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Communicating Expectations and Structure for Remote Work Success

One of the most important aspects of remote work is communication. Well-established lines of communications and clear expectations are key to moving projects along and keeping employees connected to their colleagues and their work.

1. Who reports to whom? This might seem obvious, but it needs to be clear to all employees. Forms of communication that are easy to take for granted like desk drop-bys and impromptu meetings aren't going to happen with a mostly remote workforce. Employees need to know who to get in touch with when a question or idea arises, and how best to go about that.

2. What channels are you using, for what purposes? Slack, email, Skype, even text messages - all are remote forms of communication that employees are suddenly using in a new and different context. It's worth creating guidelines around what channels are being used for different situations, whether it's a team brainstorm or a board meeting.

3. Set expectations for returning messages and schedules. Returning phone and email messages in a timely manner is still important and expected, even while working remotely. Create and communicate those expectations to all employees. Schedules also need to be established between coworkers and supervisors so that it's possible to plan for meetings and calls.

4. Let your clients know how to reach you. Almost everyone's workplace has shifted dramatically in the last few days, and for many, time and energy has gone toward keeping things running internally. While it might be easy to assume that your clients or associates outside your workplace know how to reach you, make the effort to reach out to them and update or reiterate forms of communication and the best points of contact.

5. Plan your use of shared resources. Planning a video meeting at the top of the hour? So are many other people who are now using the same resources. Some employers have learned over the last few days that Internet connectivity is being tested as thousands more than usual log onto the same video sites or networks. Think about planning your meetings for a quarter or half hour start times to avoid dropped calls. Likewise for those who use virtual private networks (VPNs), you may need to make a plan for which employees access that network - and when - in order to preserve the bandwidth.

6. Carve out time for fun hangouts, too! Team bonding is still important - maybe even more so in a time of high stress and uncertainty. Make sure to plan some more relaxed, fun touchpoints too among teams or company-wide.