Managers Deal With The Challenge Of Remote Workers

Managers need to find ways to make remote workers feel like a member of the team
Managers need to find ways to make remote workers feel like a member of the team
Image Credit: ThoroughlyReviewed

As we move further and further into the 21st Century, what work looks like is continuing to change. Managers realize that successful teams exhibit a type of office camaraderie where the different members of the team are willing to go above and beyond for the other members of their team. This can start to get tricky when we start to include remote workers as a part of our teams. These workers can easily start to appear as just faceless strangers while they feel alienated from the team members at the office. How can a manager use their manager skills to make their divided team feel as though they are all part of the same team?

Use The Power Of Show & Tell

Managers understand that one of the big advantages of being in an office with other team members is that it is easier to build a relationship when you get to talk all the time. For remote workers the trick is to create a virtual version of that relationship by setting up a way for all employees to share in ongoing conversations. A good example of this is by using a chat system like Slack.

What’s been missing for your remote workers is a place that serves as a virtual water-cooler space on a day-to-day basis. Another thing that you can do is to interact by videoconference, so that people inside the office and out can see each other face to face.

Managers can use their manager training to create daily “sharing time” — where one person on the team spends 15 minutes on video presenting a topic of interest from their life outside of work. Other members of the team may mock sharing time as a modern version of show-and-tell from elementary school, but the effect is real. Team members end up saying they know more about their distributed co-workers than they did about co-located workers at previous jobs because of this type of team building.

Some managers have their team budget five to 10 minutes at the beginning of video calls to allow people to socialize, share their weekend plans and participate in any conversations that naturally occur in a meeting space. What they have realized is that too often, people begin calls right as the meeting is supposed to start and cut them off immediately after they’re done

Find Ways To Play Together

Managers need to realize that when members of a team interact, it’s not all about work. We need to include remote workers in downtime activities at the office. We need group activities that engage and connect people working from home and in the office, and we need to create the personalized moments for remote employees that replace the special things that we do for team members in the office.

Allow The Real World To Enter

Remote workers don’t always have to be remote. Managers can bring people face to face and this can help with bonding. At some companies remote workers are invited to headquarters or another location for get-togethers. In some cases the get-togethers come to the team members.

Managers can keep it simple. The real-world interaction can be as simple as a manager giving remote team members part of an inside joke that otherwise only employees in the office would get. We need to realize that as a remote employee, simply being included in everyone’s inside jokes makes it easier to feel a sense of belonging on the team, and it has considerable positive effects on a remote team member’s job satisfaction.

Find Ways To Get Serious

Looping remote workers in using games and other structured interaction can be good ways to bond. However, they should be used carefully. Managers need to actually listen to what employees want, not to create so-called forced fun. Keep in mind that remote employees might bristle at mandatory social events, especially ones that are after hours, and they may prefer morale boosters that are more substantive, such as better health benefits.

Understand that remote workers tend to be proactive and independent, and build camaraderie through freedom and trust. The minute managers start to impede on their workspace by forcing mandatory meetings or requiring frequent travel, they may start to feel threatened or suffocated. Don’t let this happen.

What All Of This Means For You

Managers have yet another problem on their hands. More and more these days their teams are made up of workers who are in the office every day and remote workers. What this means for us is that we now have to come up with ways to make sure that everyone on our team feels as though they are a part of the team – remote workers included. We’re going to have to make some changes.

Team members who are in the office have an opportunity to interact with each other every day. Managers need to find a way to bring remote workers into the same types of opportunities using video conferencing and chat systems. Teams that play together stay together. Managers need to understand that not all team interactions have to do with work and so they need to reach out to remote team members and find non-work ways to connect with them. Remote workers don’t always have to be remote. They can come into the office at times and interact with other team members. Looping remote workers in is not all about games and managers need to be careful to respect remote worker’s time.

Remote workers are becoming a more and more important part of every team. In order to make sure that we get the most out of both our remote workers and the team in general, managers are going to have to find ways to incorporate remote workers into everyone’s day-to-day lives. This won’t be easy, but the results will make the effort worth it. Take the time to understand what your remote workers are really looking for and then make sure that you provide them with it.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that you should plan on taking with each remote worker every day?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As a manager, we know that the key to our success is the ability to get along with the members of our team. It turns out that things go a bit deeper than that. In order for our team to be successful, everyone on the team has to get along with everyone else who is on the team. I’d like to be able to tell you that this is something that just seems to happen naturally; however, there are times that it doesn’t. When a manager is encountering a problem either with getting along with the team or with various members of the team getting along with each other, it might be time for everyone to go to couples counseling.