One of the persistent myths about telecommuting is that teamwork suffers when team members work remotely. However, recent research finds that the key factors influencing successful teams have little to do with the proximity of team members. Ashley Speagle summarizes the science of successful teams:
- team members demonstrate a shared trust, purpose and understanding of team norms and mental processes
- team dynamics are built on a foundation of team building exercises, non-work communication, diversity and social sensitivity
- team members contribute equally and collectively score highly in reading emotions
The key message is that none of the features of successful teamwork is determined by whether workers are distributed or co-located.
One of the challenges with a distributed team is that different people might be in different time zones. As we become increasingly global and mobile, that is only going to be more common, so it’s useful to know how to manage this situation.
A recent Fast Company tackled this issue, giving advice like this – particularly for online meetings:
- Declare a “home” time zone, with normal business hours in that time zone – but of course with enough overlap for all your team members in other time zones.
- Minimise the use of videoconferencing, because it inconveniences people who have to attend outside normal hours.
- Minimise the need for follow-up after meetings, because that can cause delays for people in multiple time zones.
There’s no doubt telecommuting has increased, and that’s just one part of the changing workplace. Faxes, paper, fixed working hours, desktop computers, landline phones, and LANs are still around, but they are gradually being overtaken by electronic documents, the Cloud, flexible working hours, laptops, smartphone, and WiFi. In this episode we look at four key workplace trends, and how they affect Out of Office workers and their leaders.
Listen to the episode here:
- Read the Dynamic Business article Workplace productivity: 5 of the hottest trends in Aussie offices for 2015
Out of Office work, although on the rise, is still relatively new, and there are no agreed best practices on how to make it work most effectively. However, there are a number of case studies and examples we can learn from, and adapt their ideas to your own situation.
Fast Company recently published an article with five such examples:
- Buffer Uses HipChat And Jawbone – for informal online chat
- AgoraPulse Uses Weekdone – to track progress and see status reports
- Zapier Uses Campfire And Sqwiggle – for group chat
- Foursquare Uses Always-On Video Conferencing
- iDoneThis Uses iDoneThis – for productivity tracking
Many remote workers thrive on the solitude that comes with an Out Of Office work style but just as many struggle with the isolation and loneliness. Digital Nomad, Walter Chen shares three suggestions on how to avoid the loneliness of Out Of Office work:
- Consider “timezone syncing” so there is some overlap between your working hours and those of your colleagues. Use this overlap to communicate with your team.
- Be radically transparent with teammates to strengthen feelings of connection with your colleagues.
- Overcommunicate your appreciation of work well done to improve happiness and productivity in your team.
Building a remote team – with both in-office and Out of Office team members – isn’t easy, so it’s useful to learn from people who have done it before. In this video, Poornima Vijayashanker, the founder of Femgineer, interviews Ben Congleton, CEO of Olark, about his experience in taking his in-office team and extending it to be a remote team.
Often, people in distributed teams don’t have the same personal connections with remote team members as they have with people in the same office. This is natural, of course, but can be overcome. Creating better personal connections leads to more rewarding work, better collaboration, and higher productivity.
Listen to the episode here:
- Read the Harvard Business Review article How Virtual Teams Can Create Human Connections Despite Distance
We’re big fans of time-management systems such as the Pomodoro Technique. At their core these techniques involve repeated cycles of focussed work sessions followed by a rest break. This helps boost productivity and avoid fatigue. But there’s even more to it as you’ll see when you watch the promotional video below.
Location independence is the idea – becoming more and more common – that you can live and work from anywhere, without being confined to a fixed office. This book is an overview of what it takes to set up such a lifestyle.
Location independence has two parts: physical freedom (which is now possible because of the Internet) and mental freedom. Truant starts by tackling the mental aspect – including the mindset you need. The book is broadly based on the idea of “geoarbitrage”, which put simply just means that you can live in countries with a lower cost of living, while earning money from customers outside that country. In other words, your money goes further. This can be a very effective lifestyle, provided you’re open to the idea of living elsewhere and embracing other cultures.
Because of this central idea of travel, most of the book describes what it takes to plan for moving to another country, but from the viewpoint of a location independent worker rather than a holidaymaker.
If you’re interested in pursuing this sort of lifestyle, this book would be an excellent starting point.
Watch the video below to learn about Jay Meistrich, a Digital Nomad who launched a tech startup while travelling to 20 countries. Jay lists four key lessons about his Digital Nomad work-style:
- Travelling is cheaper than staying at home
- Travelling makes me more productive
- Nine to five is not optimal
- Travelling expands my cultural bubble
You can read Jay’s article in full on Entrepreneur.com.