As an independent OD Consultant and Coach, I work “remotely” from all of my clients. I connect via telephone, internet, and in person. I have clients locally, and those in other parts of the country. I am a also member of a professional organization’s board, and we typically meet by phone, using “Google Docs” as we collaborate, recording/revising documents as we go, in real time. My relationships, the work I do and the results I achieve are solid! Working “remotely” is working.
Several years ago I worked as part of a “virtual team” with members in Toronto, Montreal and Waterloo. It was one of the best team experiences I have had, and I know that one of the reasons it worked so well, was that we used a variety of technologies to stay connected. There was an internal instant messaging system for those short and quick requests/checkins; email when we needed information shared differently or with more people; telephone and video conferencing when we needed to hear the voices and see the faces; and f2f meetings when we wanted to actually be in the same room. Also, by the way, there was absolutely a shared commitment to team and organizational priorities.
I experienced a different type of “alternate work arrangement” prior to opening my business when I job-shared a position for 5 years. It was a senior management position in an organization and it hadn’t been done before (and I’m not sure it’s been done since). We did some research and “pitched” the idea to our bosses. It was a go. My partner and I shared common values; divided the work based on our strengths and interests; revised the arrangements as necessary; worked collaboratively with our senior leaders and our clients to ensure that results were achieved and aligned with organizational objectives; and we had a great time!
In his HBR blog post How WordPress Thrives with 100% Remote Workforce Scott Burken highlights key areas that support success in relation to working remotely.
For me, it’s recognizing that alternate work arrangements require us to think and behave differently. We can’t apply the old rules, to a new paradigm – we need new ones.
- We need to understand what the technologies can do and then use them appropriately.
- We need to be committed to the results we agree are important
- We need to hold ourselves and each other accountable to these results
- We need to be willing to give and receive feedback intended to enhance individual and organizational learning and success
- We need to understand the need to change and adpat i.e. it may not be “exactly” as we want it
- We need to manage different distractions. (Let’s face it, there are distractions at an office, they’re just different than the distractions from your home office or that coffee shop you like to work in)
- We need to be willing to try it, to listen to each other regarding what’s working and what’s not working, and be flexible as we adapt the systems and processes for success
The world is changing; our priorities are changing; our expectations are shifting; we want different things/experiences/relationships for different reasons. Flexibility is needed and we all need to consider what might be possible if we try. Sometimes it will be brilliant!, and sometimes it will be just ok. There might also be times when something doesn’t work and that’s ok too, because hopefully, we keep the the knowledge and experiences that are successful, adapt and modify again, and carry on!