All of the traditional back office resources such as the copy machine, the secretary, the water cooler, pens, paper, and computer work station are located in this one place. Being “seen” by your peers is in many instances more critical than actually what you produce. Workplace trust is a major issue especially for those that have never worked remotely.
In my professional career I have worked on site, sat in traffic, worked from the home office, worked from corporate HQ, been in the field, sat in security lines at the airport as well and over the past five years had meetings daily with customers and partners from #China to #New York, #Connecticut to #Oslo, #London to #Madrid without leaving my office. I have seen my colleagues, I have watched and understood their body language (60+% of communication is via body movement) and have created long last professional relationships without ever meeting “belly to belly”. And funny enough the "business" gets done - faster than ever before!
There are a number of "historical and perceived" challenges for the manager of the distributed team. Based on my experiences here are some tips on how to overcome these challenges.
Where are you?
Not seeing is not believing...Everyone is used to seeing everyone all the time and most importantly your superiors... where is xxxx? humm must be at Starbucks drinking coffee or at the spa. Well the reality is... The technology exists out there that is being used and is easy to use. Video Meetings from your PC, Mac, Conference Room, and or Tablet are gaining adoption. No longer the service of the Fortune 500 or 1000... Video meeting services are affordable, and gives an immediate return on investment (lower churn, happier and more productive employees, savings on travel and increase in productivity / output). Share presentations, have face to face video meetings and more. Other alternatives are instant chat and well going back to the dinosaur times... teleconferencing.
Staying in the loop with Co-workers
From your remote location to your team members it is tough to manage and collaborate with others. The small talk or water cooler discussions are the office place version of the round of golf with your customers. Decisions are often made outside of the traditional meeting space. Use your video conferencing service and meet your colleagues regularly. Don´t just call them to talk business call them to team build. Pulse meetings are a great way to have that water cooler chat on video. How are your kids? and most importantly how are you? five minutes each week well worth the effort. Better to have a quick video meeting than sending an email that can be misunderstood. At the same time build that relationship and trust by being seen and being in the loop.
Probably one of the greatest challenges but easiest to resolve. Being part of a team and being able to bond socially with your colleagues is critical in having a productive workplace environment. Up to date managers focus on resolving this by having “belly to belly” get togethers such as quarterly or yearly team building exercises. A great way to remind everyone of the team and the company mission, vision etc... And the reality is... take the trip to the office once in a while. One gets that social rush from being in the same room as people. Technology resolves a lot of issues but face to face and “belly to belly” are critical in keeping motivated and having the best chance to succeed in business.
Working from Home & Distractions
A major challenge in working remotely are the distractions. The kids, the cleaning etc... to be honest this is the easiest to overcome. Plan your day, Plan your week and work the plan. These distractions are not any different than John wanting to chat about his son´s swing in little league or Laura about the latest in home decor. It happens, it is part of life!
The fine line at the end of the day and your private life has essentially vanished and this is not solely due to remote work. It is due to technology. The guilt of not answering that late night email from your boss, the expectation that “we have invested in you as an employee and have given you these great tools and you are expected to be always on” is more common than not. This is an issue of management and business models that have not changed. Efficiency is created by using technology that is available. Working from home... plan your day, plan your week and work the plan. Outside of those hours unless due to a VERY specific project or reason - your day ends, charge your batteries and are ready to rock n´roll the next day.
Set aside a home office or remote office space. This is your sacred office space. Once you enter it is all about work. Once you leave it is about your life and family.
In the end of the day it is about “doing business”. Technology evolves faster than business and human management models. Companies, even the smallest have entered the global playing field, why not let your employees also share in your investment in technology?
Not that many years ago it was a question of how many printers there will be in a company, now it is how many in each house. Happy employees = productive ones. For some additional information I like to follow the folks at WorkShifting an initiative to help create greater awareness. in remote work.