As Out of Office work grows, managers and leaders have to learn new skills to work effectively and get the best from their teams. For experienced leaders in particular, the switch can be challenging because they are outside their comfort zone. Melissa Lamson shares five ideas for leaders in her article “How to effectively lead virtual teams”:
- Over-communicate about communication.
- Define roles.
- Build trust.
- Don’t forget the face-to-face and one-on-one.
- Respect cultural differences.
Video conferencing has rapidly become a preferred communications tool for teams, and Google Hangouts is one of the easiest video conferencing tools to use. It runs straight from your web browser; no need to install special software, just visit Google Hangouts and invite guests to join you.
But there’s more to Hangouts than this simplicity suggests. Lifehacker’s David Nield shares 10 tips for getting the most out of Google Hangouts:
- Search your conversations from Gmail
- Make it easier to be found
- Mute notifications
- Doodle on your messages
- Tell your contacts what you’re up to
- Tell your contacts where you are
- Use different ringtones for different people
- Keep chats on top of other windows
- Format text in conversations
- Change the background colour
Read about these tips in detail at Lifehacker Australia…
It’s not easy for leaders to say they “tolerate” their team members working Out of Office. And indeed, sometimes they boast about how flexible they are in allowing it. But that’s like fathers who proudly say they are “babysitting” the kids so their wife can have a night out with the girls. It’s not babysitting, it’s parenting!
In the same way, Out Of Office work should be treated as the norm, not the exception. If you’re a leader with a distributed team, embrace it.
James Ware says his research over 10 years suggest that a flexible workplace strategy and an aggressive remote/distributed work program can reduce workforce support costs by 40% or more. That’s a huge advantage!
He writes more about this in his article Smart Leaders Don’t Just Tolerate Distributed Work; They Embrace It.
The Onion turns its satirical eye to the differences between working in a regular office and working Out Of Office.
There’s an increasing trend towards Out of Office work, but not every organisation agrees. One ad agency, redpepper, is bucking the trend and insisting all its employees work in the office.
Dave McMullen and his business partner Tim McMullen argue that they can provide a more creative and innovative environment in the office than by letting team members work from home.
But they don’t provide drab, grey cubicles like many offices do. Instead, they provide:
- An on-site cafe for those who would otherwise work in a Starbucks
- Soundproof rooms for research and thinking
- Attractive team meeting rooms
They also believe that an in-office environment helps spark spontaneous ideas, build a stronger culture, and give greater productivity.
External workers (freelancers, contractors, consultants, gigsters) make up an increasing proportion of the workforce. Leading external workers presents both challenges and opportunities, and it’s a leadership skill that will be increasingly valuable in our future.
Listen to the episode here:
As work teams become more fluid, managers and leaders not only need to understand how to lead full-time Out of Office workers, but other types of workers as well. One growing sector is the freelancer community (also known as the “gig economy”). It’s easy to treat freelancers as simply resources who do one-off jobs. But that ignores the skills, talents, and unique experiences of these freelancers.
The Harvard Business Review article “Performance Management in the Gig Economy” gives leaders a number of ideas for getting more out of these freelancers:
- Share context
- Measure more than cost, schedule, and quality
- Encourage agile talent to communicate concerns before problems bloom
- Demonstrate two-way feedback
- Make sure the right managers are supervising your agile talent
- Acknowledge excellence and share the news
The numbers of Out Of Office workers is steadily increasing worldwide, so it’s more important than ever that business leaders develop processes for hiring and managing Out Of Office workers. Sara Sutton Fell describes some of the techniques used by companies with a significant Out Of Office workforce:
- Seek characteristics for Out Of Office work: These include self-starters, who can work independently, value continuous learning, and are receptive to feedback. Strong communication skills are particularly valuable.
- Use a hiring process that supports working Out Of Office: Focus on the candidates’ skills and approach to work. Assess how well candidates follow instructions, ask questions and work remotely. Look for previous experience working Out Of Office.
- Manage by goals and outcomes: Set clear targets and goals. Have regular, weekly updates that check progress against milestones and plan forward. Provide tools for planning and tracking progress and effort on projects.
As much as we like and endorse Out of Office work, we also recognise it has some disadvantages. One that isn’t commonly discussed is that Out of Office workers are often seen as second-class citizens, and possibly overlooked for interesting opportunities and promotion.
A report by Bain & Company and Chief Executive Women backs this up, suggesting this is particularly disadvantageous for men in the workplace, who are seen as “not serious”, and hence not treated equally with colleagues. The same applies to some women as well, but Out of Office work can also be seen as positive for them, because (rightly or wrongly) it’s seen as an indication of greater commitment, especially when juggling family and home life.