There are new practices on the way to help remote workers become productive members of teams.
What happens to an office’s identity when some of its members never make appearances in person? This question has become very relevant in an era of high-tech communication solutions, and every organization’s answer will be a little different. In some cases, teams struggle to work together productively in this environment. In others, leaders reap the advantages of a scattered team and offer more scheduling and commuting flexibility to assemble a better workforce while still accomplishing their goals.
A few key variables, such as technology and training, may help move organizations to become smooth adopters. Employees need access to digital systems to keep them connected, alongside the skill and proficiency to adapt not only to their communication tech but to the new modes of communication and productivity that come with telecommuting and remote work.
Finding the right level
Sometimes a leader’s biggest challenge in getting a remote workforce to gel is knowing when to have teams collaborate and when to have remote groups work independently. Business.com contributor David Robins suggested that in-person and remote employees should be consulted differently. For instance, Robins explained the common practice of asking everyone in the office for input on new projects, such as branding updates, doesn’t work as smoothly when applied to an off-site workforce. That’s fine, but managers should know when to abandon non-applicable processes.
Agile structures can help
When it comes to actually getting work done, switching to a new framework may help scattered teams contribute. Forbes Agency Council recently polled executives with remote teams about their experiences keeping remote workers on task. SPROUT Content’s Debbie Williams explained when her company switched to agile methodology, it helped with progress. She noted that with the addition of chat applications and collaborative document editing to the corporate tool kit, it’s possible to work on a project piecemeal, even when people aren’t in the same building.
Twistlab Marketing’s Ahmad Kareh gave the source another view of collaboration excellence, explaining how hiring managers should focus on bringing in team members who understand the company’s culture and brand identity, even when they’re outside contractors or remote employees. He explained that it’s possible to teach professionals technical and functional skills, but mindset is a different matter. Hiring for office culture fit is a fairly common practice today. The innovation here is applying this method even when the office isn’t a physical place.
Don’t push the limits
When it comes to keeping remote programs from causing problems, it’s important to show restraint. InformationWeek contributor Mike Raia explained the possibilities introduced by constant communication encourage teams to communicate and work on projects outside of work hours. This kind of 24/7 availability seems like a boon at first, but tends to spiral out of control soon afterward, leading to burnout and a poor balance between work and life. Expecting remote employees to always be on call may set an exhausting precedent.
Bring everyone on board
Switching to a remote-work-friendly office style, or acknowledging this kind of work is already happening, could be a great moment for employee training. Courses in teamwork and communication skills, such as those from MasteryTCN, can keep organizations on the right track. Potentially even more helpful in these situations are leadership courses, as it will fall to team managers to keep their teams on track as they spread out geographically.
It’s clear many of the transformations occurring in office culture and work style are convergence of technology and expertise. While it’s hard to evolve without the right hardware and software, no amount of IT infrastructure will help teams excel if they don’t have fundamental teamwork skills.