Yahoo may have banned remote workers, but Yahoo has yet to prove itself when it comes to trendsetting work culture. In fact, remote workers (also known as telecommuters, contract employees, freelancers, and new agents) are growing in numbers, steadily embraced by entrepreneurship that favors low overhead and high expectations. Skilled ready-to-go remote workers offer just that. Of course, as anyone knows, remote workers require a higher level of accountability and self-management skills. Yet, a recent Inc. article featuring a study by a group of professors at the University of Calgary questioned whether one type of worker is better adept at handling remote positions over others. The article showed studies favoring neurotic yet engaged employees for remote positions, believing them to be naturally suited for such roles. However, what the study and relevant articles on the subject failed to mention was the one skill set that is imperative for a remote agent to have. Connectivity.
The art of creating and strengthening connections is vastly overlooked when we’re studying this new agent economy made up of a remote workforce. Remote workers who don’t have the privilege of interacting with clients and colleagues are encouraged to create opportunities to meet with them during and after their business day. Make it a point to dine with one each week. These are valuable opportunities to mingle, build rapport, and stay at the forefront of people’s minds. If you’re mixing with clients, you gain insight into your product or service, hone your sales/marketing pitches, and increase the likelihood of retaining these clients. On the other hand, meeting with colleagues affords the invaluable chance to collaborate, share insight, and maintain critical socials skills.
Social skills are fast fading trait for internet types who have become reliant on interactions limited to pixels on a screen. To make the case, when you share ideas over a drink or a meal, not only are you reminding yourself what it means to be human and go out and meet people, but you’re also facilitating conversation that creates momentum for action. To quote a Harvard Business Review blog post titled “How Virtual Teams Can Create Human Connections Despite Distance,” “Humans are intensely social beings. They need to feel connected.”
Connecting might be easier said than done, especially for shy types. Understanding this, Illan Mochari offers a simple connectivity 101 article on Inc., titled “6 Habits of Great Connectors”. The article offers sound yet simple advice including ways to get interested in what people have to say and how to stimulate a conversation. Still, your connectivity problem might start 3 steps before that at getting face to face with people.
A LA-based real estate agent I know has near perfected the art of getting face time. Understanding that it’s difficult to always schedule out meetings ahead of time, she’ll run a Facebook blast an hour or two before heading home for the day. The blast lets people know what area she’s in and asks whether anyone wants to get together for dinner. She’ll do this at least once or twice a week, a brilliant move that facilitates natural meetings. The agent will also take a proactive step for more festive nights out, letting people know she’s booked a table or a lounge at a local spot and then inviting people to drop by. There are two points to take away from her practice: (1) she’s established herself as a reliable and punctual person, so people know she’ll be where she says she is; (2) she has made a habit of open invites so much so that people now half expect them as a last minute opportunity to meet and greet in a friendly atmosphere.
Even if you didn’t sign up for a leadership position, as a remote worker you’re appointed as a leader by default. To excel in your work, you can’t simply do a job; you have to be a leader in some capacity.
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