For consulting companies, it is likely that many or all of their clients are remote. Today, businesses in every industry that can are exploring options for remote employment. Though communication can feel different without everyone being face-to-face, this challenge can be overcome and be an asset.
One of the key characteristics of a great a great colleague and leader, no matter your title, is empathy. If you’re feeling disconnected from the team, it’s possible your colleagues and clients are feeling the same. Worse, they may be feel the people sharing a physical space are on the same page while they themselves are on the outside looking in. This is especially alarming for consulting companies when a squad of co-workers in the same room calls a single client stakeholder.
Fortunately, using modern tools wisely can help remote teams groups feel more connected and ensure everyone is included, connected, and invested. Below are a few practices to try.
- Everyone joins calls remotely. Even if you’re in the same space, joining from your own webcam levels the playing field. It also avoids the client feeling like they’re looking at a roomful of people they’re not invited in.
- Whenever possible, turn on webcams. For all recurring meetings, everyone should be on their webcam. Even for quick calls, use your webcam to improve nonverbal communication.
- Don’t trigger alarms. When you have a question of one person, ask that person. If you’re not sure whom to ask, start with the project manager . Otherwise, you may send multiple people to try to solve the same problem.
- Empower the client to use the same tools you use internally for asynchronous communication. Setting these channels can help ease communication. If not practical, use phone calls and webcam meetings.
- Share content with screen shares, digital whiteboard, diagramming tools, and file sharing. Do not rely solely on language-based communication.
- Be mindful of your tone via messaging. And be mindful of other’s tone as well. Silly things like emojis and “lol” are not acceptable for formal documents, but not every conversation needs to be formal, and more casual formats can help express your intent. (Webcams are even better.)
- Remember the Peter Drucker quip, "a meeting with two people is a conversation." Don’t be afraid to call. Even for a quick conversation, use tools to chat and screen share.
- Start meetings early and reserve time for casual, unstructured conversations both with and without the client. Take the time to learn about your coworkers and the client as individuals.
- Whenever possible, visit. This is especially important at the start of a project. While on-site, set-aside time for unstructured conversations as well.
- Use an app to track your hours during the day (this is helpful to everyone). It will give you peace of mind that you've put your hours in and remind you to take a break.
- Whenever you're done with your work day, close your work computer.
- If possible, setup a dedicate home office. Otherwise, change the lighting and other environmental factors to adjust the mood.
- Keep a well-maintained to do list so you know where to start each day.
- Set boundaries with your friends and family: work hours are for work. You need to be focused at those times. Likewise, be there for them when work is done.
- Maintain a routine. Be it breakfast, exercise, or anything that you can do every morning at the same time. Avoid the temptation to stay in sweatpants all day.