Blog Post 6-25-12

Making Telework Work

Jasmine thought she heard her name as she rounded the corner toward the employee lunch room, and instinct told her to slow her pace. She heard two colleagues talking in low tones.

“I know she missed the meeting, but that’s because she was teleworking,” Nancy was saying.

“Yeah, right, teleworking!” Juan scoffed. “You mean it was her one day a week to eat bonbons and watch soap operas.”

Jasmine, angry and hurt, turned away before she reached the lunch room door. She wondered if she should complain to her supervisor, but decided it wouldn’t do any good. She headed back to her desk to eat lunch by herself.
If your agency is struggling with the culture change necessary to make telework work, you’re not alone. One of the greatest challenges organizations face when implementing a telework program is to keep team members working together as a team. We believe teammates who are no longer working in the same physical space every day must learn to invest time in strengthening relationships through effective communication practices. Here are some tips:

Stay visible – Both employees and managers should take every opportunity to stay visible, both physically and virtually. Plan office days in order to catch critical meetings, office events and celebrations. Use technology to stay visible while teleworking.

Be responsive – Lack of physical presence magnifies time and space. An email unanswered for one day begins to feel like two or three days when someone is teleworking. Agree on specific protocols for response time.

Establish communication protocols – A schedule of regular meetings and check-ins, whether virtual or in-person, is crucial. Also establish how phone calls, emails and requests for assistance will be handled. Know people’s communication preferences. And agree on team norms for successful handling of routine communications.

Establish core office days – Many team leaders set one or two days that are considered “non-telework days,” when everyone is expected to be in the office. Then team meetings and special events can be planned for those days.

Find ways to “drop in” – When it’s not possible to physically stop by someone’s desk, find ways to do it virtually. Use chat, Skype, email or phone to say hello and find out how people are doing. For employees, give supervisors regular updates on what you’re working on. For supervisors, make your expectations for progress updates clear.

Use social media – If allowed, create a Facebook or Linkedin group for the team and use it to stay in touch and help maintain a sense of community.

Remind everyone that telework is work – Sometimes people feel as if they might be bothering a teammate to call them at home. Constantly remind people that telework days are not days off or alternative work schedule days. They are work days just like any other.
Telework and teamwork can coexist; but it requires effort from the entire team, not just from the supervisors or the people who telework. Create a sense of shared accountability and you’ll be on your way to making telework work.

If you'd like us to bring our Telework Series to your office, contact us today!