Working Remotely, Remotely Working
Working remotely is on the rise. Whether it is by choice, design or default, more and more organizations have employees who work in different/multiple locations. The workforce of any given organization may be in homes, district offices, different time zones, or even oceans away. And with this increased flexibility, mobility, and autonomy has come the realization that while we are working remotely, often, we are remotely working.
This is not a statement about workers. It is a statement about the concept. People are working harder and longer--whether they are remote or nearby. We (anyone who works remotely or manages people who work remotely) have not adapted to this new way of working in a style that makes all of us more productive.
While the idea (working remotely) is grand, like so many great ideas it's the implementation that is coming up short. Where people work has changed and we haven't changed the way we work with one another. This new way of working is complicated by the glut of electronic communication that we have let control the way we work.[I'm not really interested in which came first--the remote workforce or the myriad of electronic communiqué--merely the fact that they are means that we do.]
The casualties of this combination are, ironically enough, communication andcollaboration. The ancillary casualties, but no less important, are loyalty andconnectivity, resulting in (you guessed it): miscommunication, discord, mistrust, and disconnect--a combination that will cripple, if not kill, any organization.
What you can do:
- Communicate clearly and honestly
- avoid fuzzy words/phrases
- don't say it is, if it isn't (ex: it's okay)
- tell people what you're thinking (with discretion, of course)
- use the telephone for it's voice connection (yes, it does still do that)
- did we say--PICK UP THE PHONE!
- Set clear performance and attendance expectations.
- say exactly what you mean
- use timelines/dates and hold people accountable when they meet them and when they don't
- don't wait until performance evaluation time to discuss poor/unmet expectations
- Visit your remote locations as much as possible--make it a priority (of course, if the remote location is someone's home, this is not recommended)
- when a visit is planned, schedule extra time for social conversations (you remember--this is the stuff that's not work related)
- avoid visiting remote locations (or asking home workers to come in) onlywhen there is a problem
- create regular phone visit times
- Schedule planned collaboration times--sounds a bit forced, but it's anything but fake
- get specific dates on the calendar when your entire team gathers for work and for play
- annual planning/goal setting sessions are a must
- lunches for special occasions where extemporaneous work conversation can break-out
- set clear expectations for people to work together even when they are physically apart
And this, my friends, is just the start. We cannot expect people who do not know one another to trust one another. And without trust there is no loyalty--to people or organizations. So, what have you got to lose...that you haven't already?