What comes to mind when you think of Teleworking? Slack? Cloud deliverables? Mobile mail? Video meetings? A New Way to Work?
What about flexibility? Cost effectiveness? Work-life balance? While productivity-related technology is growing at a rapid pace and enabling companies to get work done in creative ways, companies like IBM are also pioneering the concept of teleworking to promote health and well-being for its employees. With less time spent commuting, 40 percent of IBM employees currently work from a remote environment, with the number expected to increase dramatically in the next five years.
Because the nature of teleworking is heavily virtual, there can also be a downside: For those managing teams, the absence of direct communication and interpersonal contact can be a tough barrier. It’s hard to build empathy and gauge morale in an environment that is focused mostly on results and tangible output behind screens. As a manager, you’re not running into employees in break rooms or actively seeing what people are working on in real time. You don’t know how the rest of your team is interacting when they are on their own time. It’s difficult to manage conflict or intervene when there is less transparency.
While this can lead to management mistrust, worker isolation and concerns about career impact, there are many proactive steps managers can take in the short term to ensure that a teleworking strategy considers both the bottom line of the company and social relationships of all involved.
Having worked with several managers on remote projects, I have been able to see how personal investment, understanding and appreciation can be truly transformational. Here are five things managers can start doing immediately to improve teleworking team dynamics:
Build a culture of appreciation and recognition. Write down your company values and make a note when you see another employee embracing those values. Note this with them. IBM uses the BlueThanx platform, a virtual sharing system for appreciation that takes values into consideration. According to Gallup, 65 percent of people receive no appreciation in the workplace. One small shift in your practices could mean a large shift for your employees.
Encourage sharing of personal stories, goals, and accomplishments between team members. Take a minute or two to do this when starting meetings or calls. Small talk is a byproduct of a physical work environment but easily gets overlooked in the virtual world. Ensure that you care about their goals beyond their work at IBM and recognize the humanity they have beyond being a corporate employee.
Listen to your colleagues. Build a process to gather feedback from the team. Allow them to vent once in a while. Encourage them to explain their frustrations. See which programs they like best for virtual work. Crowd-source new ideas for organizing work. People will appreciate having input and will be more motivated to contribute more input in the future.
When you see something go wrong, stay positive. Start emails with phrases like “Thanks so much,” “You’ve put in a lot of effort” or “I see where you stand” instead of resorting to condemning or complaining. Taking an extra second to filter in positivity can gradually help you win over more distant colleagues in a virtual environment, especially over conflict-inducing situations.
Connect with others over social media channels. You can connect through various tools like Twitter and LinkedIn (the accounts they keep public) to better understand their interests, goals, background, and personality. It gives you more understanding of their point of view on certain issues and also provides you more depth into how they function. It also gives you a filter to talk about more fun things such as sports, music, food, and more.
It doesn’t have to be complex; simply using human tactics, showing personal investment and establishing appreciation can go a long way. Have any new ideas that have brought your team together over a remote working unit? Feel free to share!
from Social Business Insights Blog http://ift.tt/1c2E1Cm