Jessica joined RWA in 2018, having graduated with a First Class Honours degree in Film Studies. Prior to this, she worked in a photography studio as a wedding album editor and also attended work experience at a local library.
Remote working has increased rapidly in recent years. Many businesses now have a large number of employees working from home – or from where they are comfortable – as well as ‘on the road’, spending much of their working time travelling to see clients or attending business meetings.
Theoretically, workers can now access relevant work-related information and complete their tasks from anywhere in the world, provided they have adequate Internet connection and a computer. This brings numerous benefits, including increased flexibility for workers and, in some cases, reduces costs to businesses as they may require less office space and use fewer resources.
Working remotely, whilst it has benefits, also presents challenges. A major disadvantage is that remote workers may not develop effective relationships with their colleagues. They may not know their colleagues very well and feel isolated and somewhat removed from office life and its culture.
The growing distance makes it all the more important for businesses to build and maintain effective relationships with remote-working colleagues.
Ways to Ensure Effective Working Relationships
Face-to-face meetings should take place on a regular basis, if possible. This will give colleagues who do not normally see each other the opportunity to interact and catch-up. These meetings could also include social elements – perhaps with an extended lunch break or the opportunity to go out for refreshments afterwards. Team-building exercises could also take place to help people get to know each other better.
People who work remotely need to be easily contactable – ideally in ‘real-time’. This could be as simple as being at the end of a telephone or using instant messaging software. This means that if an issue emerges in the office, colleagues can contact the remote worker for input quickly and efficiently.
This may be a little more difficult to achieve with workers who are primarily attending meetings and visiting clients. Many remote workers also work outside standard office hours and may be unreachable at certain times in the working day. Colleagues should be made aware of these issues but, wherever possible, there should be times set aside where workmates can interact in real-time.
Encouraging Social Interaction
Not every conversation held in an office is directly work related. Much of the social bonding that takes place within an office arises out of general conversation, but this may prove difficult for remote workers who do not physically work in the office. Colleagues who work apart should hold regular communication via telephone and/or video calls so they can have the opportunity to have a general catch-up as well as discuss business.
If any social activities are taking place within the team, then remote workers should be invited, whether they are likely to attend or not. They should also be kept informed of what is going on within the organisation and likewise have the chance to report their own updates to the rest of the team.
Remembering personal dates is also a way to maintain contact. Send a card on birthdays or other special occasions and set reminders for personal events. Even if contact is kept to a minimum, an annual occasion is the ideal way to stay connected.
Remote workers should be made to feel valued, just like any other member of the team. That includes acknowledgement of their contributions to the business and seeking advice when needed. Staying connected with colleagues is just as important at a distance as it is in an office environment, effectively boosting productivity and innovation regardless of the location.
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