Employees are working remotely more than ever today,
whether that be from home, a coffeehouse, or a solar-powered
van pointed at the horizon. But for all the perks of working in
pajamas, there are potential downsides.

Our latest study shows remote employees feel undervalued
more often than their on-site colleagues. Specifically, remote
employees more frequently feel that coworkers don’t fight for
their priorities, talk behind their backs, make changes to
projects without warning, and lobby against them. What’s more,
remote employees struggle to resolve these concerns. In fact,
84% of those surveyed admitted to letting concerns persist for
days, while 47% let them go unresolved for weeks. Such
unresolved feelings of underappreciation impact productivity,
costs, deadlines, morale, and retention.

The solution isn’t to call in the troops but to foster a
culture of communication, and one that reaches beyond the
bounds of corporate headquarters. Our research over the past
three decades proves the health and success of any team are
determined by the quality of communication between colleagues.
Teams that can hold candid and effective dialogue—minus the
emotions and politics—experience higher morale and results like
better quality, shorter time-to-market, better decision making,
etc.

Of the 1153 workers we surveyed, 853 shared accounts of
leaders especially adept at managing co-located teams. And
while those responses revealed several common strategies for
spurring a healthy culture of open and effective dialog, here
are just three skills sure to buoy collaboration, cohesion, and
feelings of appreciation among both onsite and remote
employees.

  1. Convey Explicit Expectations. When expectations
    are clear, employees are less likely to feel in the dark and
    thus inadequate to fulfilling their roles. Effective managers
    encourage engagement by providing clear and explicit
    expectations for job duties, project outcomes, and
    deadlines.
  2. Check in Regularly. Nearly half of surveyed
    respondents said the most effective managers checked in
    regularly. And the frequency of these check-ins—whether
    daily, weekly, or bi-weekly—seemed less important than their
    consistency. In most cases, managers held standing meetings
    with their direct reports, usually lasting a few minutes to
    an hour. Respondents further said check-ins proved more
    effective when done over the phone, via video chat, or in
    person.
  3. Make Yourself Available. Successful managers are
    available quickly and at all times of the day. They respond
    to the needs and requests of their team and make extra
    efforts to keep an open-door policy. They are also familiar
    with and employ various apps and technologies to communicate.
    Rather than limiting their communications to email or the
    office phone, they embrace the challenge of adopting and
    using apps and methods that best serve their teams’
    communication needs.

It comes down to plain and direct communication, and
managers are the frontline of this effort. When managers model
stellar communication, the rest of the team follows suit. You
can’t overestimate the influence a manager has on his or her
team’s ability to engage in dialogue and create a collaborative
and healthy culture.

State expectations clearly, keep dialog channels wide
open, and be available and responsive—these are crucial skills
not just for onsite contemporaries, but also for those
pioneering the landscape of remote employment. And managers who
adopt these skills are more likely to keep teams engaged,
connected, and feeling valued.

About the author: David
Maxfield
 is a New York
Times
 bestselling author, keynote speaker,
and leading social scientist for business performance. He leads
the research function
at 
VitalSmarts, a corporate
training and leadership development company. His work has been
translated into 28 languages, is available in
36 countries, and has generated results for 300 of the
Fortune 500.