In the last decade, the mobile workforce has increased by more than 100 percent—not that surprising when we consider the abundant improvement in technology over that same time period. Telecommuting offers wonderful benefits to companies and workers alike, with an improved work-life balance topping the charts. Not only that, but a 2015 Gallup poll shows that telecommuters are more likely to be more engaged in their jobs, and being engaged can lead to higher profitability, mobile productivity, customer engagement and other positive business outcomes.
But mobile teams experience problems of their own. At the forefront is the disconnection that naturally occurs when team members work separate from the rest of the team. Not only do telecommuters sometimes miss out on deeper relationships with co-workers, they don't get to experience office culture and can easily miss important announcements. A case study conducted among full-time telecommuters at a Chinese travel agency even showed that mobile workers were up to 50 percent less likely to receive promotions.
If you're part of the mobile workforce, here are some things you can do to make your experience as successful as possible:
- Communicate, communicate, communicate—While telecommuters often make their own schedules—using two hours for lunch (and making it up later) or taking a break to pick up kids from school, for example—it's important to let your team know when you'll be away from your desk for any extended period of time. That way, they'll know when you'll be back in case they have anything pressing. Teams work better when members know what to expect of each other.
- Always meet your deadlines—This should go without saying, but it's important to make sure you aren't slacking off. According to the aforementioned Gallup poll, work-from-home productivity is at least as good as in-office productivity, if not better. Don't be the one that causes your boss or co-workers to lose faith in the system.
- Use all technology available—While email certainly has its place, other technology—such as instant messaging, conferencing, etc.—helps you connect with team members in the moment. Because you don't have the ability to stop by a co-worker's desk or see team members at the water cooler, you should take any opportunity you can to create conversations and collaboration when appropriate.
- Regularly visit or work in the office—Many remote workers do not live close enough to visit the office weekly, but—depending on your role—regular time spent in the office is crucial to team cohesion. You and your manager will need to discuss how often is “enough,” but you'd be amazed how much it helps to show your face every once in a while. When co-workers have spent time with you in person, it makes it easier for them to approach you online or via phone when they need to chat about an issue or project.
- Build relationships with co-workers who can keep you informed—Even if you visit the office on occasion, you'll probably miss out on some news or information when you aren't there. Check in regularly with office friends who will gladly keep you apprised of anything important—even a shift in the office culture or mood.
But being successful isn't just up to the mobile workforce. Companies can help their telecommuters stay more engaged with the whole team by instituting proper training, using collaboration software that allows for file sharing and ensuring proper security on mobile devices so mobile teams have the same access as everyone else, no matter where they're working. In addition, scheduling regular videoconferences ensures face-to-face time, which can go a long way in a telecommuting situation. When telecommuters feel like part of the team, they're more likely to stay content and engaged in their job—a fact that benefits everyone involved.