Picture this: You’re onsite with your team and the stakeholder, while some of your team are presenting a briefing remotely via Skype. Unbeknownst to the remote team giving the presentation, the stakeholder puts them on mute and politely tells the group assembled around the conference table what they didn’t like about the remote team's presentation. When the remote team finishes presenting, the stakeholder gives them a sugarcoated version of areas for improvement.
In today’s work environment, there are many ways for people to collaborate and meet virtually. According to a study conducted by IWG, 70% of global professionals work remotely at least once a week, with 53% working remotely for at least half the week. Organizations often have entire teams working remotely, and then collaborating or presenting to the rest of the team on conference calls or onsite via applications like Skype.
This increase in remote workers, driven by the digital change in every industry, has its benefits. Employees who may not have been able to participate because of geographic boundaries now can, expanding the talent pool and collaboration. In addition to its production effects, it can be cost-saving, reducing operating costs. Global workplace analytics reports that a typical business could save an average of $11,000 a year if they allowed their employees to telecommute half of the time.
As helpful as remote workers are, and as necessary as they are given the current digital landscape, people are still people: they are more likely to provide honest thoughts and opinions to the people sitting beside them face-to-face. If you aren’t in front of someone, you miss out on facial expressions, especially explicit expressions. You also might be missing key insights if that info is given at the behest of someone who has muting capabilities.
Remember: don’t assume you hear everything if you are remote. Ask questions, and make time to be in front of your stakeholder periodically. Maybe build a sense of trust with your stakeholders that you want to hear their thoughts: preface your presentation by saying, “I wish we could be face to face… I want to hear everything you have to say about what we are presenting,” etc.
Furthermore, if you are the stakeholder, try to be transparent with your remote vendor. Expressing critique to those next to you, but not directly to the remote team, may satisfy your immediate urge to communicate but it doesn’t get the job done. Over time, you may forget that you never really were direct with that vendor, and hence, they are not offered the opportunity to correct or accommodate your perspective.
Working remotely is an essential element in today’s workplace, and we all should respect the power and avoid the downfalls of the mute button.