How to Set Realistic Expectations With Your Remote Teams


Workplaces around the world are testing out new remote work practices. Whether that means companies are going 100% remote or enabling staggered remote work or an increased percentage of workers out of the office, COVID-19’s effects on working norms are being seen in most industries. Elisa Gilmartin, chief people officer at Fuze, outlines steps companies can take to assist employees as they navigate this change in the workplace.

This year, following the World Health Organization’s declaration of coronavirus (COVID-19) as a pandemicOpens a new window , organizations across industries mandated workers to remain at home.

For some organizations that already have remote work policies in place, this came as a natural shift. For others, this has led to a permanent shift to remote work, even after the economy reopens. For others in industries that may not be best suited for distributed work practices, a sudden jump to remote work could have impacted workplace productivity and caused confusion or unclear expectations.

Such a drastic change and the ensuing confusion can cause a lot of stress among employees. To prevent this, now is the time to set expectations around remote work and introduce flexible policies to ensure that all employees, regardless of location, understand the best practices they must follow while working remotely.


As companies without an official flexible work policy or clear guidelines on remote work navigate this “new normal” in the workplace, miscommunication and ineffective practices can arise. Company-wide transparency about expectations in these situations becomes essential to productivity and morale.

Employers, it’s essential to communicate your expectations to employees in terms of remote work, as well as sick days. Advise everyone to take time to rest up if they are feeling ill. Employees’ cannot perform well when they are sick, so just because the team is already out of the office doesn’t mean they need to log in when they’re under the weather.

Employees must be encouraged to be honest with colleagues about their work-from-home situation. Don’t be afraid to overcommunicate about your wellness and availability, and in what modes you can best be reached throughout the day.

Managers, when deciding on best practices to communicate with your teams, video and screen share meetings are often the most productive, as employees tend to be more engaged and efficient. Our recent data showsOpens a new window that 87% of meeting attendees stay connected when video or screen sharing, translating into an extra 4.9 minutes of engagement over the average meeting time in the U.S. (41.2 minutes). These tools help meetings to remain productive and provide the commitment needed to get the most out of meetings when employees are remote.

Managers can help guide expectations for when employees may not feel comfortable on video. In these cases, a mix of screensharing from employees and video chatting can keep meetings on track and help maintain effective teamwork.

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Keep Meetings Productive

In addition to the type of communications tools you are using, the timing and length of meetings can impact productivity, especially when some employees may only be able to work a few hours at a time, if they are home with children, for example. If you have a say in scheduling, according to our research, 10:00 a.m. is generally the favored time to hold meetings on the East Coast, while 9:00 a.m. is preferred on the West Coast. Keep all meetings brief, where possible, mainly while the whole team is distributed. Attendees tend to leave calls at a rate of 11% if a call goes over 30 minutes. Encouraging shorter meeting times will help increase engagement and productivity.

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Manage Your Time

Large numbers of remote employees present both opportunities and challenges for time management. Working remotely can offer employees a chance to use the time not spent commuting on doing something productive – maybe take a relaxing walk outside, get ahead on some work, or spend time with family.

But things can also lag when employees may be completely offline. Communication is often slowed, and schedules can get frenzied. It can be helpful to adjust schedules and build in extra time between calls in case teams are running behind. Improving meeting time slots to 25- and 50-minute periods can help meetings start on time and allow co-workers to jump between appointments seamlessly. But maintain transparency on employees’ expected availability. While you may want to ensure as much flexibility as possible to accommodate their requirements, ensure that they are aware of the time slots during which they must be available for collaboration.

Over to You

In the end, while the objective is to maximize productivity and retain normalcy when employees cannot be in the office, also remember that it’s essential to be realistic in terms of what you can accomplish and to take good care of your employees.

Understand your working preference and the preferences of your team. Check your calendar in the morning, establish goals for the day, including priority tasks, establish more regular check-ins with your teams regarding expectations, and also ensure general communications and information sharing.

Encouraging employees to follow a schedule to make the day as healthy as possible can help them stay on track. Finally, as a manager, when you’ve completed all of the day’s necessary tasks, give yourself the ability to sign off and head to bed early, as keeping ourselves healthy should remain our number one goal.

How are you managing expectations with your employees as they work remotely? Let us know on TwitterOpens a new window , FacebookOpens a new window , or LinkedInOpens a new window .