Many organizations don’t have a plan for helping their project teams or managers work with remote employees, because officially, they don’t exist. I hear a lot of our clients say things like:
“We have people who work from home occasionally, but we don’t have full-time teleworkers.”
“We don’t have remote teams…. But our people are just on the road a lot.”
There are two important things that the people responsible for the development of their people need to keep in mind:
- If team members aren’t all together when decisions need to be made, or information is passed on, or discussions happen, you have remote workers. They might be listed as residents of their desk, but if they’re not there when the work happens, they may as well be on Mars.
- If you have one employee who works away from the rest of the team part of the time, you have a remote team.
Whether it’s everyone scattered around the globe, or a couple of team members home with a sick kid, there are dynamics and processes that must be taken into account for a team to function well. Otherwise, managers and team members are left to guess for themselves how best to communicate with their teammates.
There are a lot of things that you need to take into account when even a single team member is working away from the home office:
- How do they get access to information they need? This can mean not only having access to shared files and online resources, but knowing how to use the tools like SharePoint and others that help them do that.
- How can they communicate with their teams? Should they use the minimum technology possible or use richer tools like webcams and Skype for Business?
- Do people know how to reach them if they’re needed? Do they even know that Alice isn’t in the office today? Processes for reaching the people you need when you need them don’t just pop out of nowhere.
- Are your leaders conducting the coaching conversations and other performance management functions efficiently and fairly? How do you know?
Companies (and very smart people like you) are experiencing a shift in how people work for them. Are you being mindful of how this change impacts work flow, communication and reporting relationships, or are you just hoping that people will figure it out on their own?
One way to start, is by thinking about how your company is doing now. How to Create and Manage Remote Teams contains an assessment tool for managers and teams to take stock of how things are going in the area of Task Completion, Team Communication and Team Relationships. Do you know how you’re doing?
Maybe you should.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Co-Founder and Product Line Manager
Wayne Turmel is the co-founder and Product Line Manager for the Remote Leadership Institute. For twenty years he’s been obsessed with helping managers communicate more effectively with their teams, bosses and customers. Wayne is the author of several books that demystify communicating through technology including Meet Like You Mean It – a Leader’s Guide to Painless & Productive Virtual Meetings, 10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations and 6 Weeks to a Great Webinar. His work appears frequently in Management-Issues.com.