For the past 5 months I have been looking into the area of remote workers…I have learned much and I know I have only begun to scratch the surface. So, as summer comes to a close I want to hit pause and reflect on what I have gleaned so far.
- Remote work is alive and well across all industries, in all sizes of organizations from start ups to those that are well established.
- Remote work is not a ‘fad’…it’s here to stay and will only grow in it’s reach and impact.
- People are at the centre of a successful remote workforce
- Many reasons exist for people to choose this form of work: freedom, flexibility, increased productivity, and greater opportunity for creativity to name a few.
- There are also challenges inherent to working remote: limited communication, lonliness, poor or limited technology, time management, self discipline, focus …however, each can successfully be overcome.
- Trust is the key ingredient that will make or break a successful romote working arrangement.
- Communication needs to be intentional and customized to each situation.
- Face to face interactions still need to happen, even if only once every 6 months.
- Distributed vs co-located work arrangements does not necessarily mean organizations will save money…that can’t be the motivation.
- Organizational fears that remote workers will slack off is unfounded; research actually shows the opposite is true…remote workers have a tendency to over-work.
- Great locations like Co-Lab in Kelowna are available around the world so that remote workers (and those amazing digital nomads) have a place to connect and collaborate.
- The resources available on this topic are excellent…people continue to learn, to perfect, to mentor, to share, and to dedicate their efforts to support others entering into this exciting world of remote work.
- Working remote is not for everyone…and that’s ok.
So where do I go from here? I keep learning, keep experiencing, keep asking questions, and do whatever I can to share what I learn with those who want to know.
Some ideas? Continue to include this critical aspect of work with my business students (both in class and on-line); create a case study on the topic; be a resource to managers transitioning from supporting co-located teams to supporting distribute teams…pretty exciting from where I sit as a remote worker, business coach, and professor
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According to Jeff Robbins with Yonder,
All communication needs to be intentional.
Seems fairly simply and straight forward…but is it?
Think about it…how much time do we honestly put into choosing our words? To be fair, some of us take time to measure and analyze our thoughts before giving voice to them while others are more apt to give voice and then reflect…or not!
In face to face interactions, even though our thoughts have been voiced, we generally have the opportunity to ‘take back’, or clarify as soon as we realize the message was not received in the manner intended. Not so easy to do when communication is shared through virtual channels.
Not only do we need to pay attention to the content of our messages, but also to the channel, the breadth of who receives the message, the frequency of communication, and the amount of information shared.
Working remotely, or virtually, calls for excellence – and intentionality – in communication. In fact, it can be our life line to clients, colleagues, contractors, and bosses! So how can we ensure that we are communicating to the best of our ability…and beyond? How can we be so intentional about our communications that ‘delete’ is not the first reaction when our name shows up on someone’s screen?
I believe this can be as simple as 4WH…yup, the old who, what, where, why, when, and how. Let’s build that out…
WHO addresses the receivers. Who needs the information that I am communicating? Who really needs to be included in the communication? Do I honestly need to hit ‘reply to all’?
WHAT considers the core or content of the message. What is the most important information that needs to be communicated?
WHERE thinks through the location of both sender and receiver. Where should each be when the communication takes place. Does the communication call for interaction that is best suited for a phone call, FaceTime, or Skype? Is privacy of utmost importance? Is dependable internet vital? Should there be limited noise?
WHEN pays attention to the timeliness of the communication. When does this information need to be communicated? When does the receiver need to receive this material: Immediately? By the end of day? No urgency at all? I like this excerpt from Fried and Hansson’s Remote: Office not Required
Questions you can wait hours to learn the answers to are fine to put in an email. Questions that require answers in the next few minutes can go into an instant message. For crises that truly merit a sky-is-falling designation, you can use that old-fashioned invention called the telephone.
HOW thinks about the channel of communication. How can I communicate this information in the most concise manner without compromising the content, urgency, sensitivity, or clarity?
WHY…perhaps the most important question of all. Why am I sending this message? What is the purpose? What is the expected outcome? What is my motive?
When you think about it, we can think through each of the 4WH filters in a very short amount of time, but the result of doing so will have long term benefit. Ready to give it a try? Ready to be intentional in your communication?
You don’t get too far along in the discussion of trust-building before hitting on the importance of communication: verbal, non-verbal, written… and the channels used to convey the desired message. A message delivered effectively can provide the platform on which trust continues to be developed; however, a message miscommunication can create barriers, misunderstanding, and even offense that could lead to the shredding of progress made along the road to trusting relationships.
Kavi Guppta, a self-declared digital nomad, in a recent webcast “How to survive work in the 21st Century”, spoke about his ‘Holy Trinity Model’…skills you need to master no matter the job. Communication makes the top three:
– Organization: time management, billing, get jobs…
(How organized are you?)
– Process: how you do the work (music, selling shoes, cooking…)
(How well do you implement an idea?)
– Communication skills: how to talk to all involved in your work…all stakeholders.
(How well do you communicate that idea?)
Jeff Robbins – PIAF: Management Distributed (Yonder), speaking in the same webinar addressed the communication challenges faced by distributed teams and remote workers. They are:
– Very little nonverbal communication
– All communication needs to be intentional
– Most communication is archived (forget the delete button!)
– Very asynchronous
– Communication can by syndicated
The above list could be expanded on (and I intend to in future posts), however, the bottom line is that good communication takes skill and intentionality, AND it matters!
Remember back when reading and writing were the cornerstones of education? A time when the very act of writing was something of an art form? While I concede that artful handwriting may not be as important as it once was, the ability to create word pictures that enable your readers to truly get what you’re saying without the use of emoticons has never been more important to the business person than it is today.
For remote workers, much of their communication is indeed in written form: introductions, proposals, contract negotiations, documentation for all sorts of agreements… the list goes on. Needless to say, when creating a written message attention needs to be given to what you are saying, how you are saying it, how it will be received, and the all important emotional intent of the communication.
One final note… communicating with individuals is different than communicating with a team as a whole…fortunately there are great tools to help with that (yes, yet another post 📝).
I met a lady at a coffee shop recently while working on a presentation for Finland. She shared that her 3 kids work in different industries (business, urban planning, and medical support), all of them work remotely in varying degrees: two have office space that they use… sometimes, and the other has a home office and also uses coffee shops when appropriate. The lady herself had a season of working from home, but openly admitted that the discipline to stay focused and not jump into house keeping tasks became a loosing battle, so she moved back into the formal office setting.
This ‘moving back to the office’ is not about failure or defeat, it’s more about knowing yourself, the environments in which you thrive, and your limits.
Over the past few weeks I have been considering what I like about remote work, and what elements I’m not crazy about. I’ve also been chatting to others, researching, and brainstorming with peers to learn about their experiences. The short and sweet of it? Remote workers like the ability to be flexible and have a choice about how, when, and where the work gets done. As well, the idea of intentionality regarding work results in great productivity, and calls for much creativity in overcoming possible barriers.
The flip side? Things like poor communication, inadequate technology, and undependable Internet access can create great frustration for both workers, and employers. This in addition to the on-going struggle to balance work and personal space (thus the need for good self-discipline!). One final aspect that many individuals working remotely battle with is a sense of isolation and lonelyness.
Like any work situation, you take the good with the not so good…the question lies in whether or not you can overcome, or accept, the aspects that are less than ideal. For me, and for most remote workers that I have engaged with, the pros are great enough that the commitment to finding a way to make remote work, work…is worth the effort.
The number of people working remotely (in varying formats) is growing; next blog join me as we take a closer look at how both the workers and the employers are creating some really successful outcomes.
In the meantime, check out this interview conducted with a remote worker regarding his experiences. And yes, it does beg the question… “What are the key differences between remote working and nomadic working?” Nathan describes the first as being in a position of having an office (whether a home, shared, or separate office space) and the second being in a state of having no constant. What are the advantages, draw backs, and risks of each? A question to be answered by a nomadic worker?
In my last blog I committed to do whatever I could to avoid creating cracks in my overall well being…that’s easier said than done! I can’t believe how many daily habits I am unaware of that fight against that desire.
A simple example is eating. My plan this week was to do research and begin developing material for a case study and summer teaching…activities I thoroughly enjoy. However, in my focused prep I loose track of time and then wonder why I can’t put two sensible thoughts together…I forget to stop and eat until my brain starts screaming for fuel. At that point I am so desperate to eat, I grab whatever is fast and convenient; sometimes my choices are good…but not always.
Then there’s the old tyranny of the urgent. I take a few minutes to check email before setting time aside for quiet reflection and meditation…you know where this is going! An hour later I’m still dealing with issues that have come up, and those led to new ‘stuff’…there goes my quiet time! Sound familiar?
Don’t get me wrong, the week wasn’t a total bust…mid-week I decided to change ‘office’ location. For a whole afternoon I sat by the lake in a comfy Adirondack chair, reading, thinking, creating…perfect! Not only did I get a lot accomplished, I ended the afternoon feeling relaxed and refreshed.
Once again I was reminded that in order to break old habits we sometimes need a change…even if only for an afternoon. I know that being outside is what I love, especially if a lake or ocean is involved. I know that a change in scenery brings fresh thinking for individuals and teams alike. I know that when I head out on my bike (which is how I got to my ‘office’) I always throw in healthy snacks and water. I know that intentionality is key in making any change worth making.
Speaking of intentionality, I was explaining to a friend this week that my summer goal was to focus on the 3Rs: relax, refresh, rejuvenate. However, I got stopped in my tracks when she asked what that meant…what do each of those actions (yup, actions…) really entail. Great question, but I really didn’t have an answer. So, time for a little backtracking to clarify what I’m actually shooting for.
This is what I found in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary: http://www.merriam-webster.com/
- to become or to cause (something) to become less tense, tight, or stiff
- to stop feeling nervous or worried
- to spend time resting or doing something enjoyable especially after you have been doing work
- to make (someone) have more energy and feel less tired or less hot
- to give someone more of (a drink) : to fill (someone’s glass, cup, etc.) again
- computers : to put something, (such as a page on the Internet) into a computer’s memory again in order to show any new information : to cause an updated version of (something, such as an Internet page) to appear on a computer screen
- to make (someone) feel or look young, healthy, or energetic again
- to give new strength or energy to (something)
I need to probe and ponder these definitions and think through the actual working out of these actions and how they apply to my 3R summer…hmmm!
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I saw a basketball camp poster a couple of weeks ago that really got my attention…so much so that I went back yesterday and took a picture of it!
Can you read the caption?
“The two most important days of your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.”
Think about the impact of this statement; your parent’s life was changed the day you loudly announced your arrival into their world, and your own life was (hopefully) changed the day you found out why your presence in this world has such incredible value!
I always seem to keep coming back to ‘why?’ Such a simple word, but the mysteries it uncovers are endless.
So, once again, what does this have to do with training and development? Everything! In fact, answering your ‘why’, leads to a greater sense of autonomy, and that leads to intentionality in training and development.
I think I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start with a conversation I had with my son around the area of autonomy. Our eldest grand daughter is 10, and she is demonstrating a beautiful aptitude for art; in fact she can get lost in her creations. When a piece is completed she shows it off with great pride and satisfaction. Faith’s life is inevitably going to be in the world of arts, so how can we help with her development and success? By helping her develop autonomy. At this young age she can already describe what she would like to do (granted, this will be fine-tuned over time), so why not work backwards from that end goal? What patterns of behavior, what activities, what mentors, what books, what travel…can Faith be exposed to that will grow and develop this innate talent that is emerging? What questions can we ask her to help her make decisions that will bring her closer to her goals? Can she already be taught that the decisions she makes at various stages of her life regarding activities, studies, healthy living, friendships, values, and so on, will give her a greater sense of mastery and control over what she can achieve? I believe so.
You see, as individuals, self directed training and development is something that each of us needs to take responsibility for, and then act upon. This same process can be applied in the workplace, and in the classroom…more about that in the next blog.
However, for now, you probably don’t remember much about that first ‘most important day’, but perhaps you can reflect on the second most important day of your life…why you were born. What is it that you can do to take responsibility to develop that amazing creation that is you into the person you were put on earth to be?
Hmmm, lots to probe and ponder around that!