For 21 years I’ve led a team of what in our pandemic world has been dubbed “remote workers.”
I am not a huge fan of that word, since I don’t believe it accurately describes the kind of collaborative work we do. But I do value it as a creative way to deliver great service to our clients.
The obvious challenge with teams that do not share an office or working space can be found in the very nature of the word itself, “remote,” a word that implies disconnection, feeling isolated, at a distance from everyone else, and even lonely.
Leading and working with our various remote team members has shown that nothing about the work has to be any of those things. There are plenty of great ways to reduce the “remoteness” of the work.
Here are some simple things we use:
Stay connected. Have a monthly e-newsletter for your team; host quarterly luncheons (virtually these days); and plan in-person group outings (when possible). Over the years several of my favorite team gatherings have taken place at a client’s place of business – a great way to connect the team to the client.
Focus on working together even remotely. Find ways to make sure team members are in fact collaborating. Technology can be quite helpful here – cloud-based project management systems, chat tools like Slack, and Zoom for meetings, come to mind. When possible, avoid silo work – letting each person work alone with no partners or anyone to share ideas or feedback. Sure, there will be plenty of times your people need to do their own work. But look for ways to share a project, allowing more than one person to contribute.
Keep everyone informed. Communicate various aspects of the business, at least those elements you can comfortably share. Make sure they know their current and future status with you and your team, and have as few “secrets” as possible. That’s easier in smaller firms, I get that, but it is doable for many companies.
Have flexibility. Be flexible with how team members work if your business allows. Some need to work when the kids are napping. Others need to work after business hours. Each person is different, may have different schedules, and may react to circumstances in their environment differently than other workers.
Creative types, like the ones on our team, like to feel they are contributing, but more importantly, they like to know they can share ideas and be appreciated for their efforts.
Ultimately, let’s look at our team members as partners in creating, not just doing, work.