Face to Face Communications and Training Issue 421
May 2010
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Point of View

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?

What we're reading...

DRIVE, by Daniel H. Pink

Pink tackles human motivation and its applications in the workplace. He details why the old way (extrinsic rewards--carrots and sticks) doesn't work anymore.

Pink says that we are driven by three things:

  • purpose
  • master
  • autonomy
We've heard a lot about purpose in the past few years and experts from Lencioni to Kouzes & Posner to Buckingham agree--the people who are happiest at work believe that what they do has value.
Mastery is more of a lost art in a world where multi-tasking and priority shifting has been valued over optimizing a specific skill. Yet, Pink's point is well-taken and supported by Gladwell's observations inOutliers.
Autonomy is in a different classification. This is the one component of Drive that I am clinging to as the one great hope--especially in light of the remote worker movement discussed at the left.
"People need autonomy over task (what they do), time (when they do it), team (who they do it with), and technique (how they do it)," according to D.P. and I couldn't agree more.
When we coach people to be the best they can be in an area in which they have a talent (on the road to mastery) and then let them fly the results are amazing. When we provide the necessary resources and support for workers autonomy the outcomes often far exceed our expectations.
Pam and I readily say--"expect more, expect the best, expect greatness." More often than not you will get what you expect. Pick up or download a copy ofDrive...and let us know what you think.


We are currently on page 32! Can you feel the excitement?



F2F POINT OF VIEW is an interactive newsletter for business professionals who value commitment and passion in their professional and personal lives. If you found something of interest in this newsletter, please forward it (in its entirety, please) to a friend or colleague.

The focus of F2F POINT OF VIEW is to provide brief insights into the world of interpersonal business communication. It is edited by Gail Johnson, CEO of Face to Face Communications and Training. For more information, a complementary consultation, or initial training assessment email Gail or visit our website.