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How do you address these remote dilemmas?

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Question: "I have a few dilemmas when working remotely. During a telephone meeting/conference call, how do you gauge the body language of the group when you're the only one dialing into the meeting from home?  (And how do you get your 2 cents in on the speakerphone without interrupting the flow of the group meeting in-person?) Do you copy your boss on every email—even if it's not info she needs, just so she knows what you are working on and/or that you are busy? And what's the best way for a remote worker to replace the informal bonding that happens ‘around the water cooler’?"  —M.B.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Michele Snyder March 29, 2012 at 4:33 pm

We’re using WebEx for remote meetings. Many of us have laptops with webcams. With this software you can connect anywhere, anytime in real-time and it also allow you to share your desktop. This allows everyone to see the same thing while you’re talking. All you need is either a wireless or audible connection. Even if you don’t have a webcam you can still use it. The training was quick and easy.

As far as copying your boss on every email to show that you’re moving a project along…I would discourage that. I would only cc: if you need an action item handled by your boss. They delegated the project to you, because they had confidence you could handle it and they don’t have the time to babysit it. This is a great opportunity to “Own It” and shows them what you’re made of.


Dewoun March 14, 2012 at 10:41 pm

Is there any particular reason why you would like to gauge the body language of attendees? Is it because you want to know if people are paying attention? If you are chairing the meeting, periodically, ask a question and ask for each person’s individual input.

I suggest copying your boss only when attention is required or a response is needed. Once or twice a week, I would schedule a time to meet with the boss in-person or via telephone to provide updates. You could also send a daily update email letting the boss know the progress.

Previous comments have suggested this already, if possible, arrange an in-office lunch with the staff to refresh the bonding experience.

Worklife Coach


Jesse March 1, 2012 at 4:29 pm

I’m with Marty – Use Skype. It works really well in situations like this and will make you feel so much more connected to your co-workers!!


LF February 24, 2012 at 7:47 am

I work remotely and do not feel a need to cc my VP on every detail. I think he be overloaded with emails! If you are goofing off I am sure it will show :) I have not always worked remotely for this company, and staff knew the ones who were goofing off and the ones who are working. I think engaging people either through the company IM or through phone calls will make you feel closer & visiting the office a few times a month (if that is feasible – it is not for me since I am in a totally different state) should put your concerns at ease.


Overjoy February 23, 2012 at 5:05 pm

We have tons of meetings that are conference calls and/or livemeeting all the time. Never really thought about the body language, ton of voice should indeed tell you just about anything you might be concerned about. Perhaps if you are feeling a bit disengaged and the meeting is a recurring type of meeting you could go to the office at least once per month. As far as getting your 2cents in why don’t you send the boss an email or call suggesting an open forun at the end of call or after each topic for input and explain your reasons. Are you having quilt feelings about working at home and people might think you are goofing off? You should be able to use your own judgement on whether or not the boss needs to be cc’d on emails. I don’t cc my boss on everything…and usually on things where I might need her input.


Mark February 23, 2012 at 4:51 pm

Can you arrange a two-way camera connection? That way you can see at least one person in the office, and they can see you.

It is indeed tough to know when to speak up when on speakerphone. One way is to simply speak up when you have the question, right then and there. Another is to simply have a pad of paper handy, and write down all questions/comments, and save them for the end.

I would check with the supervisor to see if he or she would want to be CC’d on all those e-mails. Here, for example, one supervisor wants to know EVERYTHING that her people do, but another would take that very same action as being a tremendous waste of his time and would be mad that it was being done. You need to see what your specific supervisor wants, and act accordingly.

Informal bonding is also a tough one. Not knowing your specific situation, could you arrange periodic get-togethers for lunch, dinner, a movie, bowling, Starbucks, etc? Just some hang-out bonding time.


LINDA February 23, 2012 at 4:20 pm

I have to agree – try to be at the office at least once a week. When there are meetings scheduled that might be a good time to make that office visit. I have been at several telephone conferences and one of the things the person in charge usually has done is ask if there is anything those on the phone part have to add. Are you the only one calling in for these meetings? Again when the meetings are held would be a good time for that office visit.


Marty February 22, 2012 at 4:01 pm

Is it possible that you could Skype these meetings or possibility have a video conference? Also, arrange to come to the office once a week for lunch with the group. It’s not the every day water cooler, but it is an opportunity to be with your co-workers. As far as the boss seeing your work, your productivity should speak for itself.


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