Often consultants bring a fantasy of co-located teams to their clients. This is a fantasy because companies have been using remote workforces for the entirety of my career, so thinking that will change is silly. In this particular article, I want to focus on one tiny aspect of a fairly standard setup—a single remote worker with a significant time difference.
Are They on the Team?
As it turns out, there is a bit of a trickiness in making this one remote person feel like they are part of the team. Often there is a bit of a paradox that is built-in as well.
How do we make them part of the team but not exhaust them or their hours if they’re a contractor (As they often are)?
I think it is natural to want the benefits of them being part of the team in terms of cohesion and some form of seamlessness in how work flows. How we exactly accomplish that is where we go next.
Talk To Everyone
Yep, there’s the simple answer. I’ve done this with multiple clients over the years, but most of the time, nobody made explicit how this arrangement is exactly going to work.
The remote person doesn’t know what they should and shouldn’t be a part of and feels isolated. The core group feels strange leaving them out but assumes this is what is preferred.
Both sides fumble around, not knowing how to work together.
So I have a conversation with each group independently. I find out what the desired working conditions are for each.
Now, almost always, the core group and leadership are comfortable with whatever keeps people effective without going over their hours if they’re a contractor.
The contractor is almost always comfortable with just getting some information about the significant decisions and having a voice.
Formalize the Agreement
It’s one thing to have a few conversations behind closed doors and reach a conclusion, but the final step is to make the agreement explicit with everyone.
Recently, for example, I did this with a client, and in a meeting with everyone, I told everyone what we decided.
There was a sigh of relief, and a few people were surprised that their assumptions were wrong about how the contractor wanted to be involved.
Formalizing the agreement doesn’t have to be more complex than just informing everyone as to the specifics—most of the time, that includes someone telling the remote person about the decision.
Better Teams No Matter Where
This is a tiny little article, but I’ve seen this configuration too many times to ignore. Also, great teams happen when everyone knows what everyone else is bringing to the table.
A few quick conversations might be all it takes to remove the fumbling around a single remote worker who only wanted to remain informed of key decisions.