(Remote) Part of a Team

A reader writes…

Hi Anita,
I just accepted a position where I will be working remotely, yet the rest of my department works together in the same office…  miles away.  What can I do to integrate with my co-workers… and feel like I’m part of the team?

Dear, “Lone Ranger,”

Telecommuting is becoming widely accepted with businesses nationwide.  While working from home (or in a satellite office) may seem like a luxury…. for some people, it’s a challenge.

You are definitely at a disadvantage when it comes to teambuilding and interaction.  Many people thrive on the energy, activity, and even gossip that goes on in an office.  Others find this just plain distracting and are perfectly content being on their own – no commuting, no dress code, no in-person meetings.

The trick to feeling like you’re part of the team is communication.  Big surprise, right?

Your manager plays a critical part on how well and effectively you integrate with your co-workers.
At minimum, you should:

  • Have weekly department meetings where everyone gathers in the office, with you on speaker phone. Incorporate web meetings so everyone sees the same visuals, at the same pace.
  • You can even consider using available technology, such as web cams and Skype, to literally be seen in the meeting! Be sure to dress professionally (from the waist up, at least!)
  • You should also have regularly scheduled one-on-one meetings with your direct supervisor – over the phone (ideally, once a week).
  • Email communication is essential. Daily and weekly updates will help ensure projects are on track and on schedule.
  • Be prepared to join in-person meetings (frequency may vary depending on distance, travel, etc.) – putting a face with a name (and a voice) always helps.
  • Be a part of department birthday parties and/or gift exchanges.  Sure, the rest of your group may be eating cake in the boardroom… but you can indulge in something yummy wherever you are too!
  • Make a conscious effort to be available, offer help, and show support when situations come up that may require your input or expertise.
  • Actively contribute to group discussions or brainstorming sessions.  Since you are not physically in the room, you are more likely to be left out.  Be vocal… but not obnoxious. Here’s the kicker, sometimes you may feel like you’re interrupting the conversation, or that it can be tough to guess when you should start to talk with a room full of people already in discussion. Don’t let this discourage you or make you feel more like an outsider. Be polite, wait for a pause, and chime in! Your manager (or someone in the room) should serve as a moderator and individually ask each person if they have something to add.  That ensures that everyone is included and prevents people from talking over each other.
  • Pay close attention to the personal interests of your colleagues.  Anytime you can relate about kids, hobbies, or interests, you’re more likely to establish relationships – despite the distance.
  • Take ownership of a task or project and be a part of a “Show and Tell” session with your team.

Bottom line is this… The more you contribute to the success of the group, the more highly respected you will become.  You will be closely involved over the phone, via email, and in meetings to the point where your remote location will eventually seem obsolete!

Good Luck!

Hiring Process

A reader writes…

I know that staffing agencies offer “temp-to-hire” as an option for adding employees, but they also offer “Direct Placement.”As a hiring manager, is one way more advantageous (or cost effective) than the other?

Dear, “Hiring Manager,”

The beauty of staffing agencies, as you mention, is that they offer businesses a variety of options.  It’s this flexibility that attracts companies all over the country (and world) to the staffing industry.

In my opinion, either option is advantageous and cost effective.  In both scenarios, you are free from having to deal with advertising, resume mining, interviewing, etc.  The steps involved with hiring qualified candidates can be all-consuming and very costly.  You save yourself a bundle (in terms of time, resources, and expense) within the search process alone.

If you choose to go the temp-to-hire route, you will be billed an hourly service rate for the work completed each week (most services pay temps and bill companies on a weekly basis).  While “assigned” at your company, the individual is actually an employee of the agency.  This means the service will handle all of payroll and will cover all fees related to benefits, workers’ comp, taxes, and insurance.  Likewise, in a temp-to-hire situation, you get the opportunity to assess the candidate (while on the job) to see if he or she is, in fact, a good fit for full-time placement. If they don’t work out… no problem, the agency will find a replacement — typically at no extra charge.

There is one downside that you may want to consider regarding the temp-to-hire option.  If you’re looking to attract a stellar candidate (who is already employed, but has the precise skills and experience you need),  they may be hesitant to jump ship from the stability of their current, “permanent,” position and move into a “temp” role – even though the intent is for the job to evolve into something more permanent.  It feels risky and uncomfortable – and may deter certain top performers from even expressing interest.

The “Direct Placement” option, on the other hand, is fairly cut and dry.  You would basically be charged a one-time placement fee (industry standard is about 20%-25% of the candidate’s annual salary).  Oftentimes, this fee comes with a guarantee (which may vary between 30, 45, or even 60 days), whereby you would receive a refund if the person completely flakes out on the job within a set period of time.

As you can see, there are several variables and a lot to consider.  No matter how you look at it though, relying on a service to fill your positions definitely has its advantages!

To the job seekers reading… 
I realize this sounds a bit abrupt, but it’s good for you to know what goes on from the hiring perspective and is all the more reason you should be your best and take long-term placements seriously if you want to land that full-time career.  While working a temp-to-hire position, you’re being reviewed and evaluated.  More and more often, staffing agencies are the gateway to getting in with big firms!

Managers OR Job Seekers – Do you have any “temp-to-hire” or “direct placement” stories you’d like to share?  Post your comments!

Disclosure of a DUI

A reader writes…

Hi Anita,
When applying for a job, do I have to list the fact that I got a DUI (a long time ago)?


Dear, “DUI,”

This is a good, yet tricky, question, and answers will vary depending on the situation and location.

If an application specifically asks if you were ever convicted of a misdemeanor, the only correct answer is “yes.” Trying to hide this kind of stuff never goes over well in the end.  Many companies will run a background check on you before offering a full-time position – which will reveal any misdemeanors and/or felonies.   Be prepared to talk about your specific situation during the interview.

I suggest you lay all your cards on the table upfront.  Depending on the severity of the penalty (and the timeframe involved) you may be ok.  Stating one thing on an application, however… only to “let the cat out of the bag” in a background check, makes you look foolish and sneaky.

Many applications will ask, “Have you ever been convicted of a felony?” Whether your DUI is considered a ”felony” as opposed to a “misdemeanor” depends on many factors, including the number of offenses, the level of blood alcohol registered in the breath test, and if others were injured in an accident.

I suggest you consult a DUI attorney to assess your specific situation.

I did a little research and found that some states institute a felony classification if there are multiple DUI offenses.  In New York and Wyoming, for example, 2 DUI convictions within a 10-year period are considered a Class E felony.  Georgia and Texas also classify multiple DUI offenses as felonies, but only upon the fourth conviction. Classifications and penalties involved may vary by state, so again, you should check with a lawyer.

I hate to say it, but a DUI on your record is sort of like wearing a big “X” on your forehead.  You may have paid fines and taken classes to clean the slate… but this does not eliminate the fact that you’ve had a conviction.

I previously wrote an article called, “Finding jobs for ex-felons” that may be a good reference for some readers:  http://anitaclew.com/2010/12/16/finding-jobs-for-ex-felons/

My final words of advice to everyone out there….
Don’t drink and drive.


Dating your boss…

A reader writes…

I have a major crush on my supervisor, and it’s making work awkward. What are your thoughts about dating the boss?

Dear, “Smitten Kitten,”

So… you report to a looker, eh? Well one thing’s for sure…  I bet it makes going to work a giddy experience (not to mention the fact that you’re probably dressed to the nines each day!)

As much as a “crush” can seem innocent, or you may want to DATE this person, I highly advise against it.  Things can evolve into a big mess – from sexual harassment to office gossip… it’s just a big no-no.
While employed, you need to keep your relationship strictly professional.  No flirting or hanky-panky – it could seriously jeopardize your job and damage your reputation.  Get out there and find someone similar (away from the office) – but when it comes to your boss, consider him (or her) off limits!

Hey readers, has anyone been in a similar situation?  What did YOU do?

I’d also love to hear from the managers / supervisors out there – What’s your take on this situation?


Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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