A Telecommuter's Guide to Staying Connected
It's becoming more common to work with people you're not with physically on a day-to-day basis.
But if you work from home or travel most of the time, you can still feel part of your company. The secret is balancing the human-level connection with technology.
"The human aspect is very important in feeling connected. You must find ways to create the feeling of human contact when you don't have day-to-day contact," says Barbara Glanz, author of "Handle With Care -- Motivating and Retaining Employees."
The following ideas can help you make and maintain the human-level connection.
Keep pictures of people from the office around you so you're connected visually to co-workers. When on the phone, you can make a human-level connection by looking at the person's picture.
Use the phone when a big event occurs, such as you make a big sale or a special client drops by to visit. People can sense your excitement when they hear your voice.
Have regular conference calls with three or four co-workers at the beginning or end of each day.
Even with the latest technology, workers still need to get together face to face to share their triumphs and challenges. Many companies try to include telecommuters in at least four company meetings or events a year.
Structuring your workday
"One of the hazards of working at home is the temptation to work all the time," warns Ms. Glanz. "To avoid this syndrome, plan your work schedule and keep a time sheet. Get out for a few minutes every day. Walk around the block so you see there's a world out there."
Virtual private networks
Many companies are turning to virtual private networks, using company-issued in-home computers connected to broadband Internet services as a safe and reliable way to keep their people connected.
"Some companies are even providing their employees with Web-enabled wireless phones and portable e-mail devices, so the workers can be accessible and productive when away from their homes or remote offices," says Jeff Zbar, author of "Teleworking and Telecommuting: Strategies for Remote Workers and Their Managers."
Web conferencing has become the way to meet with people several times a week as if you work with them in an office. You can see Power Point, use a white board, interact, speak on the Web and chat in text.
With instant messaging, you can connect instantly with others in your department who happen to be online.
"It's easy to pull a group together for an impromptu group chat session," says Mr. Zhar.
Using a telephone conference bridge line, you can communicate with just a few people or more than a hundred.
Keys to success
"To be a successful telecommuter, you must have both the technology to communicate with your company, and the human-level connection that helps you bond with other employees," Mr. Zbar says. "This combination will create the continued enthusiasm and focus for a successful telecommute."