Saving money on travel and face to face meetings is nothing new. Getting creative about how to hire talent in new markets in the “war for talent,” not new. Workers working from the road, remote, or a home office, also not new. So why are we still so bad at working with remote workers?
My theory? We are still trying to apply the rules of a “traditional settings” to virtual ones.. I know that many of you have remote HR team members, or work with teams who are remote, or have businesses that have remote workers. I’ve got a few ideas on how to make your organization gain some productivity with remote workers — regardless of which bucket(s) you may fall into.
Spend the Money
There are a quite a few free options out there to help people communicate and bring people together. I know that companies have different spends and budgets — but for a reliable system, you may need to shell out a bit of money. It will depend on a few things — the size of your organization, how often you’ll use it, even where people are located. So be thorough in your review and requirements. The free options will only get you so far and may or may not have some of the other collaboration tools that you need. Its a great opportunity to get your remote folks involved with requirement gathering to better understand their challenges and needs. Generally what I see — companies have put great efforts into communicating with their customers in remote locations, but pay no attention to what they need internally. Classic case of the the cobbler’s kids having no shoes. If this is the case for your organization, don’t reinvent the wheel – leverage what you are already doing.
You know what I’d also throw into this bucket — carving out money for travel. Be smart and resourceful about it. Plan it out and do it when it makes sense. People naturally want to connect with each other — the virtual options are just substitutes for real face to face contact. How about a non-work example– have you ever been in a long distance relationship? They take work, but they often work out better if you are able to incorporate some face to face time and/or if you already have an established relationship/rapport before going long distance. Plan an event for an onsite planning session, an all hands, or even a team builder. As for the costs — get creative. Look for off season pricing, avoid booking last minute, and/or partner with a travel service to help make it as cost effective as possible. Don’t rule out going out to visit them too, if it makes sense.
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Practice Makes Perfect
Nothing is more frustrating than having virtual tools that no one knows how to use. You join the meeting on time and it takes 15 minutes to get everyone connected and get started. Everyone is polite about it, but we all know that its frustrating and annoying it really is. Take the time to really learn how to use the technology that you have. Know how to connect meeting rooms, use conference lines, add webcams … like the back of your hand. If you’re bad at that kind of stuff — partner with someone who is great at it. If you don’t know anyone hire someone. Don’t have money, join a meetup. Have some helpful job aides to jog your memory in case you don’t use the tools regularly. And one of my favorite recommendations, even though it totally simple and obvious, if you are iffy with the technology, book 15-30 minutes before the meeting to make sure that all is set up and ready to go. Your remote folks will love ya!
Level the Field
Ever been in a meeting when you are the only one on the phone and everyone else is in the room? How effective was that meeting for you? You’ll find lots of resources out there on how to have an effective conference or web call — but think about this recommendation: have everyone on the call joining virtually or via phone. Think of how you have to be more thoughtful and mindful of what you are saying or what you are showing to get everyone on the same page. Suddenly you describe things differently or you don’t jump up to the whiteboard to start drawing. Even with a web meeting with cameras, you change the way that you communicate and it allows for those who are normally in the room to get the experience of the person who is normally remote. You’ll see a difference in meetings once everyone starts to “get it.”
A Lil Organization, Goes a Long Way
Its a little harder to just go with the flow with remote meetings, communications, and working. Not impossible, just a little harder. So bring some organization to it — consider things like time zones, agendas, displays or drawings. Set deadlines hard deadlines when needed — I’m always saying things like, “get that to me end of day” — but whose end of day? Its is 5 PM CST or is 8 AM CST okay? Ask yourself, “what do my remote team members need to know and how do I need to present it to them?” Try to get information to them in advance, not as an afterthought.
And speaking of afterthoughts. Don’t forget your remote people. Are you giving out t-shirts or cupcakes — find ways to include them and to say that you didn’t forget about them. You can’t do it every time, but the thoughtfulness of a small gesture of having flowers delivered for a birthday or anniversary, a voucher or meal delivered for a long meeting, or a package with the same swag that others got goes a long way. If possible, send things to them first to make them feel special or at least time it so that they information or items when non-remote employees do.
What are some of the tips and strategies that you have to increase the productivity and efficiencies of your remote workers?