Remote and virtual working – Communication & being effective while working with virtual teams

work-space-232985_640Have you ever wondered how quickly remote working seems to have become an industry standard. Many organisations seem to be afraid of ‘going away from traditional working practices’.

Marissa Meyer the CEO and President of Yahoo surprised all in 2013 by ending Yahoo’s long running policy of remote working which caused much controversy. Marissa Meyer is quoted to say “To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side that is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices.”

In bringing out the policy her view was to encourage ‘staff to work at the office because it generates a more collaborative atmosphere’.

Clearly Meyer thought it hard to make these connections when working remotely and it is reported these actions led to substantial backlash and loss of talented staff.

There is little doubt that a degree of remote working appeals to most employees. There is flexibility, cuts down time and money spent commuting and helps with childcare and…. for females these days it helps mothers have a career while also being mothers.

Not to mention, many business benefits – the very fact that employees like it attracts workers in a competitive market, increases retention and definitely improves staff morale. When employees are allowed to work from home this is a huge statement of confidence in staff and one that the vast majority of people will respond to as ultimately this comes down to trust of employees.

However, remote working does create challenges in collaborating and it does make it harder to build a company, a team culture and working in project teams when delivery is priority.

As women we can encourage and shine in our professions to help others work effectively while remote working, so here are some suggestions to manage it effectively.

Ensure goals are defined, objectives and tasks understood by all, so less chance to mis-interpret emails.

Manage expectations and ensure all know exactly what is expected of them. Have clear Working Policies in place.

If part of a project team one could suggest core hours when you know all are available online during particular time periods or set an expectation that employees come into the office regularly i.e. on set days. Incentivise people such as returning to office for a regular team meeting followed by a pub afterwards!

When communicating ensure that your emails and messages come across in the tone you intended.

Ensure the recipient cannot misinterpret them – poor messaging can send misleading indications which in turn can disrupt an employee’s capacity to think clearly and communicate creatively and effectively. Only if necessary ‘copy’ people. Make your email specific and follow up by voice content to avoid any mis-communication.

Staying in touch is really important for any team as much as possible, so encourage everyone in building strong relationships and boost morale. Ensure all have each other’s contact details to build productive relationships that last and avoid non communication.

Checkpoints of deliverables are a very useful way of achieving and keeping on track.

Managers should have ‘active involvement’ and be transparent by ensuring the team know exactly how the project or work is doing and what is planned for the future, which encourages trust. A manager’s responsibility to keep workers up to date of both good and bad developments.

Be available – to support– everyone should know how and when to contact the team and ensure everybody has access to the resources they need to support them with their work.

Give feedback – do not forget about remote workers with so much going on at a fast pace, so actively give feedback where relevant.

Hopefully this will assist being effective while working with remote teams. It really needs strong and present management who understand the concept of remote working to ensure all can work in harmony and produce the best results.

photoAuthor Bio

Sonal Shah PMO Lead (Programme Management Office) working in oil and gas in IT project management and has worked in projects over ten years.  She has been published more than once in ‘Project magazine’ and had a blog published on Association of Project Management website.  Sonal is a keen writer and passionate about PMO, project management and communications and also women in senior management .  This blog is about How to be more efficient and effective and smart, as you work ‘remotely’ with colleagues around the world.   Communication when working remotely is key to be clear and understood as you do not actually see the person.  Please feedback any comments to Sonal she can be reached on LinkedIn

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