Merge's Blog

If you have off-site employees, set standards for responding to email and voice mail

Last week’s tip for being a more effective leader if some or all of your direct reports are off-site employees was to establish common working hours for at least a fraction of the day.  In our continuing series, today’s idea is to set standards for responding to voice mail and email.

Set standards for response times to voice mail and email

One of the most common complaints voiced by off-site employees is that they feel like communication is more difficult as they lose touch with their peers.  When you’re working virtually, maintaining connections is not as easy as just getting up and walking down the hall to confer with your colleagues.  Which means that there is a much greater reliance on the telephone and on email.  But there’s nothing worse to employees than when they leave a voice mail or send an email to someone in the department which then gets sucked up into the giant cyberspace abyss, never to be heard from again.  So set standards for response times.

Jointly agree up front with your off-site employees as to what are acceptable standards for responding to voice mail and email.  Will voice mails will be checked at least once every twelve hours, or once a day?  Or is the standard that emails will be responded to within 24 hours, or within 48 hours?  I don’t have specific advice to offer as to what the standards should be, but make sure there is a standard, something that works for your organization and your people.  Setting these standards up front will establish expectations with all your staff, and perhaps more importantly, avoid frustration and disappointment later.  Make it a point to do this with your team, whether they are all off-site employees, or a combination of virtual and in-office.

Do you have email and voice mail response standards on your team?  What are they?  Please share your specifics so that we can all learn from what is working for you.

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