Thursday Sep 06, 2012

Remote Workers...We're Not That Bad!

I work from home a lot – my team is located in different cities and countries, my manager is in a different city, and most of our work is done via conference calls, email and collaboration through Oracle Social Network. We’ve figured out how to be effective and involve team members, regardless of where we are all located.

When I mention that I work from home, a lot of my friends will laugh, roll their eyes or use their fingers to make quotation marks around “work from home.” Their belief is that I’m sitting at home, eating bon-bons and watching television. The attempts at humor only multiply when they know that my husband also mostly works from home.

So, it was with great joy that I read the Lifehacker article Why Remote Workers Are More (Yes, More) Engaged. I’m not going to re-write the article for you, but four highlights from the article include:

  • Proximity breeds complacency –because communicating with employees sitting next to you is so easy, you may not do it well.
  • Absence makes people try harder to connect – because you have to make an effort to connect to your team, you tend to pay better attention when you do connect
  • Leaders of virtual team make better use of tools – when working remotely, you will use technology (many different forms of it) to connect with your team. This daily use of the tools makes you more proficient with those tools
  • Leaders of far-flung teams maximize the time spent together – getting together takes effort, time and money, so leaders tend to filter out distractions when teams do get together.

These points made me happy because I’ve seen the same things play out in my team located around the world. And I’m not saying that a virtual team is more effective than a co-located team – but my virtual team doesn’t have the option of filing into a conference room for a face-to-face meeting whenever we want. Instead, we have to figure out how to work effectively without meeting face-to-face.

Am I more engaged as a remote worker? I’d like to think that I am. I’ve been on calls with colleagues at 3am – this would never happen if my only option was to be in the office. I can leave my “office” to pick up my kids from school…and I’m willingly back online after kids are in bed to finish up anything I need to. Oracle Social Network lets me use my iPad to engage with my teammates when I’m waiting at music lessons, the doctor’s office or any place else with a network connection. I feel like I’m more connected with my team, and I feel like I’m more connected with my family life. So yes, I am a remote worker, and I am engaged.

If you lead a virtual team, I challenge you to increase the ways that you communicate to effectively engage your team. If you are on a virtual team, I challenge you to think about how you might interact with team members to keep both them and yourself engaged in your work. And if you have some great ideas on how to make virtual teams (and workers) effective and engaged, please share those ideas in the comments!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go get a bon-bon...   :)

About

Sandy's ideas about learning, organizational & personal improvement and other stuff.

I work on Oracle's Leadership Development team, but all thoughts and opinions expressed here are solely my own!

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