A reader writes…
I just accepted a position where I will be working remotely, yet the rest of my department works together in the same office… miles away. What can I do to integrate with my co-workers… and feel like I’m part of the team?
Dear, “Lone Ranger,”
Telecommuting is becoming widely accepted with businesses nationwide. While working from home (or in a satellite office) may seem like a luxury…. for some people, it’s a challenge.
You are definitely at a disadvantage when it comes to teambuilding and interaction. Many people thrive on the energy, activity, and even gossip that goes on in an office. Others find this just plain distracting and are perfectly content being on their own – no commuting, no dress code, no in-person meetings.
The trick to feeling like you’re part of the team is communication. Big surprise, right?
Your manager plays a critical part on how well and effectively you integrate with your co-workers.
At minimum, you should:
- Have weekly department meetings where everyone gathers in the office, with you on speaker phone. Incorporate web meetings so everyone sees the same visuals, at the same pace.
- You can even consider using available technology, such as web cams and Skype, to literally be seen in the meeting! Be sure to dress professionally (from the waist up, at least!)
- You should also have regularly scheduled one-on-one meetings with your direct supervisor – over the phone (ideally, once a week).
- Email communication is essential. Daily and weekly updates will help ensure projects are on track and on schedule.
- Be prepared to join in-person meetings (frequency may vary depending on distance, travel, etc.) – putting a face with a name (and a voice) always helps.
- Be a part of department birthday parties and/or gift exchanges. Sure, the rest of your group may be eating cake in the boardroom… but you can indulge in something yummy wherever you are too!
- Make a conscious effort to be available, offer help, and show support when situations come up that may require your input or expertise.
- Actively contribute to group discussions or brainstorming sessions. Since you are not physically in the room, you are more likely to be left out. Be vocal… but not obnoxious. Here’s the kicker, sometimes you may feel like you’re interrupting the conversation, or that it can be tough to guess when you should start to talk with a room full of people already in discussion. Don’t let this discourage you or make you feel more like an outsider. Be polite, wait for a pause, and chime in! Your manager (or someone in the room) should serve as a moderator and individually ask each person if they have something to add. That ensures that everyone is included and prevents people from talking over each other.
- Pay close attention to the personal interests of your colleagues. Anytime you can relate about kids, hobbies, or interests, you’re more likely to establish relationships – despite the distance.
- Take ownership of a task or project and be a part of a “Show and Tell” session with your team.
Bottom line is this… The more you contribute to the success of the group, the more highly respected you will become. You will be closely involved over the phone, via email, and in meetings to the point where your remote location will eventually seem obsolete!