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Valentines Day and Telework Week are Both Made Up--But They Matter

I have a low tolerance for made-up holidays. Valentines day, of course, is the best example and is safely behind us for another year and the florists and greeting card makers are already gearing up for next February's mushfest. Boss's Day is another and don't even get me started on Sweetest Day, whatever that is. Now, just because something is pretty much manufactured and fake, doesn't mean there isn't value in it.

After all, Valentines Day makes even the most self-absorbed of us stop for a moment and give conscious thought to the person who shares our life, and that's not a bad thing. Which brings us to Telework Week.
Telework Week is a completely manufactured occasion as well. Cisco, the driving force behind tools like WebEx and Telepresence has more than a slight interest in getting people to think about teleworking, telecommuting and bridging workplace divides. But just as Valentines Day gets me to pull my head out of my work long enough to give my bride some attention, this could be the chance you and your company need to stop and actually think about how you're working, what works and what could be going better.

Here are 4 questions to ask yourself this week:

  • Is our telework and remote working policy actually a policy? This isn't as crazy as it sounds. A lot of teams didn't set out to have remote members, it just kind of happened. A real policy has written procedures and some consistency throughout the organization. What is actually documented and measured in your organization?
  • What tools do we have at our disposal? Are they working? Why not? From time to time it's important to stop and take inventory of what your team is using and how effective it is. Do you have tools that could help communication but no one's using them? Is that enterprise-wide solution IT rolled out so proudly actually helping people get the work done?If not, what are you going to do about it? One team I worked with recently found that instituting something as simple as Instant Messaging made a huge difference (the battle with IT seems to have been worth it).
  • What training and resources are available to leaders? The Telework Week site has a whole list of resources. There are also free sites like the Telework Association in the UK and the American Telecommuting Association. While not all remote teams qualify as telework, the resources on these sites can help. There is also plenty of training and information available on the web. Organizations should be thinking about how to help their leaders be consistent throughout the organization. If that doesn't work, leaders need to take charge of their own professional development.
  • Is your organization sharing best practices between divisions? What's going on with your IT projects that people in Finance should know about? Is the HR team (which never has any budget for travel) making use of webmeetings in ways that Sales can benefit from? (Probably, convincing the VP of Sales is another story.) Too many teams, divisions and companies are inventing their telework and remote teams practices as they go. Save money and effort by documenting what works and create opportunities for everyone to benefit. If someone is the first to use a tool, have them report out to the rest of the organization on what works.
Like Valentines Day, Telework Week can be viewed as a cynical attempt to cash in--or a valuable chance to examine the relationships that matter.And let's face it, webcams are a whole lot cheaper than roses... have you seen what they went for this year?

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