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What Makes a Great Remote Teammate?

what makes you a great team member

What Makes a Great Remote Teammate?

Three tips to being an effective team member while still wearing your PJs.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve done an in-depth exploration of how to communicate more effectively. Maybe you’ve acknowledged your future brain, hidden your phone, started managing your calendar more effectively. You’re nailing the in-person meetings, but what happens if the people you’re communicating with are in a remote location? Today’s businesses are wrestling with the impact of employees working remotely. The results are in: remote working improves productivity and efficiency, and improves worker morale. But the magic to effective teleworking can be elusive, how do team members stay connected to each other when everyone is someplace else?

Communicate. Have you ever been in a traditional work setting, and noticed that one your of your teammates was quiet and withdrawn? You might simply observe them for a while, seeking more information about what might be an issue. If their behavior persists, you might approach them and simply ask if something is wrong. Are they ill? Did something happen? We assume from the context of their body language that something is wrong. We apply the same assumptions to our remote teammates, and in the absence of body language, silence is definitely NOT golden. Providing some appropriate level of detail about status, availability, current workload, and related topics are how your team knows your mood. Every team communicates these nuanced data points differently, so if you’re new to the team, you’d be well-served to watch the team’s behavior closely to see how they share status.

Mission and Goals. Effective businesses have both a mission and a plan to achieve it, and effective businesses take great pains to ensure that every employee knows the mission and understands their role in the plan. Remote employees aren’t going to get the daily opportunities for the reinforcement of the mission by coming to the office, so it’s more important than ever that they know and understand precisely what they are working for, and how they fit into the Grand Plan of the company. All employees can benefit from asking this question of new tasks: “How does this advance our mission and goals?” Having a clear and concise answer is the ‘gravitational pull’ that helps to ensure remote employees stay plugged into their teams and don’t drift off to other activities.

Established feedback channels. Every boss tells their employees that ‘my door is always open’ should you need help with something. When there is no door, the team must set up its own ‘official’ channels in which to seek direct help or feedback. This can take the form of advice on your work, a weekly team call, or a quarterly meet-up for drinks in person. You might consider all three! Again, culture is key: some teams willingly come together while others may never convene in person. Whatever your organizational culture, always look for the established channels. If you’re not getting the feedback you need to be successful at your work, consider proposing some new method to your team. It might be exactly what your teammates have been waiting for!      

Working remotely brings a host of opportunities as well as pitfalls, and context is key. If your new job has remote working as an option, make sure that your onboarding includes a detailed explanation of how your team communicates, a clear articulation of mission and goals, and a clear outline of your feedback channels. A peer mentor is a great way to quickly learn the ropes on teleworking. Check with your HR Dept to see if there’s a mentoring program available to you, and take your team’s impact and productivity to the next level.   

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Mark Brodbeck, MSW
mark.brodbeck@ementorconnect.com

Director of Marketing at eMentorConnect. Passionate about people intent on elevating others, and other examples of enlightened self-interest. Frank Sinatra said it best: 'It's one world, pal. We're all neighbors.'