Remote Team Collaboration

June 13, 2008 at 3:53 pm 1 comment

Monday, in the Wall Street Journal, the CIO Interview was with Randall Spratt, CIO and Exec. VP of McKesson Corp.  McKesson has been a real leader in the remote workforce– I should know, my husband works remotely with McKesson and loves it.   But something that really jumped out to me in this interview was what he said about the remote worker– first he stated overall that they have great job satisfaction.  Yep working remote is fantastic on the stress level and satisfaction level.  Simply eliminating a commute in a city like Atlanta where we live, adds years to your life and adds quality to it!  BUT Spratt also talked about why these very satisfied workers leave and it has to do with social isolation.  Say what you will about office politics, but when removed from all the social aspects of work, people feel isolated and at times feel insecure about their own job security.  The answer to this seems to be the social networking collaboration solutions that are out there or that can be developed to meet the needs of individual companies.  Using IM solutions, chat rooms, online networking groups, teleconferencing, etc all helps to fill this void.  It is not the end all be all, BUT it is a very important piece of the puzzle.  Here are a few tips for keeping your remote team connected:

  • Don’t forget the niceties! By this I mean the “good morning” the “how are you?” the “how was your weekend?”  This is not useless, time fill stuff.  This is the stuff that makes people feel a part of the team and loyal to each other.  Let’s face it, we as humans always reach out to those that reach out to us as well, right?
  • Use pictures if you are on an IM tool.   Many of the chat and im tools allow for pictures.  I love to put a name with a face; that brings the personal touch to my conversation with you.
  • Try out using a social networking tool at the office.  Yep, facebook, linkdin and others allow for work intermixed with some fun.  In the office, you get to know your team on a personal leve– why not see your team workers kids pictures on facebook if you can’t see them on their desk?
  • Use video conferencing.  What is better?  Seeing someone’s face smiling while talking or seeing an emoticon?  Emoticons are cute and I use them, but I love to see the real, live person as well!
  • At the beginning of remote meetings, don’t be afraid to use an ice breaker or an opener.  Ask Catchy about her vacation or Tom about his kid’s ball tournament.  Remember the folks in the office have done this already; bring the remote folks into the mix on this.
  • Use tools like SharePoint, eRoom, Q-Task, Basecamp or SOMETHING so that everyone knows where to look fo the latest agenda, proposal, etc.  Use the calendar feature to keep everyone in the loop on schedules, locations and meetings.  A team member, especially a remote one, will feel better connected knowing that they have access to and knowledge of the same stuff as those in the office.

I know most of these tips hit  the humanistic side of the remote worker.  BUT going back to what Spratt said it is the social aspect that causes folks to leave– not the job satisfaction.  Others have seen this pattern as well.  Entrepreneurs have started groups to work outside their home and with other workers so they feel the “team” thing.  Just look at Jelly Groups for more on this.  I am grateful that technology has allowed us to make some choices about remote working,  BUT let’s not forget that we as humans are not machines and a human touch goes a long way towards getting your remote team to really feel like they are collaborating rather than living in a silo!  Happy TEAM collaborating!


Entry filed under: collaboration, Debbie Tegart, remote teams. Tags: , , , , , .

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Randy Spratt  |  June 13, 2008 at 6:36 pm


    These are great suggestions. As we continue to find better ways to create an electronic social fabric that connects our remote and mobile workers, we also need to evolve how we participate in that network. Your advice is on target.




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