An HR Expert Shares Nuggets from a Remote-Worker Goldmine

    Female employees who work from home tend to feel that there’s a perception at work that they’re not fully committed, and that they’re not team players. Their remote-working male counterparts don’t tend to fret about that.

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    Best Practices for Teleconferencing with Employees Working Remotely

    That’s one of the nuggets that came to light in my recent interview with Beth N. Carvin, CEO of retention management firm Nobscot Corp. and a specialist in boosting the engagement and productivity of remote employees. I shared Carvin’s insights on the effectiveness of mentorship in that regard in a post last week, and as I noted in that post, she was a goldmine of information about remote work-related issues. Here’s more of what came out of that mine:

    On Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s decision to end telecommuting at the company:

    I think the initial reaction all of us had was, “Oh, no! What is she doing? How dare she do this?” I think it was a fair initial reaction, but I also think you have to stop and step back. Here’s someone coming in to run an organization—I don’t know if you’d call it a turnaround situation or not, some people might—and you have to look at what’s happening in the organization and how things can be improved. Knowing how difficult it is to manage remote workers, and for remote workers to be successful, who are we to say whether this is a necessary step or not? I’m hoping she’s saying, “OK, this is something that we need to do now, and then we can talk about going back to it in a more organized way.”

    On the difference between men and women in their productivity when working remotely:

    Almost every other issue we talk about, there does seem to be a gender difference. We haven’t seen anything different in the feedback that we get from males vs. females, and we do look at that data separately. The only thing I can think of is I have heard from female workers—the ones who are coming from a big office environment and they’re starting to work remotely, perhaps for family reasons—they feel the perception is that they’re no longer committed to their jobs. They feel like they are looked upon differently, frowned upon, no longer part of the team, no longer ambitious, no longer a team player. You very, very rarely hear a man say that. They don’t feel there’s a perception that they’re no longer a part of the team by working remotely.

    On generational differences between employees who work remotely:

    I think baby boomers, when they choose to work remotely, for the most part it’s a fairly easy transition. I think each generation approaches it differently, but all successfully. Because what we see from the youngest generation is they take to working remotely for a very different reason. The baby boomers take to it because they tend to have more of a focused, disciplined, working mind. The younger generation takes to it because it’s sort of all they know—they’re used to being in communication 24/7, and the way they structure their lives is it doesn’t matter where they’re located. Office vs. home doesn’t mean anything to them, the way it does to us [baby boomers]. So they can survive in a remote working environment, but for very different reasons, and with very different life patterns.

    On whether introverts or extroverts tend to be more successful when working remotely:

    It depends upon their job. An extrovert is someone who derives energy from being around other people, whereas an introvert gets drained of energy being around other people. One would think, naturally, that an introvert would do better [working remotely], but it depends upon the nature of the job. A lot of salespeople are extroverts—if their job is communicating with people via the telephone, teleconferences or videoconferences, they will still derive that same energy and pleasure.  

    On the importance of repetition when communicating with remote employees:

    There was some research that was done by the military on managing remote workers, and one of the things that they found, that was very surprising, was that from a communication standpoint, it takes multiple communications on the same topic to get through and be understood by the employee. This creates huge problems, because nobody really knows this. You say something to a remote employee, and for some reason, it doesn’t quite get through. If you’re working in the office, here are all of these opportunities for [repetition] in multiple ways, even just while you’re chit-chatting at the water cooler, or at lunch, or walking through the hallway, or overhearing a telephone call. You’re hearing it multiple times, even if you don’t realize it. It’s kind of weird—why would someone not get it if you tell it to them? But I’ve experienced it, and it’s kind of bizarre, at first. So what the researchers suggested, and we’ve expanded upon it, is to communicate multiple times on the same topic, and convey the information by way of different media.

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