The world has changed for the better and project teams are often widely geographically dispersed. Here at the Interaction Design Foundation we work on a global basis; our writer is in Cambodia, our administrator is in Serbia, our management team is based in Denmark and so on… but remote working also presents challenges and we’ve got some tips on handling them.
Keep in Regular Contact
It doesn’t have to be daily but you do need a regular schedule for remote meetings. VoIP or IM clients are ideal for this. You don’t have to dress up and put on a suit for a meeting but you should be keeping in touch. Remote teams can all end up moving in a different direction from each other unless you bring them together and ensure that they all understand the part that they have to play in making the organization more successful. You could even try using a private social network to facilitate ad-hoc communication.
Keep Talking and Talking
In real life; if you announced everything you were going to do, to everyone in the office – they’d think you were insane. In the virtual world; it’s different. I need to know if you’re at lunch because I can’t see that you’re not at your desk. You need to know if I am off sick for a few days. We both need to know if the company is launching a new product unrelated to our work. And so on… you need to share way more information that you ever would in person if you want your virtual teams to work well with each other.
Here in Cambodia I start work at 6 a.m. In Sydney; it’s already 10 a.m. In Serbia; it’s about 10 p.m. And so on… a global remote workforce isn’t always available at a single convenient time and that means we all need to know roughly when someone is around and when they’re not. You can book a meeting in the calendar with me at 2 a.m. my time because it’s early in the day in New York but I can promise – I won’t be there; I need my sleep too.
It’s also a good idea to be clear about when it is acceptable to try and contact someone and when it isn’t. Remote workers have families, social lives, and even the occasional vacation too (working from home is not a holiday).
Learn To Switch Off
It’s so tempting in a global team to start work as you get up and finish when everyone else goes to bed. This is a bad idea. Don’t want to burn out? Then learn to end the day at a reasonable time. It is incredibly rare that something can’t wait just a little longer to get done.
Encourage Social Interaction
The IDF is a very work oriented employer; we work very hard to provide more for our communities each day but we are also a social group too. We talk about things other than work. We wish each other well for the holidays. And so on… we’re human beings and we work best as human beings rather than as numbered robots.
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