Being successful at working remotely

working remotelyMore people are working remotely, which is great for many organizations and people but raises some new leadership challenges. In fact, there was a recent article in the Wall Street Journal titled “Win Over a Remote Boss” which examined this topic and gave advice on how, as an employee, you can better manage communications with your manager. While much of the article focused on the mechanics of communication such as when to call versus using email versus instant messaging, there was only one paragraph in the entire article that really focused on the true issues of remote working and communication. Specifically, that section suggests that the worker and manager should agree in advance about the criteria for which decisions (not which type of communication) require communication separating out those where people can work independently vs. when they need to communicate. This is actually getting close to the approach that makes remote work successful. Being successful at working remotely is 90 percent about the corporate culture and 10 percent about the logistics and mechanics. Think about working remotely as the extreme of local empowerment, decision making and autonomy – the organization has to believe in local empowerment, has to trust and has to set up the cultural infrastructure that makes it work. It’s also important to keep in mind that traditional notions of management “control” don’t work because the manager mostly can’t see what the worker is doing (though there certainly are a variety of software applications that provide some visibility into the work). There are 3 things an organization can do to create the trust required for effective remote work:

  • – Build a collective purpose – this means that everyone knows that everyone else, remote or not, is working toward the same goals
  • – Build individual mastery – this means that everyone can be trusted to do the work well, so micro oversight isn’t necessary
  • – Establish social support mechanisms – this means that everyone is systematically connected to everyone else which ensures that the remote worker stays connected to others in the organization promoting innovation and engagement
  When the culture for working remotely is established correctly, the mechanics of communication become mostly irrelevant, and it produces many performance gains for the organization as well. Has your organization been successful in working with remote teams?]]>

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