Slovenia is a small country and we can drive practically anywhere within the country whenever we need to meet in person. Despite the geographical closeness, we notice a trend toward working remotely. This makes sense, since driving on a daily basis to meet with project teams in different places can become tiresome and superfluous.
Nowadays we have many tools at our disposal, many of which are freely available, that we can use to communicate remotely without having to be physically present at the same location. We can use technology to talk to our teammates via videoconferencing, we can chat via various messaging tools, we store our deliverables in common repositories and share our documents by storing them in the cloud.
There are many reasons for working remotely, for example:
- Cooperating partners. Many IT companies in Slovenia fall into the small and medium business segment. When implementing large projects, several companies that are not necessarily located in the same city may choose to cooperate. It is not uncommon for project teams to videoconference between Ljubljana, Maribor, Koper or Nova Gorica and meet in person only occasionally.
- Working globally. Due to all the technologies available to aid communication, working globally is becoming more acceptable than ever. Perhaps we need a specialist for a specific technology and we can’t find a suitable candidate locally? We can hire someone from one of the many freelance work sharing sites. Do we want to implement a large project at a low cost? We can hire implementation teams from Eastern Europe or Asia, where the rates are lower as compared to local rates. Do we want to become a freelancer and move to a tropical island? Why not, one of my former colleagues did just that.
- Working from home. Some years ago, open office plans were very popular because such arrangements were supposed to foster better communication among team members. However, research has shown that open plan offices are not best suited for work that requires quiet and concentration. Working from home can be more effective due to fewer distractions. An increasing number of companies in Slovenia allow working from home occasionally, so that employees don’t have to commute every day and they can do their job in a distraction-free environment. Many global companies allow working from also because it saves them from having to maintain office space.
Ensuring effective communication
We know that project communication is crucial to ensure that all stakeholders exchange the same information and that everyone involved understands who is doing what and how everyone is contributing to the common goals of the project.
When all project team members are co-located, there is more spontaneous communication, for example during coffee breaks or lunchtime, and this allows problems to be solved in passing. However, when team members are geographically dispersed, there is less opportunity for unstructured communication which can result in small issues becoming big problems that have to be solved at a higher level. When working remotely we have to schedule more planned communication, allow for opportunities for team members to exchange feedback and focus more on proactive risk management.
Working in a global environment can introduce additional challenges, for example team members who are located in different time zones. We have to carefully plan meetings, to allow all team members to participate during their normal working hours as much as possible. Many companies actually prefer to work with partners within similar time zones, for example companies in Europe may prefer partners in Eastern Europe and companies in USA may prefer partners in South America.
Working from home on a long-term basis can become lonely and it is not unheard of that the employer and team members forget the team member who is working remotely. In such situations, both the employee and the project manager must be more rigorous in planning their time and ensuring that the remote team member is fully utilized.
Regardless of the reason why we choose to work remotely, it is highly recommended that team members occasionally meet in person. This allows everyone to see their team members as individual human beings, even if future communication is by technology only.