Back in 2001, I took a job that was based completely on remote work coupled with in-person client visits. When I met my boss, it was at a local café. When I was doing paperwork, I was sitting in the spare bedroom of our apartment. It was independence and freedom like I’d never felt before. It was exhilarating. It was terrifying.
Overnight, I lost the benefits of working in a typical office setting. I didn’t socialize with anyone throughout the day. I couldn’t bounce ideas off of my colleagues and coworkers. I didn’t feel the sense of camaraderie that I’d felt with coworkers at more traditional job settings. As I gained experience in the role and felt more comfortable with my newfound freedom, I regained the benefits I’d thought I had lost. It took an epiphany for me to regain those benefits.
TEAM PARTICIPATION ISN’T A SPECTATOR SPORT
Aha! There it is – the Great Epiphany of 2001: Teamwork means you’re on the field playing the game, not in the stands watching it happen. It doesn’t matter where your “field” is – a traditional office, a client site, or cozied up on the couch – you need to put in the same effort to being part of the team that your leader or supervisor does to managing the team. Here are some easy tips to get you started:
- Communicate. Communicate. We all need to be open and honest with each other, and we don’t have the luxury of waiting for our manager or a colleague to ask what’s going on or what’s wrong. We need to speak up first!
- Maintain a focus on results and outcomes. At first glance, this one is more for the managers. But how many times have you passed work on to a colleague to complete, only to then feel they are doing it wrong and pull it back. (I shall bravely raise my hand and say I’m very guilty of re-making the bed from time to time…) How something gets done doesn’t matter; what matters is that it got done.
- Set clear expectations. This is another one that looks more for the managers but bear with me. When was the last time you told your manager or a coworker what you need from him or her? When they see you daily, it’s easy to glean information from your body language and behavior. When you are working remotely, it’s much more difficult. They aren’t psychic, and you can’t expect them to be.
- Harness the tools available to us. Social media and productivity tools are everywhere, and they work great… when you use them. When was the last time you reached out to a colleague? Personally, I’ve grown very fond of the silly chats and jokes that pop up on Teams channels – they make me feel like I’m part of the team even though I only see my teammates once in a while.
- Take an old school approach. Many of us don’t work in the same building but work within an easy walk or drive of one another. When was the last time you met a colleague for lunch? Got together for a happy hour after work? Enjoyed a team event over the weekend? This isn’t possible for all remote workers, but it’s a great option if your geography permits.
- Unite for the cause. Do you know how many internal projects are in flight right now at your organization? How many of those could use your specific skill set or input? How many of those have you volunteered for? Every organization I’ve worked for has had internal teams and projects. Maybe it’s a SharePoint rollout, maybe it’s a volunteer committee, maybe it’s planning out the annual holiday party. You have ideas and your help matters.
- Remain flexible. One of the teams I worked with had a team member who was stationed in Dubai but was active on the project. She was literally across the world from most of the rest of the team, but we were all flexible and helped to make it work. We were all able to adjust our schedules as needed for meetings and rely on more asynchronous approaches.
- Set boundaries. For me, it was very easy to just say I would finish “one more thing.” With a 10-foot commute, I started working all the time. The work was interesting, and I felt like I was making a difference… until I realized I was routinely working twelve- to fourteen-hour days and missing out on my family. Make sure your team knows when they can reach you, be available during that time, and then turn off work as much as you would if you had a commute between here and there.
Telework and remote work have come a long way since my great epiphany, but human nature hasn’t. At the end of the day, whether you work from home, work from a local café, go to a client site, or head to a home office every day, you need to play an active part in setting the tone and culture of your work environment. I’ve had wonderful team leaders and managers over the years – in fact, I worked closely with the same café-loving boss for over a decade – and I have taken my turn leading and managing teams. But, just as importantly, I’ve learned how to be a strong team member as well.
At Momentum, consultants are the core of our business. By its very nature, consulting relies on a distributed workforce. Our consultants need to be out working hand-in-hand with our clients and may rarely see one another. Yet, through the years, we’ve built a cohesive company culture, fostered strong internal teams, and enjoyed very low turnover. We’ve braved the challenges of a distributed workforce, and we make sure each new consultant understands how to leverage the support system available to them and how to ensure they are part of the Momentum team.
If you are interested in learning more about the services we offer at Momentum, Inc., reach out at 717-214-8000 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Amy Townson is a certified project manager with almost 20 years of experience and expertise in the health and human services industry, transportation, state government sector, contract management, and project management techniques. She has successfully managed over fifty unique projects and multiple portfolios of projects. In addition, Ms. Townson has provided training for state and federal clients on a variety of topics. She has strong facilitation skills with the ability to tailor messages to fit the audience’s experience level and role. Ms. Townson is a skilled leader of in-person, virtual, and combination teams.