Steljes' top 10 tips for making distance working work for you
Distance Working:10 ways to make working across distance work for you We’ve collated some of the best tips on distance working – are you doing everything you can to make this important long-distance relationship work?
Communication Members of geographically-dispersed teams have different sets of circumstances. Without that daily communication you get in an office, awareness of context can be lost – and conflict can arise when you don’t understand where the other person is coming from Create a shared “place” (homepage, database, Dropbox folder) for the team to create a ‘picture’ of their circumstances: deadlines, criteria, away times, equipment available, etc.From Professor Cramtons paper, "Information problems in dispersed teams." (1997)
Buy a SMARTBoard® – or severalWith a SMART Board interactivewhiteboard or display, dispersedteams can actively collaborate –everyone can see and shareinformation and contribute todiscussions, regardless of location.With unlimited digital whiteboardspace, the ability to write notesover any application, options forsaving your work and integrationwith Microsoft® Exchange, SMARTsolutions are great for boostingproductivity. See our case studies.
Clarity Another brand of communication issue: sending a list of deliverables and expecting your long-distance partner to know what to prioritise, or suggesting that you ‘hope to hear from someone soon’ but expecting an immediate response. The English language is a funny thing: a bit of clarity can go a long way. Make it clear what’s important. Create a shorthand with the team to highlight important tasks and suggest deliverables that require a quick response. Add this shorthand to your homepage or database.From Professor Cramtons paper, "Information problems in dispersed teams." (1997)
Feedback and praiseWorking different hours withpeople in locations across theworld can mean losing the humantouch.Good work deserves recognition,and if someone starts to deviatefrom the task or is not working toan acceptable level, quick, tactfulfeedback is key.Don’t forget that your team arepeople.
Meet face-to-face This might seem counter-intuitive, but some actual face-time will make relations much easier. If this is not possible, at least include information in your team’s database that personalises members – potentially set up a Pinterest board that members can pin un-work-related interests to. Team-building is just as important across distance as it is locally. Give team members the benefit of the doubt in the face of ambiguous information – because you know them.From Professor Cramtons paper, "Information problems in dispersed teams." (1997)
Transparency Selective emails lead to assumptions of understanding and the team’s perceptions being skewed. If your team are working from limited perspectives on a project, how can the project come together? Copy all members of the team in on emails, but distinguish between primary recipient and CCs so people know what they should action. Draw up a set of guidelines in the homepage, and make sure all team members are aware of these so that they don’t feel overloaded.From Professor Cramtons paper, "Information problems in dispersed teams." (1997)
Encourage innovationEstablish guidelines with yourteam, talk them through, thenmake it clear they can – and should– be changed.Innovation keeps businessesfresh, your team members sharpand your productivity andefficiency improving. Don’t letthings stagnate.Make sure all team members feelthey can suggest changes and callout practices that are not workingfor them.
Deal with silence It can mean anything from agreement to indifference, technical issues, not received, not properly read, miscommunication… Don’t jump to conclusions about silence, and don’t deal with this over email. Video-conferencing, using SMART Boards for a data conferencing session or even a simple phone call can clear up conflict quickly.From Professor Cramtons paper, "Information problems in dispersed teams." (1997)
Create a map It might seem a bit obvious, but you need to work out what the distance is between you and your team members – ‘physical distance’ is geographic; ‘operational distance’ is the separation due to technology and daily work process issues; ‘affinity distance’ is differences in culture and lack of personal relationships. Plot your team members’ distance from each other – you can then see where you need to focus your efforts.From Karen Sobel Lojeski and Richard R. Reilly, Uniting the Virtual Workforce. (2008)
Contact Mark FritzEvery team needs strongleadership, and Mark Fritz is theperfect man to advise on makingthis leadership more effective.Mark is an international speakerwho talks regularly on the power ofownership in leading acrossdistances and cultures.“To successfully lead peopleacross distances and cultures (andstill have a life), you need to movefrom managing by activities toleading by outcomes.”
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