Since much of my current team works remotely, we’ve become quite expert at remote work issues and techniques. One thing that our team does is to have off-site personnel come on-site for routine visits. Those people who are relatively close to the project site come more often than those who are further away. I am the furthest team member in distance and I visit the project half as often as the people who are closer; however, my visits are twice as long. All visits are coordinated so that all team members are on-site together during as many visits, as possible. What I mean is that, when I visit, the team doesn’t have me make my regular visit at just any point in time, but we have those visits scheduled to happen at the same time as the visits of the people who are closer and who come more often. Those who are closer to the project site don’t just “drop in” when they feel like it. Instead, the visits are coordinated so that they visit at the same time. I should add that off-site team members are all flying-into the project so having them visit without prior planning would be expensive.
By scheduling these visits in this manner, we can plan those activities that are best done in-person to happen during these visits. Additionally, this requires checking the schedule of the on-site team members. If too many people will be on vacation or team members critical to specific meetings will be too busy to meet, then the visit cannot meet its goals, either.
Another outcome of this type of planning is that a good portion of the team, both on-site and off-site, seem to look forward to these visits. Partly, it has to do with the fact that there are certain issues easier to handle in-person, and team members look forward to getting some of these items off their “to do” list. Partly, the team members see it as an event and look forward to getting back in-touch with each other. Off-site team members don’t have such a heavy travel schedule that they dread the visits, so the visit is an occasion rather than a burden. As many teams would desire, this helps us “bond” better with each other and to stay bonded, as well. In fact, I’m not the only person on this project who has commented on the fact that our team appears to have an exceptionally strong bond.
We also try to schedule a fun outing at each visit. This usually ends up being supper together at a local restaurant – not something elaborate – but just a way to get out of the office and enjoy each other’s company. I should add that this is a European project. I mention this fact since I think that Europeans are more willing to do this than their counterparts in the US. From my own experience as an American who has primarily worked on American projects, I don’t remember any of my customers attempting to do this. Also, from my own efforts in the US to get team members to go out, even just those who are from out-of-town, my success has been quite mixed in this effort.