Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 21, Issue 6;   February 10, 2021:

Remote Hires: Communications


When knowledge-oriented organizations hire remote workers, success is limited by the communications facilities they provide. Remote hires need phones, computers, email, text, video, calendars, and more. Communications infrastructure drives productivity.
Working remotely, in this case, from home

Working remotely, in this case, from home

For some time to come, the Coronavirus pandemic will continue compelling organizations to hire people remotely. For many, every stage of the hiring process happens through Zoom, MS Teams, Webex, or any of the alternatives. And when candidates become employees, instead of checking in at the Human Resources office on the morning of Day One, the virtual format continues. Remote hires probably won't see the inside of the building the organization occupies, or meet anyone face-to-face. Not on Day One. Maybe not even before Day 100. It's all virtual, and all will be virtual for months yet.

This situation can create a severe hindrance for knowledge-oriented organizations — organizations that produce products or services that have much knowledge content or which require mostly knowledge work. Collaborations of knowledge workers require effective communication between individuals and groups. When collaborators cannot interact face-to-face, the effectiveness of the communication infrastructure limits productivity. And those limits are perhaps most clearly revealed when a remote hire joins the team.

The Worldwide Web provides a wealth of advice for new hires and the people who hire them. Not so much for new remote hires. To help fill the gap, I offer this first installment of a little collection of suggestions for remote hires and their supervisors.

Communications issues Communications issues are the issues
most likely to cause problems on Day
One or the days immediately following
the addition of a remote hire
are the issues most likely to cause problems on Day One or the days immediately following the addition of a remote hire. For that reason, I begin this collection with a focus on communications. Two perspectives — remote hire and supervisor — provide a framework for generating suggestions. You'll notice by comparing the two sets of suggestions below that both remote hire and supervisor must address some of the same issues. And because of the inherent differences in their roles, they have different sets of options for dealing with the issues that can arise.

The first section below is addressed to remote hires; the second to their supervisors.

Communications guidelines for remote hires

Unlike the analogous face-to-face situation for nonremote hires, communication technology is essential for remote hires. Except for special situations, as a remote hire, every contact you make, from your first day until work-from-home (WFH) ends, will be through text, email, telephone, videoconference, messaging apps, or digital collaboration environments. It's essential that you have access to whatever technologies are required to facilitate communications. Here are four tips for doing that.

Don't wait until Day One
You won't be able to do much in a modern organization unless you have your devices all working right. Find someone, anyone, to ask about a phone, a computer, software, and any accounts you'll need. In some organizations, setting up equipment and accounts takes time. Take the initiative. Ask about these matters right after your acceptance of the job offer has been acknowledged and accepted.
Get your device(s) working
The critical elements right away are anything related to access and communications on all relevant devices. A checklist is below. Some of these items might not apply to you in your situation, and you might have some that don't appear.
  • Make and receive telephone calls
  • Send and receive email and text
  • Read and write files on all relevant file servers
  • Attend and host video conferences
  • Read and write documents for all relevant applications
  • Contribute to and initiate conversations in all digital collaboration environments
  • Enter an event in your calendar
  • View the calendars of anyone whose calendar you need to view
Have a separate phone number for work
Avoid publishing any of your personal phone numbers. The pandemic will end someday, WFH will end, and work-from-office will resume. At that point you'll be happy that people no longer call your personal phone. If the organization doesn't provide you with a cell phone or softphone, they'll assign an internal phone to you. Learn how to forward that phone to your personal phone for the duration of WFH.
If your employer doesn't provide you with a landline or cell phone or soft phone, a wise alternative is securing a cell phone yourself, just for work. If you don't want to carry two phones around, forward your personal phone to the work phone (or vice versa). When you move on to another position, either with your current employer or another, you can easily change that number.
Learn your employer's phone system
Learn how to pick up voicemail, how to send voicemail, how to conference, and how to toggle "do not disturb." Most important: find the organizational phone directory.

Communications guidelines for supervisors of remote hires

Communications arrangements are especially important for remote hires. Finding your way as a remote hire is different from finding your way as an in-person hire. Remote hires can't ask for help from their office neighbors or from anyone they see passing by, because they don't have office neighbors and they don't actually see anyone passing by.

As the supervisor of a new remote hire, the fundamental goal is to integrate him or her into the organization. Unless the job of the remote hire involves managing or redesigning the onboarding process, it's counterproductive to compel remote hires to figure out for themselves how to get what they need to begin work. Ensuring that remote hires have what they need to begin work rapidly and easily is the supervisor's responsibility.

Here are suggestions for providing communications infrastructure to remote hires. In what follows, I'll use the name Rhett for the remote hire.

Prepare an equipment package
Remote hires at any level need phones, computers, accounts, and software. And often, these things take time to arrange. At least two weeks in advance, ask the cognizant administrative assistant to requisition the appropriate equipment, software, and accounts, and arrange for it all to be configured appropriately. In Hour One of Day One, the items in question should be in working order. Any equipment Rhett needs should have been delivered to his address by then.
If the organization is in temporary work-from-home (WFH) status because of the Coronavirus pandemic, and if Rhett wouldn't ordinarily qualify for a cellphone or softphone, provide one on a temporary basis for the duration of WFH. If this isn't possible, then Rhett will need to use his personal phone, which would require him to reveal to co-workers his personal phone number. In some instances, privacy issues can arise, and worse, this use of Rhett's personal phone can lead to charges on Rhett's personal phone bill. And if people call Rhett on his personal phone after hours, or abuse their access to him for any reason, trouble looms. Best to make arrangements that avoid revealing Rhett's personal phone number.
Provide a document that contains all needed information
The most important information is anything related to getting help with communications: help-related URLs, email addresses, phone numbers, and names of people who can resolve any communications issues.
Be sure to inform in advance anyone whose contact information appears in the information document. Tell these people about Rhett, and request that they help resolve with high priority any issues that arise.
Arrange a light schedule for Day One
Don't expect to pack Rhett's first day with back-to-back meetings. Leave time for resolving any unexpected hitches that might develop. Maybe keep Day Two light as well.
And since you're Rhett's supervisor, you're responsible for a smooth transition. If any issues arise, you might need to help resolve them, or connect Rhett with someone who can. For Rhett's first day or two, keep some time free to deal with whatever comes. Make your own schedule a little lighter than usual.

Last words

For remote hires: If you notice something about the process of "onboarding" that could have been improved, make notes, but don't offer your observations unless specifically invited to do so. Save the information for a time when you're more familiar with the organization and when its people know you better.

For supervisors: Work with other supervisors to exchange information about whatever procedures they've developed for welcoming new remote hires. There is little benefit in re-inventing something that works, or repeating something that doesn't.

For remote hires at the top of the organization: you probably know what to do — rely on staff and assistants. Because they might not be aware of the special communication challenges of remote organizational leaders, devote a conversation to the topic and develop a plan that addresses the risks you can anticipate.  Next in this series Go to top Top  Next issue: Remote Hires: Inquiry  Next Issue

Leading Virtual Meetings for Real ResultsAre your virtual meetings plagued by inattentiveness, interruptions, absenteeism, and a seemingly endless need to repeat what somebody just said? Do you have trouble finding a time when everyone can meet? Do people seem disengaged and apathetic? Or do you have violent clashes and a plague of virtual bullying? Read Leading Virtual Meetings for Real Results to learn how to make virtual meetings much more productive and less stressful — and a lot shorter. Order Now!

Your comments are welcome

Would you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenEMudcCzvnDHFfOEmner@ChacTcmtXTCJBjZfSFjIoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.

About Point Lookout

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.

Point Lookout is a free weekly email newsletter. Browse the archive of past issues. Subscribe for free.

Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.

Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.

Related articles

More articles on Virtual and Global Teams:

The Marx brothers: Chico, Harpo, Groucho and ZeppoTINOs: Teams in Name Only
Perhaps the most significant difference between face-to-face teams and virtual or distributed teams is their potential to develop from workgroups into true teams — an area in which virtual or distributed teams are at a decided disadvantage. Often, virtual and distributed teams are teams in name only.
A virtual team as a networkVirtual Brainstorming: II
When virtual teams must brainstorm, they try to do so virtually. But brainstorming isn't just another meeting. There's a real risk that virtual brainstorms might produce inadequate results. Here's Part II of some suggestions for reducing the risk.
The "Good Work" team of Damon, Csíkszentmihályi, and GardnerCosts of the Catch-Me-Up Anti-Pattern: II
When we interrupt a meeting to recap the action so far for a late-arriving attendee, the cost of the recap itself is just the beginning. There are some less-obvious costs that can be even greater.
Airliner coach seatingVirtual Teams Need Generous Travel Budgets
Although virtual team members who happen to be co-located do meet from time to time, meetings of people who reside at different sites are often severely restricted by tight or nonexistent travel budgets. Such restrictions, intended to save money, can contribute to expensive delays and errors.
Agricultural silosDisjoint Awareness: Assessment
When collaborators misunderstand each other's work and intentions, they're at risk of inadvertently interfering with each other. Three causes of misunderstandings are complexity, specialization, and rapid change.

See also Virtual and Global Teams and Effective Communication at Work for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

Margay cat (Leopardus wiedii)Coming July 6: Fake Requests for Help
When a colleague asks for assistance, we can feel validated, even flattered. But not all requests for help are what they seem. The more devious amongst us can be endlessly creative in employing requests for help to achieve devious ends. Available here and by RSS on July 6.
A micrometer capable of measuring to |plusmn .01 mmAnd on July 13: What Do We Actually Know?
Precision in both writing and speech can be critical in determining the success of collaborations in the modern workplace. Precision is especially important when we distinguish between what we surmise or assume and what we actually know. Available here and by RSS on July 13.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenEMudcCzvnDHFfOEmner@ChacTcmtXTCJBjZfSFjIoCanyon.com or (650) 787-6475, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.

Get the ebook!

Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:

Reprinting this article

Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500-1000 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info

Public seminars

The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power

Many The Power Affect: How We Express Personal Powerpeople who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.

Bullet Points: Mastery or Madness?

DecisBullet Point Madnession makers in modern organizations commonly demand briefings in the form of bullet points or a series of series of bullet points. But this form of presentation has limited value for complex decisions. We need something more. We actually need to think. Briefers who combine the bullet-point format with a variety of persuasion techniques can mislead decision makers, guiding them into making poor decisions. Read more about this program.

Follow Rick

Send email or subscribe to one of my newsletters Follow me at LinkedIn Follow me at Twitter, or share a tweet Subscribe to RSS feeds Subscribe to RSS feeds
The message of Point Lookout is unique. Help get the message out. Please donate to help keep Point Lookout available for free to everyone.
Technical Debt for Policymakers BlogMy blog, Technical Debt for Policymakers, offers resources, insights, and conversations of interest to policymakers who are concerned with managing technical debt within their organizations. Get the millstone of technical debt off the neck of your organization!
Go For It: Sometimes It's Easier If You RunBad boss, long commute, troubling ethical questions, hateful colleague? Learn what we can do when we love the work but not the job.
303 Tips for Virtual and Global TeamsLearn how to make your virtual global team sing.
101 Tips for Managing ChangeAre you managing a change effort that faces rampant cynicism, passive non-cooperation, or maybe even outright revolt?
101 Tips for Effective MeetingsLearn how to make meetings more productive — and more rare.
Exchange your "personal trade secrets" — the tips, tricks and techniques that make you an ace — with other aces, anonymously. Visit the Library of Personal Trade Secrets.
If your teams don't yet consistently achieve state-of-the-art teamwork, check out this catalog. Help is just a few clicks/taps away!
Ebooks, booklets and tip books on project management, conflict, writing email, effective meetings and more.