Manage Team Presence & Availability

January 7, 2015

by Kyra Cavanaugh, Life Meets Work

Trust and communication are really at the heart of a successful remote working relationship. And when you have good trust and communication, the need to "take attendance" diminishes in favor of a quality work product that demonstrates employees are truly present. That said, transparency is always a good thing.

Here are some ways that teams are addressing this issue:

1. Presence Management Tool

Instant messaging shows a team member's status, so you can see if they're actively working at their computer. But sometimes people just need reminding to use the tool. "Once our teams members got in the habit, they found they really liked it," said one manager. For maximum awareness, team members who are busy should indicate what they're doing (i.e. in a meeting, taking a break, lunch) or when they expect to be back.

2. Shared Calendars

Shared calendars go beyond setting up group meetings—they facilitate collaboration too. If you need input on a project, but you don't know where a certain team member is, calendar access can tell you if he's working, if he might be accessible by cell phone, or when he'll be back.

3. Telework Tags

Encourage employees to hang a Telework Tag on their workspace. The tag includes a place to write in where you're working and how you can be reached. "It eliminates the 'Is she not here or is she just in a meeting?' guesswork," says one manager. "Plus, it's a visual reminder that you're still working when you're out of the office." The same idea is helpful when employees are on vacation or working a non-standard schedule.

4. Photo Reminders

If you have full-time teleworkers on your team, it doesn't hurt to post photos of them in a high visibility area. It's a regular reminder to home office employees that their workgroup is more than the people they see in the hallway every day. One company goes so far as to attach photos of teleworking employees to conference room chairs during group meetings, so everyone has a visual cue as to who's on the phone.

5. Stand Up Meetings

High intensity teams do a daily, virtual all-hands call. These "stand up" meetings are a short and efficient way to discuss priorities for the day and talk about deadlines that might be at risk (and employees really do stand during the meetings). If held at the beginning of the day, and everyone checks in, team members feel a sense of security that everyone is working and deadlines will get met.

6. Flash Reports

A flash report is a status update email that you send at the end of the day or week. It's a quick overview of what you accomplished, the obstacles that kept you from finishing your work, and your next priorities. This tool helps others jump into help remove obstacles and anticipate each other's work flow.

7. Employee Profile

Employee profile tools come built in to social enterprise networks like Yammer, but you can do something as simple as posting a PowerPoint deck on your shared drive to get the same impact. One company's profile sheet includes a list of characteristics such as "when I'm most productive, what I do in my free time, how I liked to be recognized, favorite snack," etc. Profiles can help you understand each other's work styles and anticipate when productivity is highest. Plus, they provide one centralized place to find employee contact information (work, cell, home phone, Skype, IM) so virtual employees can be reached quickly and easily.

The key to being present on a team is in part "real time," using technology, to help you see when team members are available. But presence management is also about taking it upon yourself to understand people's work patterns, so you can start to anticipate how and when people work best.

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