According to GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com, the number people working at home has risen by 115 percent since 2005; that’s almost 10 times faster than growth in other sectors. And, this number doesn’t take into account those who are self-employed.
It’s not unusual for IT pros to work remotely, or virtually. When they do, and especially for those who may be introverts, it can be tough to stay in touch. But that’s exactly what you need to do.
That trite saying “out of sight, out of mind” is trite for a reason—because it’s true! In the traditional workplace, “watercooler conversations” are a common means of staying connected. Employees pass each other in the hallways, run into each other in the lunchroom, say “hi” and “bye” in the parking lot and interact in a variety of ways, formal and casual, throughout the day.
Remote workers don’t have these same opportunities for interaction. And, while there’s some benefit to this—more productivity, for instance—there are also drawbacks. Forming and nurturing connections with coworkers, managers, senior leaders and others can have a wide range of benefits.
So, how can you keep communication channels open when working remotely?
Recognize the fact that communication between yourself and others is important and that it is likely to be more challenging when working remotely than when in the workplace. Considering that communication can be very challenging within the workplace, should alert you to the potential for issues to emerge when working remotely.
If you tend to be an introvert, being mindful of the importance of interaction is particularly important. While you may draw your energy and inspiration from being alone, you must make an effort to connect with others to be successful in your remote role.
Become Adept with Multiple Tools
There are a variety of tools that can make it easy to connect with colleagues whether they’re in the work environment, or also working remotely. If you’re working for a single organization, make sure to become adept using whatever tools they have in place to communicate with remote staff. Or, if they don’t have any tools in place, or the tools are clunky, make some recommendations about other options.
If you work with a variety of clients, you likely enjoy both the benefits and potential frustration of needing to learn and use a variety of tools. That variety can actually be a good thing, though, because it can help you identify those tools that work best for you—and that might work better for your clients than what they’re currently using.
This Groove blog post lists a number of tools (including Groove, of course).
Schedule Times to Connect
Don’t leave communication to chance. One of the best ways to ensure that you’re staying connected is to schedule regular times to connect with key members of the work team. That may be a quick morning check-in, or a weekly session to discuss progress and upcoming deliverables. You may need to schedule different types of interactions with different people, or teams. Getting these regularly scheduled events on your calendar will ensure that you’re staying in touch.
Don’t Overlook Personal Connections
When working remotely, it’s easy for any communications you have to be all about business. But working effectively with others means also connecting on a personal level. Take the time to do that by:
- Not diving right into business when starting a call
- Using video-enabled tools like Skype to get more personal – putting a face (and voice) with a name is important
- Ask to be looped in on company communications—news- or e-letters, company-wide announcements, etc., so you can stay on top of what’s going on
- Acknowledge special days or occasions of those you interact with—birthdays, promotions, etc.; it only takes a moment to send a quick email or, better yet, pick up the phone and connect personally, but your efforts will mean a lot
- Speaking of the phone…don’t over-rely on tools like e-mail, group chat or other electronic means of communication; a phone call can deliver a much more personal touch
Making an effort to connect personally, as well as professionally, will help to ensure that you’re “in mind” for your coworkers and other members of the organization.
This is all about caring. You really need to care about the people you work for and the company you work for and make a personal effort to stay engaged—to not blow off meetings or calls, to make an effort to learn about the people you work with, to check in from time to time—even when formal meetings aren’t scheduled. It requires effort, but that effort will pay off.
Aim for Face Time if Possible
Finally, if possible, find times when you can connect with members of your team face to face. If you’re located in the same city, obviously, you can do this more regularly than if you’re located across the country—or in another country.
Despite the ability of technology to allow us to work with anyone, from anywhere, there are times when making contact face-to-face really makes a difference.