Conquer 3 Pitfalls of Remote Working with a Little Help from PowerPoint
Despite the recent u-turn on home-working by big names like Yahoo and HP, tele-commuting is becoming more popular than ever. It is estimated that by 2016, there will be 3.9 million people working remotely on a regular basis in the US, according to independent researcher Global Workplace Analytics.
In fact, big companies like Dell (which has a goal of getting half of its 14,000 strong workforce in Round Rock, TX, working from home by 2020) are embracing the trend like never before. And for good reason: Dell estimates that last year its remote working policies saved the company $14 million and the environment, 6,735 metric tons of CO2. Those are some impressive results—great for their media profile and bottom line.
Suffice to say, if you aren’t dealing with it already, remote working is coming to (or rather not coming to) an office near you—and soon. And with it, you can expect challenges.
According to the Harvard Business Review (HBR), there are three big pitfalls to look out for when it comes to remote working:
- Team size. Smaller is better when it comes to virtual teams. HBR cites four or five as ideal. “Communication challenges grow exponentially as a virtual team grows. Inevitably, someone (or a subgroup) feels left out of the loop. Few things erode trust faster than being left out of important communication.”
- Team composition. Getting this right is key says HBR. “Leaders of virtual teams must work harder to develop trust and rapport among team members who lack the frequent informal exchanges and visual and body language cues of co-located teams—vital feedback mechanisms that help keep team members’ efforts aligned.”
- Communication skills. Top-notch communication skills are the last important ingredient in the virtual working pie: “[Leaders] have to express themselves well and update project documents quickly and consistently. Distance and time lags are an inevitable downside of working remotely. Virtual employees need to be hyper-vigilant about communicating with everyone else on the team. There’s no room for personality conflicts or information hoarding.”
So, communication, communication, communication. It should be no surprise that as distance increases, so does the need for effective, efficient communication. Filling the void left by losing the personal and visual feedback provided by in-person work groups can be difficult. Getting this right is absolutely essential to solving most problems associated with remote working. And this is where PowerPoint comes in.
- Clear messages. By combining good visuals with key data and written explanations, PowerPoint allows users to fully explain complex ideas in an easy-to-follow linear narrative. This also allows team members to focus on the important information and keeps everyone on track with the agenda.
- Targeted contributions. PowerPoint is a great tool for consolidating input. By using the REVIEW function, users can add personalized comments, which keeps things specific, focused and in context. The latest iterations of PowerPoint even allow simultaneous authoring of documents.
- Easy dissemination. Webinars, made easy through the use of PowerPoint, are a great way to get your messages out. Once delivered, a link to your webinar can be posted on your intranet, website or social media channel. You can also convert your PowerPoint presentation into a video and upload it on its own to any of these channels (see eSlide blog for more on this). Either of these approaches makes it easy for team members to access information when it’s convenient for them, even if they can’t attend the actual work session.
The same features that make PowerPoint the world’s leading business presentation tool make it a great asset in strengthening communications among virtual teams. And some of the new collaborative-friendly features can help remote teams feel less remote. With clear information, full collaboration and easy access for everyone—remote working can work.