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Matthew| July 23, 2012
Managers and staff need new ways of working together even when they’re working apart.
- It’s all about time. Set deadlines. Book phone calls and chats using instant messenger (IM) software. Set yourself a reminder.
- Know your team. Make sure you spend some face-to-face time with your team, both at work and informally.
- Share documents. Microsoft® SharePoint Workspace 2010 (the new name for Microsoft Office Groove) makes it easy to share documents over the internet and for remote teams to collaborate.
- Measure. Find ways to monitor and track work that people are doing. This will build trust and replace the more informal, face-to-face supervision.
- Delegate effectively. Set objectives that are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound.
- Respect people’s personal time. Don’t fall into the trap of treating remote workers as if they were on call 24/7 simply because you can contact them outside ‘normal’ office hours.
- Take pictures. Post pictures of your team members or people on a conference on a website or pin board so that you can visualize people when you talk to them.
- Listen. In an office, you can see when someone is upset, angry, or bored. When they’re on the end of a telephone, you need to listen actively and ask questions to find out how they’re doing.
- Trust and be trusted. Trust builds when people do what they say they are going to do. As a boss, you need to set the highest standards of consistency and reliability. When you say you’re going to do something, do it.
- Take turns. Let other people run meetings occasionally.
- Get objective feedback. Use 360-degree appraisals (consider including employees’ families) and customer or peer surveys to make sure your virtual team is working well.
- Keep a schedule. Use Microsoft Outlook calendar feature to book meetings and share your schedule with your team (and vice versa).
- Be a role model. Set an example with your own punctuality, commitment, reliability and availability.
- Give recognition. It costs nothing to write a thank you note or to give praise where it is due. Recognition is a powerful motivator.
- Change your management style. Switch from managing by input (time in the office) to managing by output (goals met).
- Avoid second-class citizens. Once you’ve proven the concept, everybody should get a chance to work flexibly (unless their job prevents it). Don’t give one person a notebook while chaining a colleague to their desk.
- Training. Train managers and employees about the challenges and techniques of flexible working. Don’t assume that everyone knows how to do it well – they don’t. Individuals may need extra help with, say, writing reports or using IT.
- Don’t isolate people. Encourage regular visits to the main workplace, include flexible workers in company social events; and have more of those. Put procedures in place to monitor for stress and counteract it.
- Over-communicate. Many remote and home workers use VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol, or using the internet as a telephone connection). Many HP Notebooks include a built-in webcam that makes it easier to do video conferencing.