Why intimacy is a big deal when managing remote team workers and what to do about it.
Intimacy doesn’t seem like a very professional word does it? It is, however, a crucial idea when we are managing remote team workers.
The Google dictionary suggests its definition is a ‘close familiarity or friendship’. Euphemistically we would refer to two physically joined people as sharing intimacy. So it has to do with how close we are.
Intimately connected or a million metaphorical miles apart.
That is (of course) part of the problem when we are managing geographically dispersed team members, they are quite literally miles away from us and that can translate into a slow but persistent possibility of disconnecting. We may not think this matters too much, but it does. It matters loads, because the reduction of professional intimacy has a direct correlation with the reduction of trust, and when trust starts to break down in a remote workforce, you really start the problems.
Note this too, it’s not just the intimacy between manager and staff, it’s also the intimacy between peers and co-workers. So the remote team manager needs to ‘up their game’ and proactively develop the relationships as part of the day job. Here’s some ideas about what you need to do.
1. Get people together physically, just for the sake of getting people together physically.
We need to plan in reasons to have physical meetings and when we do there is a new and vital item to be added onto the agenda. That is ‘catch up time’. Whatever tech we are using (and we should use lots), there is still no substitute to spending face to face time together. Working together for sure, but also ‘catching up’ together.
Make sure you schedule down time from the business for people to develop deeper and more meaningful relationships. This is even more important when on boarding new remote team workers. It makes all the difference, really.
2. Work at creating an online community.
In addition to the physical catch ups, ensure you have some kind of online community tool, and work at making it an active environment.
Most Organisations have team chat facilities now, but if not, simply grab WhatsApp or something similar. Set up a group and encourage the whole team to be active on it. Think about how you can create interaction; like adding a ‘good morning team here’s what I’m doing today’ post, and asking what others are doing. Have some fun in there, run a few team competitions or post some pictures of the weekends antics. It all helps to add personality and ultimately intimacy between everyone.
3. Go and visit them.
Own the adage ‘go along to get along’. Make regular time in your schedule to go and work with each of your remote team members. They will really appreciate this, the interest, the care, the effort. They will value this and see you as a highly beneficial boss. Be careful though. What ever you do, don’t make this an “I’m checking up on you” visit. Instead make it a support trip. You are there to serve them, to help them, to support them, to tune into their issues in the field. So get out and about as part of your normal duties and it will pay dividend.
Build a trusting remote environment.
Work at these three things to help build a trusting environment. Enable your teams engagement with each other and be proactive in creating significant, positive interaction between you and all the community members.
If you are a remote team manager, it’s going to be harder than managing an office environment, so step up and own the role. Do everything you can to enhance the intimacy in your team.