Thoughts from a Traffic Jam

by Jeremy on June 25, 2014

Traffic & Rain

For the last week, I have been driving my daughter to a summer program. Since I’ve been working as a remote worker for quite some time, this is the first “commuting” that I’ve had to do for some time. On that drive the last few days I have found myself wondering “why do we do this?”. Is it really that it’s necessary for all of these workers to be in the office or is it just the “way we’ve always done it”? I’m guessing in many cases it’s the latter. Imagine the amount of time, energy, and money that could be saved if we could even make remote work a reality for 25% of the population.

If you ever wondered how you can make it work to allow your employees to work remotely instead of making the trek to the office every morning, I would throw out the following recommendations:

1. Communicate often
On my current project we start out every morning with a short standup meeting. When that meeting is complete, we spend all day on instant messaging keeping in touch with all the other members of the team. We probably communicate MORE remotely than we would in an office because it just works better.

2. Get face to face
Yep, I said it. There is value in face to face meeting. If possible, get together once and a while. Maybe this is traveling to a central place once a month or attending the same convention once a year. If you can’t meet regularly use a video software to have virtual meetings. Additionally, these meetings need to allow for social discussion. This allows the team to bond and work better together.

3. Instant tools
Email is not enough to make this work. You need tools that allow instant interaction otherwise people will feel disconnected. Instant messaging, conference calling, and screen sharing tools are all readily available for your team use.

4. Consistency
If at all possible make sure that your team all operates on a similar playing field. Having 3 or 4 employees in the office everyday while 1 or 2 work from home is a very difficult dynamic to deal with. The people in the office can have bad attitudes about the people working from home because they “don’t do anything”; while the people working remotely will feel disconnected from the team. Work to have your on-site teams on-site and your remote teams remote. There is obviously flexibility here but the closer you can achieve the better your results will be.

This phenomenon is going to grow in the future and you will be better able to land the best candidates for your positions if you work to create the culture now.

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