So, they were stuck for three months, but they are actually based in Hong Kong already. And she’s saying that they are not going to wait for the lockdown to be lifted. They need to go back because the bread and butter is there, the business is there, the work is there. You know, hearing that story is something. You get to share that with the team and that’s valuable for the team.
Some of our team know each other in real life, but most of them don’t. Most of them have only met the other members of the team project managers on Slack or on a zoom meeting. So it’s great to build that team thing. And we have kind of a rule that everybody has to have their video on during our town hall meetings. And we want people to get to know each other, to recognize each other, to interact. And we encourage them to interact offline as well. Like, don’t just see these people in the Brady bunch matrix of a big zoom meeting, get to know each other. And it’s not that they necessarily work together with all that often, but it’s good to get to know other members on the team.
The big thing in that for me was just this one thing, I just assumed that she was home with her family in Hong Kong and to find out that she should have been, but wasn’t. They ended up getting kind of stranded here, back in the Philippines. We never would have known that. I never would’ve come up, had it not been having that bigger team meeting.
I think that conversation with your team members, it also not just wanting to check-in or get their updates, see how they’re doing. You are building that relationship. You are building the culture that you want for your company. We just had a free masterclass yesterday. I just want to share, it’s so funny because one of my project managers send me a message on Slack. And he said – I got a notification from my phone that Pam was on live. I’m like, why is she live it’s Saturday? And then he checked his calendar, it’s Wednesday. So, I’m like – Go back to work, it’s Wednesday. So, it’s not Netflix day yet.
So, when we had that masterclass, we’ve got some team members from other parts of Asia who jumped in and joined the Facebook live in that group for freelancers. We call it Great Work Online Ninja. And he sent me a message on Slack. And he said – I had a language barrier. It was because most of us were speaking Tagalog, our native language and I forgot that he was there on Facebook watching us. I tried my best to speak in straight English because David was there. The culture that we were able to build in Great Work Online, I think, is great.
Once we see each other in zoom and have video, it’s like we just saw each other yesterday. It seems like we’ve never been apart. It’s because of the constant communication that we have, whether inside Asana or whatever tasks that I would review or make my comment. Slack is a chat tool that we use for an immediate response, for whatever question, or whatever concern, we have that. So we have that culture.
For those people who don’t know me yet, what you see is what you get. We giggle, we laugh, we joke around and we don’t have that – Hey, she is the CEO of Great Work Online. I should be formal, and all of that. No. We joke around. We treat each other as a friend, as a family and they can come to me for advice. For money, not yet (haha). We hope to be able to extend that, for sure, in the future. Here is a comment from Celia – Same time last year, I saw how Pam remotely manages her business when we were having our events in Bali and Chiang Mai. I was inspired at how she makes it a point to check on her team and make sure everything is working out fine. Then we hit the beach afterwards. Hahaha.
Your team is your backbone. Your business is important to you, but you also need to make your team as your priority because you won’t be able to scale, you won’t be able to grow your business if you don’t prioritize your team as well. Just like what Richard Branson said – If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your clients and Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to. And I really believe that if you treat your team members well, they’re really going to take care of your clients.
3. Guarantee Everyone Sees your Updates
Our tip number three is to guarantee everyone sees your updates. During the town hall meetings and during our project weekly catch up meetings, we share our goals for Great Work Online and what do we want to achieve? I think it’s very important to know and to share that with your team so that they know why are they doing their tasks. They need to know your goal, or they need to know your client’s goal.
For example, we have these 10 videos that we need to edit. And I told one of our project managers that who’s handing that client – You need to specify or to tell the video editor why we need all of those videos by Friday. If you don’t give your team members a reason or a goal, or why they need to rush this, or why they need to prioritize this task, they will not have that sense of urgency. So now, the video editor already knows that the client needs it for a launch next week and those videos will be included. So it’s a priori team.
With us, we share the goal that we have for the business. We share our achievements, whether big or small, so that they have the feeling of belonging – I am not just a brick on the wall. I am part of the company’s success.
4. Use Simple Video Chat Tools
Use simple video chat tools. I really love Zoom. I’m not an affiliate, and I don’t know if they have an affiliate or something, but I really love zoom because it is stable. They provide clear video and audio that can record. I can use zoom and go live on Facebook. We are using a paid account, but you can also use this for free. Of course, when you use a free account, there are some limitations in the features. So there are so many tools out there that you can use for free. Or if you have enough budget, then pay for a subscription, but there are so many tools out there.
There is StreamYard, the one that we used earlier for chatting with coaches because I was having a glitch with connecting Zoom to Facebook. If you guys are experiencing this as well if you are on Zoom and you can’t connect going live to Facebook, try to log out from your Facebook account, log in again, and then try again. That’s what I did. So now we are using Zoom and to connect to Facebook live.
There is also Appear.In. The good thing about this is you don’t have to download the app. If you type in Appear.In and it will direct you to your browser and then you can navigate everything there. You can also create an account there. What I have before was just a free account. So you can also share your screen there. You can record using a free account so that’s good. But of course, if you have a paid subscription, then so many features are added there.
So, you’ve got StreamYard for streaming to your social media. For having a meeting with your team, you can use Zoom. You can use Skype, of course. But for me, I don’t use Skype for video calls because Zoom is more stable for us. You also have Appear.In. If you’re using Slack, there is also a feature there where you can call someone. On the free basic Slack account, you can only do one on one people in a call. But with the paid Slack account, you can do group calls. It actually uses the Zoom interface for its video chat in Slack but it has limitations. So, in a free Slack account, you can still do a call with one person.
Google Hangouts. You can use that as well. So if you have a Gmail account, go to your email. On the left side, I think you can use that feature wherein you can call someone. I know you can also have multiple people in the call. If you’re looking for tools that are free, you can start off with zoom. The only thing is, for just two people, you can have an unlimited length of meetings, but for more than two people, you can hold a meeting only 40 – 45 minutes, and then you’re going to get cut off if you’re in a free account.
I think that’s it. So, let’s have a recap – hold virtual team meetings. find out how people are feeling, guarantee everyone sees your updates, use simple video chat tools. These are the ways to deepen engagement with your remote workers.
If you haven’t subscribed yet to our podcast, please do. It is called How to Build a Team. You can put comments and ratings. We will definitely appreciate that. You can check us out on social media, just search for Great Work Online, and you can check all of our stuff on our website which is greatworkonline.com. And of course, you can look for us on LinkedIn and on Facebook – David Monteith and Pam Pormentilla. I guess that’s it. Thank you, guys. And we will catch you in our next blog. Thank you.