Today, we have a guest post from Gihan Perera. A consultant, speaker and author, Gihan helps thought leaders and business professionals leverage their expertise. He’s based in Perth, Australia, but considers himself a true digital nomad who carries his office in his backpack. He’s worked from homes, offices and cafés in Prague, Florence, Auckland, Vancouver and Australia.
He co-authored the book Out of Office: Using the Internet for Greater Freedom in Your Work Life, and he’s written many others as well. Forbes magazine rated him the #5 social media influencer in book publishing.
Read more at www.GihanPerera.com.
As workshifters, we’re used to working independently (and highly productively), but we do sometimes have to collaborate with others – colleagues, industry peers or ad hoc project teammates. This is one area where in-person communication can be an advantage – where you can walk over to somebody’s desk, convene a quick meeting in a conference room or share a conversation around the coffee machine. This is not so easy for workshifters, especially if you’re the lone telecommuter on the team. However, there are things you can do to collaborate better.
1. Tell your team where you are.
Being out of sight and out of mind can be a benefit when you’re trying to get some work done, but it can be a drawback for collaboration. So make it easy for people to find you when they want to involve you in a discussion. You can do this in a variety of ways – for example, by sharing your calendar, agreeing to be available during certain fixed hours and days, checking messages regularly, forwarding phone and email when traveling and so on.
2. Look for opportunities to meet.
Don’t wait for other people to invite you to meetings and discussions. Take the opportunity to plan, invite and host them yourself. Of course, you shouldn’t create meetings just for the sake of it. But many workshifters become too comfortable working alone, and it’s a good idea to step out occasionally and be the person who calls the meeting, not just one of many who turn up.
3. Choose immediate (rather than deferred) channels.
Blogs, discussion groups, wikis and even email are deferred communication tools – because people don’t have to be there at the same time to collaborate. They are efficient, and you might like them because you can participate in your own time. But they don’t reflect the dynamics of immediate “in time” tools, such as teleconferences, video conferences, chat rooms and in-person meetings.
4. Choose the right collaboration medium.
If you have control of the tools you’ll be using, choose the right medium for the tone of the discussion. Video conferences can be more informal than teleconferences, webinars are better for presentations and text chatting works best for, well, chatting.
It goes without saying that you should participate and contribute. However, it’s worth making a special effort, because workshifters are often forgotten because they aren’t physically present. Make your presence known by the quality of your contributions.
6. Allow more time in meetings.
As a workshifter, you might be used to scheduling non-work activities around your work – for example, collecting children from school or meeting a friend for coffee. Keep in mind, though, that your non-workshifting colleagues usually don’t have such a tight schedule and don’t mind if meetings run over time. So allow extra time in meetings, especially important meetings.
7. Go outside your work team.
Finally, practice! Join a committee, collaborate on LinkedIn, start a Meetup group, whatever. Choose a mix of online and offline groups. Collaborating with new people sharpens your communication skills, and doing it in person reminds you how your non-workshifting colleagues work.