Remote-ivation: 5 Tips for Team Building with Mobile Workers

Out of sight, out of mind? A lack of face time shouldn't make mobile workers feel disconnected or isolated.

Buffy Naylor, Senior Managing Editor

July 11, 2018

4 Min Read
Global Connectivity

Mobility has changed the way U.S. companies are doing business. The telecommuting population has grown by 140 percent since 2005, nearly 10 times faster than the rest of the workforce or the self-employed, according to statistics. The IDC predicts that there will be 105.4 million mobile workers in the U.S. in 2020 — 72.3 percent of the total U.S. workforce.

Telecommuting offers a number of advantages to both employers and employees. For employers, there are cost efficiencies, increased employee production, reduced turnover and access to a wider pool of talent from which to recruit. Mobile workers enjoy flexibility, the elimination of time-consuming commutes, a better work-life balance and lack of interruptions.

As the ranks of mobile workers have grown, so has the variety of managed mobility solutions available to companies to help control costs, keep security measures in place and up to date, and monitor employee activity. Collaboration tools such as Skype, Google Calendar, SharePoint, Yammer, Asana, Mind Meister, Red Pen, Go Visually and Spoke enable remote workers to produce quality work via email, telephone and teleconference or videoconference.

But collaboration can accomplish only so much when there is no real common ground, no sense of community or culture.

“Teamwork makes the dream work,” goes the overused quote from John C. Maxwell. Most people aren’t aware that the last part of that quote is “…but a vision becomes a nightmare when the leader has a big dream and a bad team.” And this underscores a unique challenge of mobility — team building despite physical distance. It may be more complicated to foster a sense of unity among people who don’t regularly interact with each other on a face-to-face basis, but it certainly isn’t impossible.

“In order to build good team communications, people need to know, like and trust each other, and sometimes we need to create these opportunities,” said Wayne Turmel, co-founder of the Remote Leadership Institute. Here are five ways that can be done.

1. Hold Regular Remote Group Meetings

Whether conducted as a conference call or videoconference, regular group meetings are a way for mobile workers to touch base with status updates, both professional and personal. A few moments of “chit-chat” before the conversation turns strictly business helps mobile workers relate to one another as individuals and not just co-workers. Updates should be two-way as well: Maintaining complete transparency and keeping mobile employees up-to-date on company news is important in making them feel a part of the company culture.

2. Recognize Accomplishments

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 64 percent of working Americans leave their jobs because they don’t feel appreciated. In a Gallup survey, 70 percent of working Americans said they receive no …

… praise or recognition on the job.

Acknowledgement of a job well done is important to all employees and especially so to mobile workers who can feel isolated or disconnected from the corporate culture. A number of apps, including Tap My Back and Kudos, are available that can provide peer-to-peer recognition. Not as high-tech but equally effective are emails and announcements.

Recognition doesn’t always have to be business-related, either. Achievements outside the office such as competitions won, degrees or certifications earned and other goals attained should be noted as well.

3. Host Online Team-Building Activities

A familiar exercise in traditional office settings, team-building activities have been adapted for use with mobile workers as well. Companies such as TeamBonding (which reports that 65 percent of remote workers say they have never had a team-building session) and Global Team Building have built game platforms, or you can build your own. In the game “Two Truths and a Lie,” for example, everyone on the team writes down two statements about themselves that are true and one that is false, but believable. These statements are then submitted to one person who reads the statements so that the team can guess who they’re about, as well as which statement is false. Trivia contests and group participation in online board games through sites such as Board Game Arena are popular as well.

4. Ice Breakers

Make up for the lack of interactions that take place during coffee breaks and water cooler conversations with group ice breakers. They can be as simple as using a group email to pose a question for everyone to answer, such as “What was the first concert you ever went to?” or “What is the farthest you’ve ever been from home?” Or have everyone submit a photo to create a “Whose baby picture is that?” or “Whose shoes are those?” guessing game.

5. Meet Face-to-Face

Of course, the best way to build a team is to have the team actually get together. “You really should try to get together if and when you can — at least once a year,” said Turmel. “While there are ways to overcome distance, nothing builds relationships like sitting down together, sharing a laugh, sharing a meal.”

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About the Author(s)

Buffy Naylor

Senior Managing Editor, Channel Futures

Buffy Naylor is senior managing editor of Channel Futures. Prior to joining Informa (then VIRGO) in 2008, she was an award-winning copywriter and editor, then senior manager of corporate communications for an international leisure travel corporation and, before that, in charge of creative development and copywriting for a boutique marketing and public relations agency.

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