5 Best Practices for Managing Huddles with a Remote Team
As more and more businesses begin to work remotely, maintaining regular communication channels such as daily huddles, becomes more and more difficult. But just because your team isn’t all in the same office doesn’t mean your daily huddle can’t happen.
At Align, we strive for employees working remotely to feel as part of the team during meetings and huddles as anyone. We invite all of our employees who are not in the office to participate in our daily huddle through Zoom. Seeing and hearing everyone else’s updates helps them feel as if they are in the office and not missing out on everything that’s going on. This communication works as a two-way street because it also gives the rest of the office a chance to catch up on the remote employees’ progress.
If employees are out of the office, it is even more critical that they stay up to date on what everyone else is working on. Being out of the office is a major disconnect, so extra effort must be made to ensure the remote employees are keeping up with everyone else, and everyone else is keeping up with the remote employees. Video chat might be a bit tedious, but it’s much more efficient than having constant emails or Slack messages between individual employees. This constant one-on-one communication is replaced by one-on-all communication where everyone is present for the same conversation. Read on for our tips on making this work when teams are remote!
Write Down Updates in a Shared Document
We recommend using a shared document for logging daily huddle updates before each meeting. This document optimizes the huddles in several ways, but especially for remote employees. The shared doc gives them a helpful tool to refer back to to see where everyone else is in their progress. Like the one-on-all communication, this document eliminates the need for constant emails asking everyone else what progress they’ve made on their tasks.
If employees experience connection issues or difficulty making out what it being said, they can read the huddle information themselves. Additionally, remote employees may be too caught up in the craziness of home to participate in a video huddle. Whether it’s taking care of their children or some other task at home, huddling may be more difficult than it seems. By logging their update they can still make the team aware of their progress even if they are unable to huddle.
Giving remote employees a chance to update the rest of the team on their progress is extremely important. Without any face-to-face communication, huddles make it far easier for team members to ask questions and make observations about remote employees’ work. Streamlining this communication rather than using email is beneficial to every team member.
Engage Remote Employees
Even though daily huddles have a pace to them, it doesn’t hurt to ask a question every now and then to get clarification or stimulate discussion. For remote employees, this is an encouraged practice. After they share an update about what tasks they’ve completed, ask them about it. Ask how the sales call went, or if they ran into any problems programming the software. These questions go a long way in keeping the remote employees feeling engaged.
When the rest of the team is on a computer screen, the remote employees can still feel a little disconnected, even if they are virtually present in the daily huddle. But if you ask them questions and willingly engage with their update, it will reinforce that they are a member of this huddle as well. Without any feedback, it may feel as if they are aimlessly speaking into a box. Remind them they are not just an employee, but a part of a team.
Even if they don’t share an update, engage them in the huddle whenever you get a chance. If a team member says she thinks a certain website functionality would benefit the company, ask the remote employee if programming it would be possible. The remote employee should be treated no differently than if he or she was present at the meeting.
Ensure Your Team’s Well-Being
Brief small talk at the beginning of a huddle is beneficial for putting all employees at ease, but it also helps with remote employees too. General small talk with the entire group can be about anything like recent sporting events or weekend plans, but conversations with remote employees can be specialized. Ask them how cold they are in Minnesota or how warm they are in Florida. Simple questions will keep them engaged and keep their mind in the conference room even if they physically aren’t there.
If your entire office is currently working remotely, a casual discussion can improve morale and make everyone feel as if they aren’t working alone. Talk to them as if they are in the office, and they will work as if they are.
Manage Speaking Order
Managing huddles and meetings can become chaotic the more people joining remotely. Choosing the order in which people speak can get cluttered. As people try to voice their opinions or responses to questions posed there can be an awkward dance as people try not to speak over one another.
Having one person run the order of the huddle keeps things orderly. If this seems too dictatorial, participants can ‘hand it off’ by saying who should go next at the end of their huddle entry. Keeping the huddle flowing is especially critical for these situations, as time can be lost when questions are asked. Request virtual participants hop on one-on-one calls after the huddle as questions and issues around updates emerge.
Recognizing employees’ achievements is important regardless of where they are working, but it can be even more beneficial for remote employees. Away from the office, they might feel as if the work they are doing is aimless, and they are simply just earning a living. When remote employees are digitally present for a huddle, you should commend them for their hard work, especially when the whole team is present.
It’s important to remember remote employees are as important to the team as everyone else in the office. Keeping them in the loop as much as possible may be difficult at times, but it is absolutely necessary to keep the workflow functioning at a high level. Huddles are the easiest way to keep them aligned with the rest of the team because everyone is present. They should participate in any staffwide discussion by any means necessary.
For a company to be aligned, everyone involved must be on the same page. Just because employees are out of the office doesn’t mean they can be easily caught up the next day. Ensuring they are active and engaged with every other team member is the best way to maximize their value to the company.
We cover more on effective remote huddles and everything else we know about huddles in our newly published guide to Huddles. Download a copy!