Out of Office

Build Trust with Virtual Team Members

In an office, people build trust through personal interactions. They work in the same building, park in the same car park, and eat at the same canteen or local cafés. They bring in birthday cakes, send their children to the same schools, and walk their dogs in the same park. They take the same holidays, support the same sporting teams, and watch the same TV shows. Even a culturally diverse team has many things in common.

This isn’t as easy with virtual team members because they just aren’t in the same place. You might try to re-create the same opportunities – for example, insisting they come in to the office from time to time – but that’s only a stop-gap solution, isn’t always possible, and can even cause resentment.

Instead, recognise that telecommuters build trust through work-related cues. They look for reliability, consistency, integrity (keeping promises), and responsiveness as indicators of trust. This is good news for you, because these factors also directly affect productivity and performance. Get these things right to build trust, and you boost productivity at the same time.

On a practical level, here are some standards you can set for your team’s everyday operations:

  • Set clear deadlines, and commit to meeting them.
  • Clarify expectations about how people respond to requests (for example, e-mail responses within one working day).
  • Choose appropriate communication channels based on these expectations (for example, using the phone, not e-mail, for urgent requests).
  • Set deadlines and milestones for a reason, and explain the reasons (“I need that delivered by 1.30 tomorrow, so I can present it to the board at 2pm”).

Don’t just dictate these as arbitrary rules; explain why they are important and how they affect the team’s performance. For example, somebody who delivers a report one hour late might see it as a minor problem, but it could affect a team member in another country and time zone, who can’t complete a presentation slide deck in time for an important meeting the next day.

Because these issues are so important to building trust, monitor them closely and act quickly if you see problems.

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Virtual Collaboration and 5 Myths About Leading Virtual Teams

Many managers admit they don’t know how to manage and lead virtual teams effectively — particularly when it comes to trust, communication, managing deadlines, and achieving consensus in decision-making. Even worse, there are some common myths about virtual teams, which can cause friction within the team or even seriously damage its performance.

You can watch the recording here:

The five myths:

  1. Myth #1: It’s too difficult to build trust
    Reality: It’s not more difficult; it’s just different.
  2. Myth #2: It’s too difficult to build synergy
    Reality: Synergy is intentional, not incidental.
  3. Myth #3: Team members feel too isolated and detached
    Reality: Some personalities thrive under remote work arrangements.
  4. Myth #4: Interpersonal skills aren’t important
    Reality: If anything, interpersonal skills are even more important.
  5. Myth #5: You can’t measure and reward performance
    Reality: Sometimes you can do it even better.

After the webinar, I asked participants “What was the most useful thing you learned today?” Here are some of their answers:

“The opportunities are out there so make the most of them”

“It was all useful and I enjoyed the webinar (although in this case not applicable to me)”

“reminder of how to include others in virtual activities”

“That moving away from a physical office is not as scary as I thought”

“Collaboration tools and debunking the myths”

“Debunking of the 5 myths”

Subscribe to future webinars here.

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Which Type of Work Flexibility is Right for You?

Working Out Of Office is but one of the several types of flexible work arrangement employers are offering and workers are demanding. People are different, so the arrangements that suit one worker might not be a good fit for another. To help you consider the flexible work arrangements that suit you, Greg Kratz provides an overview of the following types of work flexibility:

  • Telecommuting
  • Freelancing
  • Part-time work
  • Part-year work
  • Compressed work week
  • Job sharing
  • Alternative schedule
  • Phased retirement

Read the full article.

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The Future Of Work Is Here: Are Your Managers Prepared?

“The future of work” is becoming a more common phrase now, as organisations try to predict how their workplaces will change in the near future. Clearly, Out of Office work is one of the biggest changes, and it affects other areas of work as well.

A recent article, The Future Of Work Is Here: Are Your Managers Prepared? lists five trends for leaders and managers:

  • The Positive Impacts of Remote Work
  • Technology’s Impact on Productivity
  • Big Data
  • Changes to Organizational Structures
  • Inclusive Leadership

Read the article here.

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Collaborative Overload

Collaborative Overload

We now have so many ways to collaborate – faster, more efficiently, and with more people. But is collaboration always such a good thing? Too much of it can lead to collaborative overload, which stifles decision-making, puts pressure on key people in your team, and defeats the purpose of having a smart, diverse, team.

Listen to the episode here:

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4 Tips For Leading Teams Of Freelancers

“How do you manage someone you’ve never met in person? And how do you gain loyalty from somebody who works for you 10 hours a week?”

These are two of the intriguing questions Justin Crawford asks in his article 4 Tips For Leading Teams Of Freelancers. The article is aimed at leaders and managers who outsource work, but it applies equally if you have telecommuters and other Out of Office workers in your team.

It only offers four pieces of advice, but they are valuable to any manager faced with this situation for the first time.

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Commuting Disproportionately Affects Working Women

One of the most obvious and immediate benefits of working Out Of Office is that it eliminates commuting. This can be particularly beneficial for working women. Several studies have shown that commuting limits and stresses women more than it does men, primarily because women usually take on a greater share of household tasks. This article summarizes the issue:

Commuting, for women, gets added to an already heavy workload that often includes child care and the majority of day-to-day household tasks

Eliminating or reducing the daily commute helps alleviate the problem. Or you could share household tasks more equitably.

Read more…

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The Future of Learning

In the past, the most common development choice was a training course, but now there are many other options. And, of course, Out of Office workers aren’t always able to come in to the office for training courses with the rest of the team.

Besides, the traditional training course isn’t always the best option anyway, even if it’s easy to do. By tapping into a variety of ways to accelerate learning in your organisation, you cater to individual needs, build on existing knowledge, and create exponential learning.

I covered this topic recently in a webinar, which will help you go beyond the traditional training course as a tool for learning and development.

The Future Proof Webinar Series

This is a webinar from my Future Proof webinar series, which will keep you in touch with our future – what’s ahead, what it means for us, and how to stay ahead of the game.

Register here

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Five-Hour Workday Improves Productivity & Work-Life Balance

The video below showcases a company who switched to a five-hour workday, and in so doing, increased workplace productivity and the work-life balance of its employees.

This article explains the benefits of a five-hour workday, including:

Putting time constraints on the workday forces workers to look at their jobs differently, to see where they can be more productive. At Tower, everyone in the company actively analyzes what they’re doing right—and what they’re doing wrong—in order to achieve maximum efficiency.

You can find out more in The Five Hour Workday book by Stephan Aarstol, the CEO of Tower Paddle Boards.

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Five Keys to Communicating Remotely

By definition, an Out of Office team has some or all of its members working remotely – and that raises important communication challenges. You might think you’re good at communicating remotely, but are you really? The article Five Keys to Communicating Remotely suggests five techniques to improve your communication with remote team members.

  1. Choose your tool wisely.
  2. Focus on the message received.
  3. Listen more carefully.
  4. Think about more than your message.
  5. Be more intentional.

Read the full article here.

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