Friday, December 11, 2009

How to maintain good communications while working remotely

I wanted to pick up where we left off with Jayne Nanavaty-Dahl's guest articles on IBM's OTTO (Other Than Traditional Office) initiative. Last week we shared her article on why IBM decided to implement OTTO. Since launching the initiative in 2007, Jayne has since learned several best practices for running it. Her recommendations are good tid-bits for other organizations interested in starting or improving their remote worker strategy, and we'll be sharing them with you here on the blog. Today we bring you the first one: Communication is key.

Good communication between managers, colleagues, and the remote employee is crucial to making flexible work arrangements successful. There will be challenges in the beginning. Just use these common ways to stay in touch: e-mail, instant messaging, and phone calls, along with other creative ways that "push" your visibility and connect with the team.

For example, OTTO IBMers in Southbury, Conn., who participated in focus groups told us they schedule weekly meetings with their managers to discuss projects, accomplishments, and goals. They also ask for feedback. Providing a written meeting agenda with results is very helpful and a useful document for measuring performance at the end of the quarter or year.

As one employee explained, "None of my team or manager is in the same state as me, so going to the office makes little sense. I don't know or work with any of the people I see there. Instant messaging is our primary means of communication. Without it, we are dead in the water. We also have weekly conference calls. Sometimes we take digital pictures of ourselves, vacations, and when we visit other team members, and distribute them to the team."

Quarterly status reports, annual team in-person meetings, and teleconferences help employees get virtually connected.

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