Nowadays, it is very common to find yourself working with people from long distances. Everything is mobile. So, how do you maintain effective communication with people that you don’t work in the same office with or who are not physically present for extended periods of time?
There is no doubt about it. Working from long distance with your boss, partners, colleagues, and/or team is not easy. But it’s do-able. Here are some very simple tips and tools to help you make your long distance working relationships work…
1) Meet in person (at least once if possible)
Meeting someone in person is the best way to establish a connection and a level of trust, which of course must be nurtured over time. If that is not possible, then be sure that the first meeting(s) are done through a video conference. Seeing a person’s face and gestures is very important in understanding a person and their wants and needs. I will go into more detail about video conferencing later. Be sure to also video conference at least once a week, and if you are working with a team of people, video chat with at least one or two members if not as a whole group every week.
2) Communicate Regularly
Create from the very beginning open communication channels. Talk on a daily basis if you can. Even if it’s only through texts or emails, or even a two-minute call just to say hi and that there’s nothing new that day. Remember, if you don’t talk with each other, how do you know what the other person is doing? It also keeps your name fresh in their minds.
3) Circle of Trust
Keep each other in the loop. Make sure you take a moment every day to write or talk about the activities you are doing, the goals you have, the deadlines that are set, and what kind of support you need. In doing so, you create a trusting environment. They know what you are doing. And most likely, the other person will respond in kind – making sure to keep you in the loop.
4) Don’t Suddenly Disappear
Unless you are on vacation and have clearly stated that you will NOT be taking phone calls or emails during this time, don’t just disappear. People are reliant on you and will lose trust in you if you suddenly don’t follow up or respond. They expect you to be there to answer their calls/emails, collaborate on projects, etc. If you disappear and are unreachable without any explanation in advance, your workmates will start thinking of you as unreliable and will not trust you to be there when they need you.
5) Take Advantage of High Tech Tools
There are so many amazing tools available nowadays. Use them!
Here are a list of the apps I love to use while working from abroad, from a coffee shop, from home, or from wherever I happen to be at that time. Always on-the-go! 🙂
Video talk – Skype is universally known by now. I use it as well, but I prefer Tango. I don’t have to have it open on my phone to receive calls and I generally have good connection. GoToMeeting is great when you have more official meetings, you want to share documents on the screen and have multiple people joining the conversation.
Calling/Texting – If you are overseas and need to communicate cross-border, calling or texting from your cell phone can get very expensive very quick. If you just have a quick question or just want to talk without having to comb your hair and put on a nice shirt, then you have a multitude of options. Again you can use Tango – without video if you are walking around in your bathrobe. Viber is another option that works well enough and is free to both text and call anywhere in the world. WhatsApp is a great texting option, with the ability to form a group texting platform. You can also share images and videos straight from your phone.
Sharing Documents – The well known platforms are Dropbox and Google Drive. Both of which I use regularly. But sometimes you want to engage someone more directly in the process of creating a document. Quip is a new platform that literally just came out. It allows people to work on documents together, showing who last edited what, shows what changes and texts have not yet been read, and allows back and forth texting amongst people sharing the folder. Evernote is also a great tool that can be utilized as a communications platform. Share a folder or a note with someone you are working with and they will be able to see the latest updates in real time. However, they will not be able to edit it. The best part about all of these tools – they are accessible from your mobile device!
If anyone knows of other tools that I didn’t mention here, but are great to use, definitely add them in the comments below!
Long distance work relationships can work. It takes a little extra effort, regular communication, a sense of trust and an understanding of the people you are working with. The great thing is that working a part from your team is now easier than ever with all the high tech tools popping up all over the place! So, if you are mobile – Get Communicating and Good Luck!