July 27, 2012 at 5:17 pm #166910
I know there are a ton of posts on GovLoop on telework — but very few, if any, have discussed one of the major downsides of telework – feeling left out of office culture.
I am a fellow at GovLoop, where telework is the norm. This has been great, because it allows our employees to take vacations, be at home if we are not feeling well, or even live outside of Washington, DC and still get our work done.
In my case, after living in Washington DC for the school year, teleworking has allowed me to continue this fellowship from my home in California. Because I have worked at GovLoop for a while I know the routine and have a set schedule, so I figured that working from home would be just like working from the office.
However, I quickly discovered that teleworking for a day here and there is very different than teleworking all the time. Yes, you are getting up in the morning and doing your same work, but instead of doing it in a room full of coworkers were you can interact and bounce off ideas (and have some fun along the way), you are alone at home. Don’t get me wrong – my coworkers have done an excellent job of making sure I have been included, and still feel like a part of the team… daily g-chats, biweekly video conferences, etc. But I can easily see how this can take a wrong turn if you don’t have coworkers that are dedicated to keeping teleworkers employees in the loop.
So GovLoopers, I ask you…
How do you include teleworkers in your office culture?
Teleworkers — do you often feel disconnected/left out? What would you want your office to do to make you feel more connected?
July 30, 2012 at 1:50 pm #166940
July 31, 2012 at 12:34 pm #166938
I think it’s important to use video – whenever there’s a meeting or something fun happening in the office, it’s cool if the team has the presence of mind to bring the remote employee(s) into that moment if they can. Even frequent IMs and similar can help the virtual worker to feel connected.
July 31, 2012 at 2:10 pm #166936
A few ideas:
1) Kanban emails: one email in the morning to your supervisor telling them what you will be working on that day. Another email at the end of the workday recapping what you accomplished.
2) Buy a second monitor and keep your work email constantly open throughout the day. Quick responses to email gives coworkers the illusion you are there.
3) As Andy says, use video for meetings when possible.
4) Find a local coffeehouse or restaurant to telework from on occasion. It gives you a change of pace plus the activity around you seems to energize your productivity.
July 31, 2012 at 2:19 pm #166934
This is both a management and team issue to help address. Very often teleworkers feel the disconnect when they either are full-time teleworkers or working from a remote site with infrequent visits to headquarters/offices. Regular/weekly communication has to be established that should leverage collaboration tools including IM, video conferencing (as Andrew noted), and online sharing. A deliberate focus on strengthening teamwork, having everyone get to know their colleagues can result in high performing teams and increased productivity regardless of location. Team conversations about how to make remote workers feel part of the team, and celebrating successes can be done effectively in a virtual context if a manager and team can be focused on making that part of weekly routines. Some organizations also hold virtual lunches together, where employees can discuss issues at work, or share more about themselves that extends beyond work into hobbies/sports/family. These are things that help employees get to know one another better, builds trust, and camaraderie. Some travel should be built in to allow full-time teleworkers to come back to headquarters, as the benefit of FTF meetings will strengthen working relationships that are developed at a distance.
July 31, 2012 at 2:27 pm #166932
I agree with Andy. Video does help a ton.
There are also circumstances where this “disconnected” condition can be beneficial to the organization. As may be the case with distributed customer engagement centers. I’ve found that “group think” mentality – particularly in organizations that are not particularly customer friendly – can do more harm than good. Sometimes, an organization needs to get outside itself and have a look back in. Of course, this doesn’t work if the telecommuter sits by him/herself. That person needs to be actively engaging with other organizations.
July 31, 2012 at 10:01 pm #166930
I’m a big believer in using technology to bridge the gap. We use Microsoft Communicator to track your “Presence” and availability, work location, send instant messages, and hold live meetings. We also use Adobe Connect, which turns out to be more interactive than an actual live meeting, believe it or not. We never have to feel isolated and alone again.
August 1, 2012 at 11:27 am #166928
I agree completely. Video, face-to-face chat, whatever you want to call it – makes all of the difference in the world in feeling connected.
August 1, 2012 at 11:30 am #166926
Video is a must. If we (CDC) didn’t include the use of video in our meetings, they would feel quite disconnected after a while. You can really feel the difference when we do big webinars or conference calls, when you may just have a speaker or two doing all of the talking and everyone else is in “listen mode”. Even if they open the lines for discussion, it takes a good while to wake everyone up.
August 1, 2012 at 2:28 pm #166924
In my department , we have a couple of teleworkers. As soon as the lap tops are paid for , our entire department will be teleworking for several days out of the week. I have teleworked during a medical recovery , i was included in meeting and had the ablity to instant message anyone in the office. I enjoyed not having to be distracted and pulled from my work. I had better focus and could provide better quality of work. I am a self motivator and i try to motivate others around me , some have loads of personal issue that spill into the work environment. But for those that need that tap on the shoulder to be validated , find that friend , who offers the truth and and a pleaser, that offer nothing. I thrive on the positive and push the negative to side. Teleworker is a beautiful opportunity to be at home in a your environment and be creative without distractions.
August 1, 2012 at 5:36 pm #166922
We use Instant Messanger (IM) for almost all of our impromptu communications. IM is especially useful as you can have multiple communications at one time and invite others into existing ones. In addition, with IM, it does not matter if you are in the office or teleworking – in fact, often people don’t know where their coworkers are located.
August 1, 2012 at 6:40 pm #166920
This is my military background talking but I think in a mission-focused culture or office environment it’s much easier for even disconnected employees to feel like a part of the team. Management/leaders really have a strong role to play here in emphasizing the brand and making even virtual employees feel tied to organizational goals. Even now that I’m no longer working for the Army, I’m a part of a company where I strongly associate with the brand goals – I know the customers, I feel a part of the organization and I feel like I’m doing “good” work – that kind of motivation will bind employees together regardless of location.
August 2, 2012 at 2:56 pm #166918
Jon P. BirdParticipant
Since most communications come through non-verbal means, using only email or phone calls can become the death knell of your career. We use Office Communicator and people are gradually getting Web cams, so the differentiation between those who come to the office and those who work from home is gradually disappearing. For right now, I think employees need to use a part-time telework approach, so they can show up in person for the “critical” events that really do require their presence. Until an agency jumps 100% into the telework pool and reduces its office rental space, the savings just aren’t there, because you’re maintaining space for people who don’t show up.
August 3, 2012 at 2:12 pm #166916
My team uses a technique called the Daily Stand-Up Meeting. This is a call initated every morning at 8:30 to connect our teleworkers and those who are at different geographical locations. Every team member answers three questions:
1. What did you complete yesterday?
2. What do you plan to work on today?
3. Are there any obstacles in accomplishing today’s work?
Our goal is to have the meeting last no more than 15 minutes. This has proven an effective way to keep everyone connected.
August 3, 2012 at 5:21 pm #166914
Effective collaboration and communication between teleworkers and their colleagues is the best way to ensure the entire team stays connected. A collaborative work environment can be fostered with tools such as video conferencing and instant messaging – as several other folks have commented here. Setting up regular team meetings via video conference is a great way to maintain effective communication – even if it’s just a quick chat to catch up. An upcoming complimentary webcast, “Managing the Mobile Workforce,” will discuss successful strategies for enabling and collaborating with a mobile workforce. More information about the webcast is available here, http://www.teleworkexchange.com/managingmobileworkforce.
August 3, 2012 at 7:22 pm #166912
I’m not technically a teleworker, but I do have several offices I work in and for and am not in any of them more than 2 days a week. I feel very disconnected and left out, even in the office I used to report to every day.
To feel more connected, I could use more than a ‘how are you today?’ conversation. Have a brief ‘staff meeting’, even if it’s just with me, to discuss what is happening with all the office activities (work and social). I make a monthly schedule, be there when I’m in the office. If you can’t, send me an email or leave a note on my desk.
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