Do you remember when working from nine-to-five was the norm? What about the aspirations of having the corner office with a view (maybe even just an office at all)? It’s hard to imagine that it’s not going to be long before what we now know as a “traditional office space” will be a distant memory, just like the fax machine.
There are a lot of businesses embracing this (in fact, many have been for years) but it’s certainly a hot topic of late. So as we look to embrace the end of permanent office layouts, more collaborative and creative spaces and less physical interaction, we need to think about how this impacts our team and culture.
Now, while technology is going to be one of your closest allies with more remote workers, signing up to yammer and downloading skype for office is only going to get you so far.
Be results and outcomes focused – don’t manage activity
If you, as a business owner or manager, want to know what each of your team are doing every minute of every day then you’re going to get nowhere. Building trust in employees is now more important than ever and creating accountability for outcomes (who is responsible for what and when) is going to be key to creating a high performing team, regardless of location.
Schedule regular communication
Just like you would when everyone’s in the same office, bringing the team together is an important part of keeping your culture, and driving a results focused approach to work.
Where possible, use video technology. This will help get everyone engaged (read: you can’t be sneakily checking your emails when we can see you!) and also add the personal element back in to communication.
On a side note – managing your time and respecting others is critical for working with remote teams. Your team in Perth can’t see that your other meeting has run over, when they’re all sitting in their conference room asking (again) who was meant to be calling who.
Not everyone needs to be an expert at everything. The most effective teams I’ve worked with understand their individual strengths and weaknesses and, in particular, know each other’s roles and capabilities and draw on these. Not only will this keep your team connected, creating and encouraging a culture of knowledge and skills sharing will give you better quality output. Not to mention that it’s generally human nature to want to help developing others and will increase general satisfaction and enrichment for individuals.
Invest in socializing
Building relationships is going to take more work than when you’re working face to face on a daily basis. So make sure you put time (and budget) aside to get your team together.
Beyond this as well, think about undertaking a form of behavioural profiling and using this as common language throughout the business. This will help with small behavioural nuances that could be taken personally when individuals don’t know each other on an intimate basis. You know the team member from Sydney who sends really short and to the point emails? It’s not because she is irritable and doesn’t like you, that’s how she’s naturally inclined to communicate in written form. (*this team member may or may not be me).
Technology is actually really important
How you use technology could ultimately make or break the effectiveness of virtual teams. There’s a lot out there that can really help businesses for a number of different purposes (divergent thinking, scheduling, project management, building relationships and maintaining culture to name a few). So whilst it’s not the be all and end all, take the time to research (or read the research of others!) to choose technology that will help you and your teams embrace the “new” way of work.
Like any “change” in business, the winners are going to be those that embrace and experiment with how to leverage off the new ways of working. Because remember: “Change doesn’t care if you like it or not, it doesn’t need your permission”.