Good communication cuts both ways

E-mail and voicemail unreturned, cancelled meetings unannounced, projects not updated, even off-site social events unmentioned – all can result from a communication breakdown.

Often, it’s not the teleworker’s fault, but that of the in-house co-worker who can forget remote workers are on the job – if they’re not around.

Whose responsibility is it to keep the lines open? Long considered a roadblock in the telework arrangement, traditional thinking held that teleworkers had to facilitate and simplify communications with their nonteleworking peers in the corporate office. But is it up to the teleworker to ensure the lines of communication are always open?

It cuts both ways, but the onus is on the teleworker to keep info flowing, says Doug Lockwood, a former telework program manager with Ericsson in Richardson, Tex. “It takes some handholding. As a teleworker, you really have to work at it.”

Recommended practices for the teleworker have included: posting a weekly calendar outlining telework days, hours of availability; making home office, cell phone and pager numbers available to all team members; and changing voicemail messages to reflect daily working location and contact information. Teleworkers are advised to stay in touch, make themselves reachable and otherwise stay on their peers’ radar – lest they be perceived as slacking off and shirking responsibilities.

But in-house workers need to hone their communications skills in order to work well with remote workers. If they leave a voicemail, or their e-mail or IM to a colleague across the floor isn’t responded to quickly, they can pop over for a quick chat. On-site collaboration is a wonderful thing – unless you’re off-site.

So from all those teleworkers out there to all those in-house employees in there, here’s the memo: