(An earlier version of this post appeared in SMART’s Next Level Collaboration blog.)
Remote work is on the rise, increasing 26 percent from 2013 to 2014 according to a recent Entrepreneur article. Many see it as the wave of the future, and others view it as something better suited for the self-employed than the corporate powerhouse. If you Google it, there are countless articles and blogs on the pros and cons of telecommuting from skeptics to the transformed.
Personally, I’m a believer. I know people who say they “could never work from home.” I also know people who have successfully telecommuted in some form for more than a decade, yours truly included. Working from home is definitely not for everyone. But when it works, it can work well.
I have confidence that, with all the right tools and skills in place, a remote worker can be as effective, if not more effective, than those who go into the office every day. What’s the secret to a successful remote team?
The key to any good relationship, whether it be at work or at home, is effective and regular communication. In today’s always-on world, it’s easy to communicate with your coworkers using IM, voice calls and increasingly, video conferencing. Regular dialog helps keep people on the same page. And when you add video to the mix, it helps build rapport and makes you feel like you know someone even if you’ve never actually met in-person. My company uses Skype for Business, which also ties into our Microsoft Office suite. And there are plenty of free or low-cost solutions out there that foster real-time communication.
One of the benefits of being in an office is the ability to brainstorm — whether it’s a quick chat in the hallway, a causal conversation in your workspace, or an ad-hoc ideation session on a nearby whiteboard. When you work remotely, these interactions don’t happen as naturally — but thanks to newer collaboration technologies, remote employees can easily see, in real-time, what’s written on the whiteboard and contribute as well. As someone who’s worked remotely for a number of years, I especially appreciate the ability to see in high-definition that whiteboard content — and I can save it in PDF or JPEG format as well.
Build personal relationships with your team members. Connecting with your team on a personal level may help you understand one another and lead to a stronger work relationship. I find that when you understand what motivates a person outside of work, you can gain insight into what motivates them in general. And in the end of the day, we are all human. We all have a life outside of work, which for most of us is what matters most. So allowing people to express themselves and including the human element will likely improve the corporate culture and lead to a happier and more productive team.
What are your thoughts on remote work? What’s helped you succeed and where are the pitfalls? I’d love to hear from you!