I am sitting at the Kelowna airport for the first leg of my research trip…still sitting because my flight got cancelled due to mechanical issue. I had hoped to get to Vancouver in time to attend a social event at WeWork and make some connections in preparation for the meetup scheduled there tomorrow. Not to be. It’s ironic that one of the key competencies for remote workers is flexibility…check!
Seriously though, travel is often part of working remotely. At times it’s because an individual has chosen remote work for the freedom of working from anywhere they desire. At other times it’s because their remote or virtual work calls for them to travel for a meeting with a client. When travel is for personal reasons, while frustrating, schedules can be more accommodating (unless you have airport connections). However, if a client is expecting you to arrive for an important meeting at a certain time, these schedule changes can be more problematic. Nathan Sawatzky, my research collaborator, experienced this only a couple of weeks ago when 3 meetings were cancelled because of multiple flight delays. Or what about the last minute cancellations made by the clients? Don’t they know how important this was to you? Flexibility, adaptability…you get the idea.
How do you deal with these unavoidable challenges? Practically, whenever possible, plan for them. Ideally, book to arrive a day ahead (my meeting is at 10am tomorrow…yup this isn’t my first cancelled flight). But even the best laid plans can go amuck calling for rearranging and rebooking of meetings. And what about the emotional toll it can take on the remote worker? Often these appointments have been made after considerable communication with existing, and potential, clients…much is on the line. How do you pick yourself up from the let down and start working on marking those new arrangements? I would suggest you make that kind of decision ahead of time. Will you choose to adapt? Will you pass on the ‘right’ to nurse a poor attitude about how ‘those’ people just can’t be depended on?
We’ve all heard the saying ‘two sides of the coin’. Well, there are two sides to the flexibility coin. The vast majority of remote workers I have chatted with cite that flexibility is one of the reasons they love their chosen work situations. They can build their work around their lives, allowing them to work when and where they choose, basically being the master of their own calendar. Flexibility also means honouring the schedules of others…when a ‘better offer’ comes along, be it for personal or professional reasons, the responsibly side of flexibility says that you get to choose which route to take. Do you honour the commitment to a client, or do you flex your ‘freedom’ muscles and go for the better offer. Again, you need to decide. It may help to consider that you may be the flip side of someone else’s flexibility coin.
I’m rebooked on a flight 5 hours later. I am hopeful that I’ll get to my meeting tomorrow (and my afternoon flight to Finland)…and the friendly Air Canada check-in lady gave me a $15 meal voucher instead of a $10 one…things are looking up.
Curious, Self-directed, Empathetic …three of the competencies that are vital for the success of a remote worker. How do I know? I asked a bunch of remote workers, and they answered…but we have only just begun asking!
Thanks to a grant (CSBER) from the Okanagan School of Business in Kelowna, BC, Canada (I’m a business prof there), I am formally embarking on a research study of remote workers. I want to know what competencies contribute to the success of remote workers? What effective feedback looks like, and from whom? What qualifies as a great workspace?
Why am I asking?
- Because remote work is the new reality of a growing and changing workforce;
- because organizations need to know how to best support their people who work remotely;
- because we need to know how to prepare our business students for the nature of the careers they will be entering, and
- because the best people to learn from are those already working remotely…they know what works and what is important.
Because remote workers are not restrained by co-located offices, hours of operation, nor physical location, it’s important that the scope of this research is globally focused. The remote worker can change locations–even continents–every month or so. The various maturity of each co-work space reflects the unique cultures developing around this growing working context (this is a topic we will jump into in a later blog…amazing spaces!)
I’m excited about the co-work locations on the itinerary so far: Kelowna, Penticton, Vernon, Edmonton, Vancouver, all in Canada, then Jyväskylä and Helsinki (Finland), London (England), Amsterdam and Einhoven (Netherlands), and Berlin (Germany). Each of these locations supports several co-work spaces of varying maturity, design, and purpose.
Add to this is the privilege of collaborating with Nathan Sawatzky, a global remote worker (and my son), who has already spent a great deal of time working from various co-work spaces across Europe. I can truly say that he has introduced me to a world of amazing people who experience opportunities, challenges, AND great rewards.
So, whether you are a remote worker, support one, know one, or want to be one…follow along and explore the world of work ‘outside the walls’.