Best tips on how to fight isolation in remote work

In Buffer’s 2019 State of Remote Work, loneliness ranked as the second-largest struggle remote workers experienced, with 19 percent of respondents saying it was the biggest drawback.

Two years later, only 16 percent of remote workers identified loneliness as the biggest drawback. It tied with “difficulties with collaboration and communication” for second place.

Despite the enormous growth in the remote workforce in recent months, there is still a considerable period of transition.

Workers, teams, and employers all have to be on their “A” game to create conditions where distributed employees can flourish.

Here are a few tips for each to help create a more remote-friendly environment.

Tips for remote workers

When it comes to combating isolation in remote work, self-awareness and proactivity are key. Everyone is unique, and so are the ways that isolation manifests itself.

To make matters a little more challenging, the symptoms are not always obvious.

Depending on your personality type, you might find yourself becoming increasingly irritated with interruptions, unable to concentrate, or becoming more withdrawn.

Companies can (and should) work hard to craft cohesive, inclusive teams, but it’s a shared responsibility.

Management isn’t always aware of each team member’s needs, so workers need to assess where they are and ask for help when they need it.

It’s also crucial for remote workers to be proactive about building the community they need.

In an office environment, bonds and trust form organically through regular exposure, and it takes a little more effort to build that remotely.

Remote employees need to frequently touch base with teammates and find ways to get to know and support them better.

Look for ways to share a workspace with a friend, family member, or co-worker in a coffee shop or cooperative setting.

Spending a couple of hours a month talking and working individually in the collaborative space can fill up your tank and stop you from feeling disconnected. But it requires that you are aware of your needs and are willing to send up a flare when you start to feel alone.

Tips for teams

It’s no wonder that “loneliness” and “difficulties collaborating and communicating” tied for second place in Buffer’s State of Remote Work 2021.

They’re two sides of the same coin.

Feeling isolated when you work remotely often flows out of not feeling like you have a proper understanding of expectations, priorities, and next steps.

The thing that turns working alone into feeling lonely is when you don’t have what you need to thrive and succeed.

It’s tempting to think that the answer to isolation is more Zoom events and online connections. These things can be helpful, but they can’t replace a foundation of clear communication and expectations.

When teams can remove work friction and foster asynchronous communication, it empowers all the other team-building activities.

Once that foundation is established, teams can build upon it by creating opportunities for one-on-one connections and dynamic interactions, whether it’s getting together in short bursts throughout the week or setting up more intense digital gatherings once a month.

Tips for companies

Having healthy cross-pollination among different teams is already difficult in a traditional work environment. But it still happens as people spend time in cooperative spaces like lunchrooms and corporate meetings and gatherings.

It can be pretty easy for remote workers to be siloed off in their own teams without a lot of access for interaction with others.

One helpful solution to this problem is to create hangouts, channels, and interactive opportunities around shared interests instead of roles.

This allows people to build relationships outside of their immediate circle and creates a broader relational space in the workplace.

When people feel isolated, they’re more apt to reach out to others that they feel a sense of connection with rather than someone with a similar function.

It’s also helpful for leadership teams to realize that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to dealing with isolation.

Different personalities have different needs. One person might love a regular Zoom lunch gathering, but another might see it as an imposition that requires more than it offers.

Surveying employees about their interests and what would help make them feel more plugged in can help foster multiple smaller-scale connection opportunities.

If you have remote workers who operate out of the same city, you can put together co-working spaces where folks can periodically gather together.

You might even create a stipend that helps people travel to other locations to connect with co-workers.

Workplaces in transition

Even before the pandemic, more and more organizations were moving toward distributed-work models.

COVID has only accelerated the process. But the workforce is transitioning toward a new normal, which means some trial and error in figuring out how to capitalize on the strengths of remote working while identifying and mitigating some of the challenges.

When workers, teams, and companies work together to discover the best models, tools, and processes, everyone benefits, and the organization thrives.

About Oyster

Oyster is a distributed talent enablement platform designed to enable visionary HR leaders to find, hire, pay, manage, develop and take care of a thriving distributed workforce. It lets growing companies give valued international team members the experience they deserve. Without the usual headaches or the expense.

Oyster enables hiring anywhere in the world. With reliable, compliant payroll, and great local benefits and perks.


The Highs and Lows of Managing a Hyper-Growth Startup in 2021

Achieving and managing through hyper-growth is formidably difficult.

It requires executing, learning, and iterating at a fast pace, faster than competitors. It also requires transforming the organization as needed to support that growth… at the very same time.

Sure, the idea of smoking competition from the get-go can seem like a nice problem to have. But there’s a reason why two-thirds of hyper-growth startups fail.

Let’s dig into the workings of hyper-growth startups with an emphasis on managing the highs and lows, especially with distributed teams, so you can navigate the swift changes better.

About Hyper-Growth

Hyper-growth is when a company’s compound annual growth rate (CAGR) exceeds 40%. (It’s normal to have less than 20% CAGR.)

Continue reading “The Highs and Lows of Managing a Hyper-Growth Startup in 2021”

What is Upskilling and Why Does it Matter for Distributed Teams?

What is Upskilling and Why Does it Matter for Distributed Teams?

Managing remote teams presents challenges, least of them being time zone conflicts and decreased camaraderie between members.

So, when it comes to keeping your remote team on top of industry trends and knowledge, you’ll want the solution with the least friction and best results: upskilling.

Learn all you need to know about upskilling and why it matters for distributed teams here. From why it’s better than firing and hiring to how to set up systems and tips for success, we cover it all.

What is Upskilling?

At a high level, upskilling is the process of learning new skills or teaching workers new skills.

Because it’s advantageous that employees lessen skill gaps (more on this later), companies invest in training programs.

The need for upskilling is seen as a necessity for every employee today to close the digital talent gap in the post-COVID-19 workplace.

Why Upskilling Is An Important Aspect of Management

Simply put, upskilling has turned from a “perk” to a necessity for management to instill in recent years. Here are a couple reasons why:

Employee Expectations Are Changing

Borders aren’t a barrier to find and retain high-quality employees, and these high-quality employees expect more from upper management and employers.

Studies show that younger professionals want jobs to be development opportunities. So, attracting the right candidates to your company starts with training opportunities.

It’s Better For The Company In The Long Run

For reasons we describe below, upskilling boosts employee morale, motivation, and loyalty in the company.

Not only will distributed team members feel more valued, but they’ll be ready to advance in their career. That next step is often within the same company, as long as there’s room for promotion.

In other words, the upskilled employee receives a salary raise and desired promotion, and your company saves time finding, hiring, and onboarding new remote talent.

It’s a win-win.

Why Upskilling is Better than Firing and Hiring

In all honesty, it can be easier and better to upskill rather than find new talent or let go of existing. Here are some core reasons why:

Attract More Talent

Times are changing. Current and potential employees expect more than just a paycheck from their companies.

Here’s another statistic for you, 1 in 5 job seekers want more professional development opportunities in a new role.

Improve Employee Retention

Likewise, over a third of current employees would leave their current employer if not offered training to learn new skills. So, upskilling improves employee engagement and retention.

Save Resources

Searching for and hiring new distributed talent can drain company resources. Companies save time and money upskilling current employees compared to hiring new ones at a higher salary.

Save Time Onboarding

In the same manner, onboarding new employees takes time. Upskilling current talent allows companies to invest this time elsewhere.

Build Team Culture

Training and upskilling can increase collaboration among distributed team members. This will not only build team culture, but also unify employees across distances.

Allow Team Members to Keep Up With the Industry

Low-skilled workers may lose their jobs in the wake of automation and digitalization in the workplace.

Therefore, upskilling workers grants competitiveness as they’ll keep up with the industry. This ultimately benefits current and any future employers.

How to Set Up Systems for Upskilling

The systems instilled for upskilling need to span time zones, cultures and roles so there’s a sense of cohesion instead of further separation.

Here are some key steps to follow:

Create a Process Map

First things first, develop your process map.

This planning and development tool visually describes the flow of work, allowing everyone to better understand what’s needed to complete a goal. (In this blog, that goal is upskilling.)

Process mapping is a powerful technique because it easily identifies strengths and weaknesses in the existing process – if there was one.

It also allows you to look at the big picture, from macro to micro goals.

Choose a Model

While online meetings are arguably the most popular form of remote training, they’re not the only model.

Upskilling can also take the form of synchronous or asynchronous learning activities, of which asynchronous is better for distributed team members so participants learn on their own time.

The asynchronous model requires training results be met before a certain deadline. Results can be in the form of a course completion score, assessment, or certificate.

Depending on the complexity of the training, a hybrid model may also be used, where virtual classes are scheduled alongside asynchronous material.

Pick the Right Tools

Having the right tools in place increases employee training completion and improves the overall learning experience.

To make wide-scale virtual training possible, use conferencing and webinar platforms that allow screen sharing, remote access, live chat, file sharing, etc. Zoom, Google Meets, Zoho, GoToMeeting, and Join.me are commonly used.

Likewise, you’ll also need a dedicated virtual training platform with more advanced features for running training, like breakout rooms and virtual assessments. Options include Larksuite, BigBlueButton, and GoToTraining.

Lastly, use a learning management system to manage attendance, assign learning materials, and track training efforts. Some of the top LMSs include Google Classroom, Canvas, Schoology, Blackboard, and Edmodo.

Prepare Learning Materials

When you know HOW you’re going to upskill (synchronous or asynchronous) and WHERE (on which platforms), you can gather training materials.

Depending on your model, materials could include the following: presentations with accompanying reference materials; videos; forums; polls; surveys; assessments; etc.

Deliver Training

When the heavy lifting is done, your LMS of choice will help deliver the training to your distributed team members. After uploading the course materials, you’ll be directed to set deadlines and invite employees.

Track Results

When all is finished, it’s time to measure outcomes.

Depending on company goals, this can include certificate completions, assessment scores, time spent completing training, and other metrics.

You can also track if participants are actively engaged or opening up other applications during synchronous sessions (if you have the right tools).

How to Improve Upskilling in Distributed Teams

Understanding the importance of upskilling and how to set up systems is half the struggle for leaders. If you want more effective remote employee training, follow these tips:

Have a Schedule

When there’s a consistent and transparent schedule for training, employees will prioritize it, and you’ll get higher attendance.

For distributed team members, remember to set reasonable deadlines and learning objective goals. (This can tie back to your process map, where you see the flow of information from start to finish.)

Start With Orientation

Establish ground rules for your remote learners so they know what’s expected of them.

Some issues to address could include what to do during connectivity issues; how to interact in synchronous sessions (when to mute oneself, raise hand, ask questions, etc.); how to create a distraction-free learning environment (mute cell phones, close other windows, etc.); and more.

Make Training Accessible

All training materials should be created with the 21st Century professional in mind: on-the-go and consumable at any time.

Having desktop- and mobile-friendly training not only allows for effortless switching between devices, but also works easier with employees’ schedules.

Ensure Upskilling Is Interactive

Emails, Slack notifications, client calls, WhatsApp, social media.

With so many distractions, if you want your training to be effective, it needs to capture and keep your team members’ attention.

A great way to do so is to pair self-study with group training. It brings the entire team together and boosts morale.

Provide Pre- to Post-Training Support

Don’t be so focused on the training programs that prep work and follow-up are an afterthought.

Pre-training, do your homework. Study other companies’ training programs to see which methods you like best and want to use with your own team. Also, make sure everyone has the right tools installed on their work computers.

Post-training, if your team is now using new tools, double check their licensing to prevent any hiccups in the workflow.

Offer Regular Check-ins or “Office Hours”

Some team members may have questions throughout the training.

As the leader of the team, make yourself available at various times throughout the week (accommodating all time zones) should anyone wish to connect.

Make Material Digestible

Studies show that employees only have about 1% of their time to dedicate to training and development.

To remedy this, keep things brief and to the point. No matter the training, each module or lesson should target a specific employee need with tactical tips.

If you can’t condense everything into bite-sized material, dedicate a whole day or afternoon seminar to the topic, time zone-permitting.

Encourage Personal Development Days

If training isn’t in-house, give a personal development stipend to distributed team members, and make it mandatory for them to take off days to upskill.

Be communicative in letting them know that the budget allotted and days off should be respected.

Upskilling Matters

If we are to continue embracing the benefits of remote work, leaders need to adapt to training their distributed teams to lessen skill gaps and strengthen the company as a whole.

They need to take care of their employees and ensure that they’re ready for a new age of work post-pandemic.

About Oyster

Oyster is a distributed talent enablement platform designed to enable visionary HR leaders to find, hire, pay, manage, develop and take care of a thriving distributed workforce. It lets growing companies give valued international team members the experience they deserve. Without the usual headaches or the expense.

Oyster enables hiring anywhere in the world. With reliable, compliant payroll, and great local benefits and perks.


What is a 13th & 14th Month Salary? [and how to manage and simplify it]

Imagine that you’ve found the ideal employee in Portugal. Isla has all the skills you’re looking for and will be a stellar match for your company culture. But during salary negotiations, she looks at your offer and asks, “Does this include the 13th- and 14th-month salaries?” For a moment, you’re caught up short. What is she talking about? Is that a real thing?

What are 13th/14th-month salaries?

One of the challenges with international hiring is keeping track of various countries’ payroll laws and practices. Some countries offer a 13th-month salary that functions as an extra month’s bonus pay at the end of the year. Other countries also provide a 14th-month paycheck that typically falls during the summer months, coinciding with vacation schedules.

Continue reading “What is a 13th & 14th Month Salary? [and how to manage and simplify it]”

Distributed Discussions Episode 4: Remote Evolutions & International Hiring with Tilly Firth

In this episode, host Ali Greene chats with Tilly Firth, Head of People and Talent at Impala. Tilly focuses on how to foster an incredible work environment and culture.  

Tilly describes Impala as an infrastructure API for hotels. Her role is to manage culture, onboard people, socials, community—everything around that and everything in between, as well as everything on the talent and hiring side.  

Continue reading “Distributed Discussions Episode 4: Remote Evolutions & International Hiring with Tilly Firth”