Read: Managing a remote team with Spark's Katy Cowens

Previously the Operations Manager for Spark's Agents at Home program, Katy Cowens now works as the Insights and Transformations Lead and today shares her knowledge into managing a remote team. 

In this current climate where face to face interaction isn’t an option, how do you recruit for your team?

The great thing about remote recruiting is the ability to offer people good, corporate jobs in locations they otherwise may not have had access to.

From our experiences, we have found the best way to start is to be upfront from the get-go; what the role is and what it isn’t. We give potential employees an insight into what their daily processes may look like and send through a recruitment video about what it’s like to work remotely (in our case, in a contact centre). Setting expectations from the beginning allows the candidate to realise that remote work is still structured; the only difference is that there is no commute to an office.

We still go through the standard checks, and ensure video is always turned on for calls to verify we are talking to the same person and still create the ‘feel’ of meeting someone face to face.


Once you’ve had the opportunity to expand your tribe, how do you on board a new starter remotely?

Before our new staff start, we send them a welcome remote working pack. This will include information on how to set up your office; quirky things like door hangers they can put up on their door so people at home know to not disturb them as they are working. In addition to this, we include set targets; goals to outline what success looks like, as well as their expectations.

From a Health and Safety perspective we would also get the team to send through photos of their set up of their home office, provide them with a hazards checklist, and if appropriate, organise a nurse home visit. We have a policy to ensure their mobiles are always in proximity and make sure we have their next of kin details as well as close proximity neighbors details just in case we’re not able to get hold of the individual.

Even though our team are working remotely, we still have a duty of care for them and still ensure we have all the required information.  

Body language speaks volumes
What technology do you use to keep in constant communication with your team?

Microsoft teams and Skype for Business, with WhatsApp now being used since moving into BCP only. 


How do you build engagement, loyalty, and trust with your team when managing a remote team?

It’s important to create a space for your team where they can chat about non-work related things; a place where the usual office banter can occur without a physical office.

When onboarding staff remotely, our leads are expected to conduct weekly 1:1’s with their team and use this time to discuss or teach things that you would usually learn by osmosis.

I’ve always emphasised the importance of making sure each lead knows their team member's partner's name, cat, dog and simply knowing about their life outside of work.

When catching up with your team, having video on is vital. Body language speaks volumes, so tuning into this and tone of voice is an important aspect of having a gauge on where your staff are, from a mental health perspective.


What are your best take-away tips and tricks? 
  • Make sure you get the right people
  • Ensure your leads connect with their people
  • Introduce ways to engage like; weekly newsletters for the team, eCards for recognition, competitions etc.
  • Connect with your people. Make them feel a part of something.