The bumps along the road to remote work

There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.
Beverly Sills

Similar to building a new home putting together a remote working environment has its shares of challenges. For some, it might sound appealing to travel and work remotely. If you lack the discipline to complete your work when you could sit on the beach it can create trouble. Lisa thought she had found the dream job of working from her home for a new company. She had two kids that were in school most of the day. It worked for awhile until summer came and she began to fall behind. Her idea of being home with the kids didn’t work. Her manager had to talk to her about making a choice.

How do you deal with people who fall behind?

Can you manage remote people the same as those in the office?

Does your team already have remote team members?

Trust

Leadership guru Patrick Lencioni said, “Remember, teamwork begins by building trust. And the only way to do that is to overcome our need for invulnerability.” Trust, in this sense, refers to a team’s willingness to speak honestly and freely with each other; rely on each other to consistently deliver high-quality work, and hold each other accountable to upholding team policies and processes. The organization needs to understand that as they create teams and procedures that hold them together and accountable.

Teamwork begins by building trust! Click To Tweet

The vulnerability can help create a team of trust and admiration. Where some people think they can’t let others see their weaknesses, it actually helps teams gel quicker. One thing I find helpful is when a team knows each other’s DISC profiles. This simple assessment along with a little training gives people insight into the team. I am high in D and I, so I make quick decisions and enjoy talking and sharing stories.

So how do you build trust? Esther Derby has a great framework for how to establish trust on teams. She lists these as the critical elements of building trust:

  • Display trust
  • Address issues directly
  • Share relevant information
  • Follow through on commitments, or give early notice when you can’t
  • Say no when you mean no
  • Share what you know and what you don’t know

For remote teams, these practices help establish healthy, clear communication channels. It’s up to every member of the team (including management) to demonstrate these behaviors, by being communicative, informative, and honest with their new team member.

Clear Roles

In a normal office, we can sometimes get by with loose roles. We can see right away if two people are duplicating efforts and re-direct. In a remote setting, this can get lost and people can become frustrated quickly when they find their time being wasted. From the beginning, we need to understand each others responsibilities and how they all work together. There also needs to be mechanisms in place to relate what piece someone is working on. This needs to be in electronic format or a mixed format.

Clear roles help setup remote working success! Click To Tweet

There also needs to be mechanisms in place to relate what piece someone is working on. This needs to be in electronic format or a mixed format. For instance, you might have software to track this for your remote employees and a Kanban board in the office for the portion of the team that works there too. Make sure someone is in charge of keeping things in sync.

Train Family

One important part of the remote working life is to identify the time that you are working with your family. Steve works remotely often from his home but, initially, his kids thought if he was home he could play. He had to train them to understand if the office door is closed he needs to be left alone. When he comes out for lunch and at the end of the day he can play and horse around. It helps to have a quiet place you can get to for calls and video conferences. The noise of children playing or a dog barking can be distracting to everyone involved.

Outline Time

One technique that I have learned from a few of the wily veterans of remote work is to outline your time. Seth shared, “at first I found myself working all the time. After awhile I realized I need to set a schedule and stick to it.” He learned how remote work can sometimes become “work all the time.”  Of course, that is not healthy for people and their family too. We need to train our co-workers and clients too. This can help make for a better overall experience.

Communicate Availability

Make sure and keep your calendar up to date so your teammates don’t have to guess where you are. Leverage your technology to keep people in the know as well. List all your appointments on your calendar so people know when you are not available. On some instant messaging clients you can list if you are going to the dentist or talking to the plumber. Always better to overcommunicate than to leave things to chance.

Change of Habits

It is important to make sure your habits support your remote work schedule. Some people who work remotely do something every day when they “go to the office”.  Leslie works from her home for a finance company. “When I start work I like to play some background music to help me focus.” Whatever helps you get in the right mode can be helpful. Mike works from home and his wife goes into the city. Mike likes to walk his dogs first and then he is ready to jump into work. “I feel like I am ready after walking the dogs,” Mike shared. So find the routine and habits that help you focus on your work.

How do you make sure roles are clear?

Do you have an outline of your typical schedule?

Do your habits support your remote work?

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