Telecommuting, while having it’s perks, also has its headaches. When you’re home based while the rest of your team works at the home office it can seem like a cushy gig (and it is!) but there are a set of challenges we don’t often think about.
My biggest frustration is with communication, or lack thereof.
Don’t get me wrong, my current team is probably the best yet with communication, especially since I’m on the opposite end of the country. Still, I’m sometimes at the mercy of time zones, vacations and conferences. Fortunately, as our team grew we worked on some best practices for communicating and making sure nothing falls through the cracks.
While telecommuting might look glamorous to traditional commuters, there are frustrations involved. When you don’t work at the home office, you’re not privy to all the meetings and conversations that take place. Sometimes, despite best intentions, you’re not in the loop. It’s usually oversight, but once in a while the communication breakdown is something big or important.
Communication issues are rarely ever intentional. Sometimes when someone doesn’t work in the home office, it’s a case of out of sight out of mind. Other times, workers in the home office have every intention of sharing updates but get distracted by other projects or phone calls. It’s not always easy to drop everything to update coworkers.
So what can you do to ensure there isn’t a communication breakdown?
Set up regular meetings
To ensure success, my co-workers and I set out to make sure there’s no lack of communication. Once a week we have a team meeting via conference call so those in the home office and those who work from remote locations can clue each other in to news and updates. We keep notes throughout the week so nothing is forgotten on meeting day. Since starting these meetings, communication has been much better and there aren’t as many “surprises.”
Take lots of notes
It’s hard to drop everything to email or call with updates. I’m not a fan of distractions, multitasking or anything that breaks focus. By taking notes throughout the day, I can offer a digest version of updates, if necessary, at the end of the day. It’s the things that aren’t emergencies that tend to fall through the cracks. I avoid this by keeping a running list and referring to it at the team meeting or via email.
Keep a running nag list
I don’t always receive what I ask for. Again, this isn’t really anyone’s fault. When you’re not working in the same office, it’s harder for your co-workers to remember you. If I’m waiting on something and it doesn’t come in a reasonable amount of time, I’m inclined to send a reminder. If I’m waiting around for something and not receiving it, it’s my responsibility to ask again. It’s not everyone else’s responsibility to remember things for me.
Pretend you’re a client
Sometimes I need to talk to an extremely busy person on my team who is hard to reach. In such cases I go through that person’s assistant. It saves a lot of back and forth looking at calendars that don’t seem to match, and the other person is more likely to keep the appointment.
Don’t wait for someone else to offer communication solutions
It’s so easy to point fingers and blame when something falls through the cracks. However, communication works two ways. My team works well together because we’re aware of the issues that can arise with a lack of communication. We’re on Skype, email, phone and send out a lot of Twitter DMs. We learned to not wait for someone else to get the ball rolling. We take the initiative and start conversations on our own – before a situation becomes a situation.
I won’t lie. There are times I want to turn off my skype or my cell phone, but ignorance isn’t always bliss and it’s better to get a call while grocery shopping than to not know what’s going on at all.
What are some of the ways you keep in touch with the home office?