Whether working across time zones or across the hall, workplace flexibility and remote working opportunities are becoming more and more commonplace within both large and small companies across the globe. In fact, close to 50 percent of U.S. professionals surveyed report that they, at least partially, now work remotely.
This new borderless model allows employees to bring greater value to clients by bringing in the best people to meet their needs, no matter where they are located. Instead of building culture by proximity, brands are becoming more interested in building a singular global culture. And, like any change to the way we work, it can take some getting used to and feel a little unnatural. After all, as humans, we have an innate need for direct, personal contact.
So, how do we connect with people who are distant? It’s not dissimilar to working remotely.
Here are a few thoughts:
1. Trust each other. Always begin with the benefit of the doubt. That the person on the other end of the phone or email has got your back – be sure you have theirs in return.
2. Take advantage of every in-person moment. Going to be in town? Stop by the office. Make plans to have in-person meetings. Grab a bite. Extend a stay.
3. Be human first. Work second. Make sure to get to know the people on the other end of the line. Building strong relationships with your co-workers creates trust and makes you feel part of one team.
4. Video conference is best. Phone second best. Email as a last resort. Limit its use to functional next steps, recaps, etc. We know it’s not always possible, but if you need to have a conversation do your best to have a live conversation. Don’t be afraid to chat via Skype or post questions on Workplace (if available) to avoid unnecessary emails.
5. Be accessible. With different time zones and different work schedules, we all have to get a little more flexible about when, where and how we work.
- Consider connecting your office line to your mobile phone so colleagues can reach you in your morning or evening, which may be their work day.
- If you’re stepping away for an extended period of time let your teams know.
- Block your calendar so you can focus and get work done.
- Put your phone number(s) on your email so someone can reach you.
- Keep your calendar up-to-date. Scheduling is always tough, but don’t make it harder. Don’t be the person who says: “My calendar showed open but, yah, not really.”
- Lean on technology. Outlook calendaring. Video conferencing. Skype Chat. Workplace. Imgflip. No, seriously. Anything to make the connection more human.
6. Show Respect. Don’t schedule meetings without checking calendars first. If you need to book at a certain time acknowledge that a meeting may not work for all parties or ask if they can switch things around, but don’t assume that your meeting is more important than what’s already on their calendar.
7. Share your work style. When working with new people it helps to share how you prefer to work – your normal business hours, your expectations of others, how you prefer to be contacted, when it’s appropriate to follow-up with you, and don’t forget to include a little about yourself personally! Allow people to get to know you.
8. Make new friends. You work with amazing people. Reach out. Collaborate. Share your new friends with old friends: Be a connector!
9. Step out of your comfort zone. It’s easy to fall into the trap of working with people you know or the person across the hall. Don’t get caught in the trap of only working with those in close proximity. (See tip #8).