Steps to Build Remote Team Synergy

From my perspective, the leader builds the team, and the actions of a leader define how the team will work. A great example of good leadership is this email from Elon Mask to his employees. Clear and honest communication with me is leadership and leads to team synergy.

Here are a few steps I think we need to account for before rushing into forcing a group of people to be a team:

Define: What does a team mean to each employee. What are the top 5 attributes of a team? To some it may be knowing what their colleagues did over the weekend to others it may be getting the professional support they need, doing what your teammate said they were doing to do. Trust, Honesty, Inclusion, and Appreciation that to me defines a team.

Understand: The dynamics of the team, do you have a mix of introverts and extroverts? Sharing the office space picture may be very easy for an extrovert, but it is asking for too much from an introvert. Take the time to understand the group dynamics and come up with a list of items that will work for everyone on the team. Here are a few activities that will work for all.

Input: Before jumping into activities make sure everyone has a chance to provide input on what will work for them and what they are comfortable sharing. As an introvert, my limit of sharing personal information is very limited compared to the extroverts on the team.

Consistent: Once you define what a team means to your employees and the steps you are going to take to continue working on team building be consistent. The leader needs to be consistent to ensure his/her commitment to the team.

If you have other suggestions, please share: info@telecommuterstalk.com

Teaching Your Teammates to Work with Telecommuters

In recent weeks I’ve had to work with on-site teammates that were not familiar with telecommuting or how easy it is to work with technology. Based on data from this FlexJobs Infographic 2.8 M Americans work remotely and telecommuting growing at a rate of 37%, we all need to know how to work virtually.

In addition to my previous post on 5 Tips for Effective Meetings with Telecommuters. Here are some tips that may help:

Show: Ignorance leads to discomfort. Show them how easy it is to use technology to connect for a meeting or a team conversation. Applications like Skype, make it easy to set up a video call.

Teach: It may take away time from your schedule but will be helpful in the long run. Take time to teach teammates what they may not know. The person I was working with had not worked with a remote team member before so she was very apprehensive. We started building a strong relationship once I showed her how easy it was to connect.

Connect: Send them information about various tools and use various channels to communicate with them based on urgency. My co-worker would use e-mail mainly and sometimes Skype chat was faster for me. I started using that more often, and she saw the benefit of a quick conversation.

Engage: Use Skype on a regular basis to connect with them face-to-face. Show them that you are focused and organized in what you do. Sometimes it is about addressing the perception of working from home in your PJs.

Please share tips that may have worked for you: info@telecommuterstalk.com

How to Manage the Chaos of Change

“Change is hard because people overestimate the value of what they have—and underestimate the value of what they may gain by giving that up.”
— James Belasco and Ralph Stayer Flight of the Buffalo (1994)

With the reorganization, there is a lot of uncertainty—here are a few ways to manage it. These tips are useful for any changes in your life:

Meditate: There is enough research on the benefits of meditation. For most working parents, the challenge is finding the time to do it. Even a five-minute meditation will have a positive impact on you. Try and find a time that works for you—anytime during the day works.

Exercise: Exercise is as important as meditation. Find the time to fit some cardio, strength training, and yoga into your schedule. Here’s my article on How to Fit in Exercise While You Work Remotely.

Plan your days: Set aside the first 30 to 40 minutes of each day to plan your day. I have used this strategy for a while, but with the changes and everything being a priority at the same time, it has become even more important. I pick the top three items I need to complete on a particular day, both professionally and personally.

Take breaks: Breaks build resilience. After exercising, you need rest; the same is true with work. After some focused work, you need to take a break—even if it is only for ten minutes. As telecommuters, this is harder, but add it to your calendar and stick with it.

Sleep: Stress has a direct impact on sleep. Ensure you are getting enough rest to be productive during the day. If you are having sleep challenges try these poses to help you sleep better.

Be flexible: You need a plan to continue forward, but you also need to be flexible to accommodate the changes. Your priorities can change based on the demands of your project or management needs. Account for that in your schedule. One option is to keep your Friday afternoons open and use that time to catch up or address an urgent request that has come up.

Ask questions: Sometimes, the deadlines imposed on you may be due to someone else’s work style instead of a true urgency. Identify team members who have a tendency to set unrealistic timelines and ask questions. Ask for a specific due date and notice due to other priorities.

What tips have worked for you? Please share at: info@telecommuterstalk.com

A Coffee Shop Equivalent for Introverted Telecommuters

I hear remote employees talk about going to a coffee shop often. I am sure it is a great way to change things up a little, but it is not for me. I am an introvert, so I prefer discreet places.

If you are an introvert try these venues instead and share your experiences:

Library: A quiet place with books everywhere—what could be better! Days I need to focus on important presentations, documentation, etc. I go to the library.

Bookstore: Very similar to a library so if a bookstore is closer for you choose the store. I try to find the silent spot at the back of the store. Grab a cup of coffee or tea and enjoy your time.

Park: Being in nature is overall good for our health, but I find it leads to more creativity for me. Take your note book, laptop and sit out in the sun, feel the breeze and enjoy the sounds of nature.

Backyard: Sitting in your backyard and using your WiFi is another option. It will be a change of scenery, and you can stay in your PJs if you prefer!

Balcony: if you live in a city, your balcony can be your go to space for focus time—far away from your office setting but close enough to keep you comfortable.

Share which option worked best for you at: info@telecommuterstalk.com

Should You Hire a Cleaning Person When You Telecommute?

and other questions answered! When I started telecommuting a few years ago, I had a lot of questions. Over the years I have learned a lot, and I share my findings with you to help:

1. How do you deal with the telecommuters guilt, and should you feel guilty?
You got the opportunity to be a telecommuter because of your work ethics and performance. So you just continue performing as you would when you are in the office.If you don’t feel guilty working from the office whey would work from home be any different?

2. For how much and for how long should you continue to prove yourself above and beyond because you work from home?
You would need to provide yourself if you were in the office no different now. Just know that you need to have the mindset to perform and irrespective you continue doing that.

3. Where do you fit in your daily exercise?
There is the time you just need to take the initiative to find it. Here is my blog/eBook with details on how to find the time to exercise on a regular basis.

4. When you have to travel for work, how do you manage your kids’ practice schedule?
Car pool with people you trust. If you don’t trust any of the parents then get a sitter or set expectations that one of the kids will need to miss practice.

5. What do you do when your workload is slow?
When your workload is high, you compromise on personal items so when work is close catch up on your personal action items. Another option is to do training and manage administrative items that you know are going to be due in a few months like performance reviews, end-of-year calendar, etc.

6. Should you do laundry or run an errand during your lunch hour?
No laundry for sure! If the errand is short and something that will get you energized or get you out of the house and dressed then yes please go ahead.

7. How do you take breaks during your work day, and what do you do?
Yes, research shows you need to take a break every 90 mins. Taking breaks makes you more productive. Do what energizes or relax you like reading a book—a physical book. Here is my eBook with details on how to make the most of your time.

8. How do you manage your professional calendar if you are in a different time zone?
You work with their schedule but take control of your calendar. Take the initiative to schedule the meetings and ensure the timing works for your schedules. Managing your schedule gives you a choice not to schedule 7 am meetings.

9. How do you network while you work from home?
You use personal activities to build your network. The group will look different than your professional network but is a great start. Talk to parents during practice. Join meetup groups if you can find the time to attend the events or be part of the TT online community.

10. How do you manage distractions when you work from home (e.g. the door bell, a friend who needs help, etc.)?
Schedule everything and stick to it.

11. What do you do with the kids during breaks—winter, spring, or summer, since our vacation is usually shorter than theirs?
Camps, Creative projects, boredom, and free play. Take vacation when possible—this can be your time to relax and truly connect with the kids.

12. How do you manage one-off school closures?
These are hard, but with planning, you can manage them. One option is to work in the mornings and take the afternoons off to spend time with them. If they are in their tweens, create a schedule for them do finish all their work (HW, practice, etc.) while you are working. Then when you complete work, they are done, and it is time to have some fun!

13. Should you get someone to clean your house even if you work from home?
Yes! I tried to do it all for the first six months after we moved, and got sick. Treat your job the same way as you did when you were working in the office, and take breaks to do the things that refresh you.

14. Do you stay connected after hours?
No! Unless it is a critical time for my business or project, I turn off my work phone at 6 pm. Everything can wait for a few hours. Besides, I am too busy driving around to activities and don’t have the time to check the phone, and since this is my only downtime, I cherish and protect it.

15. Should you get more involved with the kids’ schools so you can meet more people?
For me, this worked a little once I found a few working mothers with flexible schedules to go for a walk once a week, or being part of my kids’ classroom by helping as needed. I did not have much luck being part of the PTA because the meetings were when I had work-related conference calls. The bet place I found to connect was after school activities and community events. These take place after work hours, so you don’t have to worry about missing meetings or to get back to work in time. When you are relaxed, you can connect.

I would like to keep the conversations and questions going, so please send your comments and ideas for making things to info@telecommuterstalk.com.

Tips for Introverted Telecommuters

One of the challenges of telecommuting is being isolated—lack of human interactions. To ensure you stay connected and have face-to-face interaction you have to be diligent about it. As an introvert, this can be very hard. Here are a few tips I use to stay connected:

Your current circle: When I moved to a new city I thought I needed to have the same level of connections and interaction as I had in the past. I continued looking in vain. Eventually, I realized the best option was to connect with the friends I already had in addition to seeking new ones. I was amazed at the satisfaction I felt even with a text or a phone conversation.

Intentional: It is hard to have small talks as an introvert so try joining a book club or volunteer to help with the school or after school activity where you are not interacting with as many people but still staying connected and adding value to the community.

Nature: As an introvert for me the best connection has been nature. I used to stay in my office all day focused on work, and I would be exhausted by the end of the day. I realized that I needed to get out either for a walk, a run or just to write. Now I take my laptop and head to the park. I enjoy the sounds of nature take a walk and work. The park is my version of a coffee shop.

Conversations: It is hard, but I find a few moms that I can connect with and who have the same priorities. I set up a walk or a lunch date. It helps me stay abreast of the activities happening in the area and talk about non-work related items. I plan these on my calendar for once every few months.

Shopping: Sometimes for an introvert to get the human interaction being around people is enough—at least for me. Once in a while I will go shopping—walk around, smile at a stranger or talk to the cashier. Just go to a store and learn. Finding new items sparks solutions for me that I need to find.

Work with your personality and preferences—do what works for you. If you have any tips, please share: info@telecommuterstalk.com

Communication During The Chaos of Change

I am excited about all the changes within my company. With change comes growth, and with growth comes learning. I am learning a lot and have the opportunity to share with you all.

Here are a few tips on communication:

Be concise: Things are moving very fast for my organization, so it is key that I keep my communication with team members and management concise. I ensure my subject line states what I need from them and the e-mails are short—a few sentences.

Be clear: Keep it simple and clear. Ask for what you need and when you need it. For detailed emails, list the items in bullet point format with the most important information first.

Be casual: While transitioning into a leadership role, start by connecting with your teammates first. Project details will follow once you have built the relationships. Here is a link to my blog about 7 Guidelines for Global Project Management.

Be Collaborative: If there is an urgent situation that needs attention, pick up the phone and have a conversation. For conversations with two people, do a three-way call or Skype. Don’t lose time by using e-mail or waiting for a status meeting.

Be confident: As a leader, your team is looking to you as the Subject Matter Expert. Take the time to know your project as part of the transition. Your management will also be looking to see how you are doing and if you fit the role. Make sure you are on top of the key issues, resolutions, and project updates.

What communication tips have worked for you? Please share at: info@telecommuterstalk.com

In-Person Conversations to Have During Reorganization Phases

Reorganization means changing how everything works. Change is good, but also creates a reason to be more vigilant about your career, your priorities, and your focus on growth. Change can be a time to ask what you want from your career.

During my recent in-person meetings, we had a few of these conversations that I want to share with you:

What is your new role?: Get clear directions on your roles and responsibilities for the new assignments. Use a Gantt Chart or MS Project for you and your new team. Account for schedule changes, hours of operations, additional meetings, and time zone impacts.

What are the other team members’ roles?: If your new responsibilities entail a leadership role, understand the roles of each person on your team and the extended team. If it is a global team, understand their location, time zones, and culture.

What is the transition plan?: If you are taking over an existing project, ensure that you ask for a transition plan with the latest updates on each section of the project. I have used Excel for this purpose with success.

What is the transition timeline?: In addition to the plan document, you will need to agree on the duration of the transition. If you will be managing a complex project, account for a few months of transition. New items will come up just when you think you have wrapped your head around the various pieces of the project.

When is the transition meeting?: Meet with your manager and teammates involved with the transition. Have the document updated and ready to share. Review the document, and confirm that both managers and employees understand the tasks and approve of the plan.

What communication channels do we use?: Decide on one or two communication channels for urgent situations. Find out what works for the team, and, if possible, come up with one channel that works for everyone.

Please share additional tips that you may have at: info@telecommuterstalk.com

Background Information You Can Gather During In-Person Meetings

I’ve mentioned in my previous posts that my organization is going through some changes. As I go through the changes, I am learning a lot and want to continue sharing what I’ve learned with you.

Recently, I had to attend a few Town Hall meetings and strategy sessions in-person, and here is what I learned:

What you hear on the phone may not be accurate: As a remote employee, what you hear on the phone or see via e-mail may be just half the story. Keep in touch with your teammates offline to get additional information.

Example: A friend/colleague was working on the most important project in the organization, and I was convinced that she was having fun. When I asked her how her cool project was going in person, the look on her face confirmed that it was not that great.

All requests are urgent: Changes involve a learning curve and chaos. I would question why I was being asked for the same information multiple times. When I was there, I realized that my management did not have time to find the information in their inbox and things were moving a million miles an hour.

Example: I received a call at 7 am to present to my VP that morning. I also had other important meetings that morning and needed urgent information before the discussions. I could not find the time to text or email my teammate for information. I gathered the information and presented to the VP in a timely manner.

You are monitored: How you dress and how you behave come into play when you go in-person. I think this is the case for all employees, but managers of remote employees need to ensure that you are stable.

Example: Women tend to maintain good attire by default, but managers also take note of your overall appearance, professional behavior, confidence, and interactions. The expressions you might make while on the phone need to be toned down during in-person meetings.

Please share any examples you may have at: info@telecommuterstalk.com

How to Manage Organizational Changes as a Telecommuter

Change always comes with opportunities. Professionally, there are many changes happening for me right now. I have the opportunity to do new work, find a new position, and create new connections. I want to take this opportunity to share with you what I am learning as part of this process.

Speak Up: Make sure that you speak up and share your thoughts on your part of the project or the overall plan as transitions are underway. It is best to provide input when you can make an impact—which is at the beginning. As a remote employee, you will need to be even more vocal than usual to make your case.

Ask Questions: Transition is a time of flux, and you need to ask clarifying and direct questions for you to understand the impact on your job. Managers are usually able to discuss some information; if they cannot discuss it, they can inform you of the same.

Stay Connected: Continue your conversations with your manager during one-on-one meetings. Lync your teammates and stay informed. Attend all the meetings that discuss the changes in your organization, since they will have an impact on you, even as a remote employee.

Update Resume: If you are looking for new opportunities, update your resume and add search agents to your company’s internal HR site. Alerts will give you access to new job openings right in your inbox. Continue talking with your mentor to work on your next steps.

Avoid Rumors: Being remote can work to your advantage, since you are not physically there to stop and listen to the conversations going on in the office. Try not to get pulled into the rumor mill. If you have questions, ask them directly to your management chain, since they will have the most accurate information.

Change is the only constant, and we need to keep going! Please share any suggestions that have worked for you at info@telecommuterstalk.com.