Remote Support

Virtual Team Members Deserve the Same Attention as Ones in the Office

 
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By Sante Vergini, PMP

There's a gap for remote workers. I discovered it during a recent business process outsourcing implementation project I managed. Although more than 70 percent of the employees worked from home, none were managers, supervisors or team leaders. While the organization said it championed flexible working options, it seldom promoted remote workers—meaning the benefits of remote working to both the company and the employees were limited. Remote workers at other organizations report frustrations with outdated technology, isolation and lack of organizational support.

As a growing number of organizations offer flexible work arrangements, managers need to adapt their leadership competencies to accommodate the needs of remote workers. Here are three areas to focus on:

Technology

If you want remote workers to produce the desired results on a project, you need to provide them the appropriate technology. I have seen numerous examples of remote workers using old hardware while the in-office workers receive the latest in computer and communications technology. When remote workers are stuck with outdated equipment, it increases support calls and repairs and lowers productivity. In the long run, it will cost the organization far more than an initial purchase of adequate technology.

Inclusion

Remote workers need to feel included to reduce their risk of isolation, which can deteriorate morale and productivity. The projects I manage often have weekly roundups for team members to unwind and talk about whatever they wish. These bonding sessions could follow a status meeting or take place during a coffee break or even include a game of charades in the war room. I use available technology to include remote workers in these team-bonding gatherings.

Remote workers need to feel included to reduce their risk of isolation, which can deteriorate morale and productivity.

Empathy and Advocacy

We often hear about vision, influence, charisma and integrity as the central competencies of successful managers. However, I believe that future leaders will be assessed on their ability to train, manage, empathize with and champion employees both in and outside of the office. When it comes time to award promotions, think about who would be best-suited for the role, not whom you physically see the most.

A flexible work program can provide cost and productivity benefits for the organization. And it can increase workers’ commitment, improving their health and decreasing work/family conflicts. But achieving these benefits depends largely on the support remote workers receive from their manager and organization. PM

img Sante Vergini, PMP, is program director at Remote Staff Support Solutions, Melbourne, Australia.

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