4 Must-Have People Practices for Remote Teams:

Welcome back! Let’s quickly recap Part 1 of our series on the Future of Work.

The clash between employee demands and employer needs, viewed through the lenses of different generations, has given rise to ‘The Great Compromise1.’ Employee expectations of employer support are growing. At the same time, new 2023 research shows that productivity is high for companies with a remote component – and highest of all for businesses that are primarily remote. Yet some leaders still think a full return to the office must happen for businesses to be successful. What’s a company to do?

We’re here with answers! Let’s dive into the most important, effective, and achievable practices that set you up for even greater success this new year.

  1. Nurture Authentic Connections

Connection points matter now more than ever. We have now learned that formerly spontaneous office interactions now need to be intentionally and thoughtfully constructed for remote and hybrid teams. But while leaders may be tempted to focus on co-location to drive productivity and innovation, connection points, (not necessarily those forged in person) may in fact be the most valuable factor to a thriving culture – and a critical driver of business performance itself.

  • Small business leaders should take to heart recent research suggesting that it isn’t harder to create a healthy culture in remote organizations. It does require planning and openness, however.

For example, invest a few minutes of casual chat at the start of remote 1:1s and team meetings. Odds are you have stragglers coming into a group meeting, and this personal relationship-building investment pays off in spades when it comes to trust and team efficiency. “I think the biggest thing we can do to make hybrid or remote work successful is to make it personal,” shares James Kinney, a C-Suite Advertising leader and mental-health motivator, who is on Peoplescape’s Advisory Board. “Get to know your teams and ask questions about their personal life, goals, and personal care. It can’t be just about work.”

  • Consider the role of in-person touchpoints – which we’ll talk about later – in deepening interpersonal connections. Kinney agrees. “We have seen that at least some in-person time is key for team building and a deeper understanding of a person’s work and connection to team culture,” he said. “There are neuro-cues that are hard to pick up when only on virtual calls.”
  1. Bring Intentionality to Engagement

Fostering healthy connections isn’t a one-and-done activity. Leaders at all levels need to build an intentional practice. Designating time – and showing dedicated respect for those meetings as much as possible, even during busy times – is key. Best practices to consider include:

  • Require managers to hold 1:1s with direct reports at least once a week or bi-weekly. These touchpoints are needed to establish trust, check-in on mood and engagement, communicate priorities, provide clarity and input and assess progress. Managers need to work on being authentic and comfortable with vulnerability. The caution here is that risky tipping point between “invested” and “micromanaging.” Help train your managers to know the difference and avoid that unproductive space.
  • Leaders of leaders must ‘walk the talk’ and must of course do all the above as well. They should also hold their managers accountable for these 1:1s, while recognizing and celebrating the effort they represent.
  • Schedule Team and All-hands meetings regularly, highlight solid content, and follow- up by a pulse poll to gain the attendees’ perspectives.
  • Hold regular celebrations and recognition mentions, to build successful connections. Consider building in kudos coming from peers and managers into team, division, and all-hands meetings. Of 1000 leaders at small and medium-sized businesses surveyed by HR software and industry intelligence provider, Gusto in Spring 2023, self-identified as fully or partially remote, Gusto found that remote companies holding regular celebrations reported healthy company cultures nearly twice as much as their competitors.
  • Send occasional engagement surveys. Simple, single Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS) type questions work well to mix things up, too. In Gusto’s research, only 25% of polled companies conduct regular surveys, but those that do so are 20% more likely to self-describe a ‘very positive’ work environment.
  • Schedule social opportunities (or to save $, piggy-back off conferences or client events). Sometimes there is no substitute for the real world. Plan and invest in gatherings designed to boost both productivity and personal engagement, even if it requires flying people in. Maintain a company calendar with enough advance notice for employees to juggle responsibilities and show up as expected. Consider your team’s diversity when scheduling these dates and times.


  1. Create Clarity in a People-First Way

Expectation-setting and effective information sharing top the charts when it comes to creating clear, efficient work environments for remote workforces.

  • Create clear communication guidelines specifying what communication format (for example, email vs. instant message or call vs test) is appropriate for which circumstance. Be sure to spell out expected response times, which reduces stress for all involved in the exchange. We recommend you get feedback from teams and managers about their communication preferences as you craft these guidelines. Even just a casual conversation during a team meeting produces important communication preference insights.


“Clarifying methods of communication is critical,” asserts Tina Robinson, CEO of WorkJoy, LLC. and Peoplescape Advisory Board member, who counsels that managers should set team clarity regarding what communication method should be used when. “It’s a balance of want and need. Managers need to understand their people – their generation, their personal style.”

Don’t forget to check in quarterly on how communications are going. Once the team sets a communication plan, good managers check back in. Robinson recommends a quarterly ‘Start, Stop, Keep’ group exercise to fine-tune the plan and renew buy-in.

  • Provide recap or summary documents for each meeting. Especially when people are in the flow of conversation, important information can get missed or forgotten. For 1:1s, a simple shared ‘living document’ with notes from the most recent meeting at the top give managers and employees a single place to refresh their memories. Larger meetings deserve a slightly more polished summary that gets broadly shared. This effort will pay off. Gusto’s research found that companies with self-described highly effective documentation approaches were two to three times more likely to report that remote and hybrid work arrangements were benefiting company performance more than those in-office.
  • Craft clear expectations regarding work hours and location. Stating your policy clearly reduces stress, confusion, and inefficiencies that can happen when colleagues are unsure about each other’s availability. But we want to be crystal clear here ourselves: how you go about crafting these work-week expectations is as important as providing them. Listen to your people. Ask for input. Acknowledge their voice and explain your decisions. Doing so will maximize their co-operation and buy-in. For those still nervous that a hybrid-friendly environment it stifles creativity or hurts success, know that Gusto’s research revealed offering flexibility to employees for both working hours and location improved company performance, increased talent attraction, and reduced employee burnout.


  1. Support Your Managers

The list of skills and mindsets great managers need, continues to grow for 2024, on top of their long list of responsibilities and the effort it takes to navigate the “manager sandwich,” which Heffelfinger and Freedman in their November 2023 paper “Getting Hybrid Work Right! Reduce Your Productivity Concerns” describe as the crunch between direct reports’ and senior leaders’ expectations. Looking into this new year, we find the most important mindset shifts for managers are:

  • Embracing deliverables rather than invested time as the most telling performance indicator. This shift frees everyone from productivity-killers such as micromanaging and lengthy status updates. Managers should embrace and practice the mantra of “show don’t tell.”
  • Committing to be enablers rather than enforcers. Havard Business School reminds that employees need managers to remove roadblocks to their work quality and productivity. This includes interpersonal barriers, coordinating stakeholders, and other ways to set them up for success.
  • Providing feedback thoughtfully attuned to the four generations currently active in the workforce. Understanding, for example, how the remaining Baby Boomers have dramatically different needs and expectations regarding feedback loops compared to Gen Zs’ voracious need for input will set managers – and business bottom lines – up for success. (For a great quick side read, check out Peoplescape’s earlier post on feedback management.)
  • Rigorously walking the talk for operational standards. Whether it’s modeling communication technology usage, broadly sharing online calendars, or showing up for onsite days, managers cannot afford to slip into the ‘do as I say, not as I do’ rut, and expect stellar behavior from their teams.

Set your managers up for success by investing in their upskilling this year. We all strive to hire superstars, but even superstars need support. We recommend organizations examine where current managers can benefit from savvy upskilling, then devise a training path. (Don’t forget to expand your new-manager onboarding materials to include those training topics in parallel.)

Feel overwhelmed at the prospect? Don’t be. We’re here for you to help with a skills audit, a prioritized training roadmap, and recommendations about budget-savvy learning and development options.

You got this! Crush 2024 with Confidence

The last few years have transformed work as we know it. It’s been stressful for us all. But the current transformation presents small and mid-sized businesses embracing remote and hybrid work with a unique strategic advantage. By prioritizing employee wellness, fostering trust, addressing communication gaps, and implementing effective management practices, organizations can thrive. Before we know it, we suspect the Great Compromise will become the New Normal.

The new year inevitably will bring surprises, but businesses prepared with the right strategies can look ahead confidently.

1Agovino, Theresa. (Fall 2023). The Great Compromise. SHRM HR Magazine, page 35

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