Working Remote Doesn’t Mean on an Island

Over the course of my career, I’ve worked in a remote location for about 50% of that time. Over this same time period, the phenomenon of tele-workers, or telecommuters, has dramatically increased … about 79% from 2005 to 2012 and accounts for about 3.2 million workers (those whose full-time position is remote) according to an article in The New York Times. If you account for all workers who work even part of the time in a telecommuting scenario, this number increases to about 30% of all workers. With those types of numbers, the issue isn’t finding educated and highly skilled people to hire; the question is whether or not the company is ready for telecommuters.

Two Essential Skills for Working Remote
During my career, two key skills have grown dramatically and two are essential to the success of a telecommute environment:

1) Hearing and reading tones in people’s voices

2) Reading between the lines to understand the true meaning of a text or email

As this skill has developed and will develop for the individual, the company for which they work has a skill that needs to become well defined as well … acceptance of the remote worker and speaking plainly. You see, the telecommuter is less likely to fall into the water cooler talk or company politics making them, by one estimate and test, 13% more productive. Depending on your role as a telecommuter, though, determine how much you have to get involved in the “politics” of the home office. Since the role is remote, the aforementioned skills have to become attuned to the “tones” of messages received. If not, the telecommuter will miss out on much of the “action.”

Adapting Communication for Telecommuters
I also mentioned, the company has to be ready for telecommuters. If the company is not ready for or used to the telecommuter, things that are simple for the office life like, hallway conversations, quick drop-ins for a chat, body language, and yes even technology can become a great challenge. The home office has to be clear, concise, and willing to drop the hidden language and be specific. It’s easy in an office to have a clandestine message that’s then followed up by body language or comments. Be ready home office … the telecommuter will force you to change your communication style. If you look at the rise in percentage of telecommuters, other technologies become apparent and useful but it’s with a cost and loss if the home office “alienates” the telecommuters. You have to be conscious to include the telecommuter whenever possible.

Working remote is effective across all spectrums from managing teams, projects and businesses. If the telecommuter doesn’t have the right skill set and the home office isn’t ready, expect it to fail because working from an island doesn’t work.  However, if everyone is accepting and ready, the telecommuters add skill sets you otherwise may be unable to obtain.

What percentage of your workforce works remote? Do you push the office to include them?  Comment below to share your experience!


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