We’ve all been in conference calls where distractions abound – the remote co-worker who failed to mute his phone and is broadcasting an argument about homework to the entire team, or the team member who has disengaged completely and is checking email because the people in the meeting room have forgotten she’s on the phone.
These situations are examples of presence disparity, defined by Steelcase as “the struggle to effectively collaborate with long-distance colleagues”. As more and more companies hire remote workers, the ability to partner with co-workers around the world is a serious concern, affecting not only employee satisfaction, but also productivity, attraction and retention.
Companies are increasingly hiring remote workers as a means of increasing their talent pool, but all too often they fail to give distributed teams the tools they need to leverage and foster that talent to meet business objectives. ~ May Chang
According to the authors of two recent articles about working with distributed teams, there are tools available to ease the pain of presence disparity. In a WorkSpace Today article, May Chang advocates for the use of video collaboration technology, allowing all employees access to video conference meetings via their device of choice.
Donna Flynn, Director, Steelcase Workspace Future, and author of the article Managing a Team Across 5 Time Zones, goes even further with five global practices that her team uses to minimize presence disparity:
- 24/7 Meetings: Vary the timing of meetings so that no one team member is dealing with constant evening or early morning meetings; everyone has to adjust their schedule on a regular rotation.
- Meet Regularly: Consistent meetings keep the team connected.
- Utilize Collaboration Technology: Video conferencing is great, but use as many tools as you need to keep your team on the same page.
- Don’t Forget Your Teammates: It can be easy to talk mainly to the people in the room with you; remember to keep remote team members in the conversation.
- Meet Face-to-Face: Getting your entire team together once or twice a year can be vital to keeping a team truly integrated.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to minimizing presence disparity and maximizing the value of your team. Hiring remote workers can bring new perspectives and ideas to your company; make sure to leverage those team members and keep them engaged by finding the best tools to suit your unique needs.