Work outside the cubicle

Out of office, out of reach? Not anymore. Working at a home office, once considered equivalent to having a day off or the first step to being suspended, is now a fast-growing trend. The physical workplace is being replaced by a digital one – for the mutual benefit of everyone involved. How can employers create a sense of unity and belonging, however, when their team members are scattered all over the place?

  • Working from home on a regular basis has enjoyed a 103-percent rise in popularity among the non-self-employed population since 2005[1].
  • Remote workers are happier and feel more valued at work[2].
  • 91 percent of respondents say they’re more productive when working remotely[3].

What does a modern workplace look like? Unlike a few decades ago, when office jobs where bound to an actual office by stationary work equipment and landline telephones, no one can tell anymore. Thanks to modern technology, today’s workplace is a global one. Companies and even teams can be distributed across different cities, countries, or even continents. To bridge these distances, employers need to find ways of communicating efficiently and instantaneously.

Speech is golden
Contrary to the popular adage, silence is not the best way to keep teams together that include or are entirely made up of remote workers. Employers have to make sure that nobody feels out of touch with what’s going on at the company, its goals, and its results – otherwise the collaboration could suffer. There are several successful approaches to doing so:

  1. Communicate: Remote workers don’t meet their colleagues for lunch breaks or at the coffee machine. For this reason, employers have to provide a communication channel that requires as little effort as possible and fosters constant exchange. Platforms where team members can chat with each other are proving to be more useful than writing e-mails or picking up the phone. The communication tools can be adapted to the purpose and number of participants: Chats, phone calls, and videoconferencing systems all have a role to play on the messaging spectrum.
  2. Share: When working together on a project, it’s important for everyone to always be up-to-speed on things. Screen-sharing and collaboration tools can help with that. The possibility of adding to and editing other team members’ work in the same document prevents difficulties that come from sending the data back and forth.
  3. Standardize: A precisely defined workflow is essential, especially for teams whose members live far apart, so that no deadlines are missed or balls get dropped. Responsibilities and tasks have to be clearly assigned, timelines clearly established. A team is only going to work successfully if everyone knows what to do, and by when they need to do it.
  4. Build an infrastructure: Remote workers miss the company of their colleagues – they shouldn’t be missing the technical framework as well. Employers have to make sure that their employees’ home offices are equipped with secure and reliable Internet and mobile connections, and that they have the right devices to use them as well as their usual working tools.
  5. Get together: This, of course, depends on how far apart the remote workers live. Yet regular meetings for giving feedback, transmitting corporate goals and culture, or simply keeping up with each other’s lives are vital. Personal touches like saying “thank you” frequently (and publicly) or giving birthday gifts are another way to make remote team members feel more connected.

[1] Global Workplace Analytics
[2] What leaders need to know about remote workers, TINYpulse
[3] ibid

Author: Janusz Figurski Deutsche Telekom, Business Marketing Europe, Communication and Collaboration Deutsche Telekom
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