How to Keep Your Field and Office Teams Organized and Productive?

Mobile Man / Thursday, March 17, 2016

For many years, organizations have struggled to manage the challenges associated with geographically dispersed teams. How can your company stay focused and united when teams around the country or even across the world rarely work face to face?

There have been a whole range of solutions and technologies intended to overcome this challenge. In the past, geographically spread organizations depended on the post, fax, newsletters and telephone calls.

Things have gotten a whole lot easier since the widespread adoption of the Internet however, and this has resulted in a growth in teleworking in the US:

Fig 1. Total U.S. Teleworkers

Source: Global Workplace Analytics 2015

This is good news for teleworkers and your business. Recent research shows teleworkers are not only more productive, but they’re more likely to work even when they’re sick. However, telework usually involves employees working in their homes, but what about field workers?

Field workers are, by definition, away from their desks and, typically, dependable on an Internet connection. If you’ve ever worked in a team where field workers and office workers are in different locations, you’ll appreciate this can lead to quite a lot of misunderstandings, conflict and even distrust.

Why the head office/field work dynamic is so tricky

There are a number of challenges you need to bear in mind when working in a team with colleagues in a central office managing or working in conjunction with those in the field:

  • Resentment: field workers may feel they are doing ‘real work’, while the ‘paper pushers’ in head office order them around
  • Distrust: the two teams work in very different ways and as a consequence misunderstand how the other works
  • Misunderstandings: field workers and office workers are rarely in the same place at the same time, and this means they ‘cross wires’, misunderstanding what the other team is doing and what is expected of them and what the vision for a piece of work is
  • Lack of communications: field workers by definition, often don’t have instant access to email, or even telephone connections. As a result the two teams can struggle to stay up to date

The head office to field work dynamic can be really tough. However, there is a number of things you can do to alleviate these issues and make the relationship flourish.

1. Promote a team identity

Researchers at Stanford have shown how teams who feel that they are working to solve a problem together – rather than simply doing their own separate tasks – are much more motivated. So, how can this be achieved when you’re not in the same room – or even the same country?

Above all, your colleagues need to be kept in touch. When they can’t be in the same physical place as one another, providing access to enterprise social tools like Yammer or Office 365 Groups means individuals feel they’re part of a group working towards a larger goal. Giving field workers access to such software is therefore key.

2. An Intranet

Intranets might not be the sexiest tools in the world, but they’re still amazingly powerful. Providing common access to a SharePoint library for both teams via a mobile phone or tablet app means they can stay up to date with changes to documents and avoid misunderstandings.

3. Conference calls and webcams

With teams working far apart from one another, it can be hard to build a sense of trust and common purpose. While it’s tempting to simply email colleagues in the field, this will only lead to long, frustrating email threads.

If you arm fieldworkers with mobile devices that allow them to carry out video calls with colleagues, this simple face to face contact can create far more trust and facilitate understanding – and achieve far more than a long email chain.

4. A team charter

Management website Mind Tools recommends creating a team charter, so disparate teams have a common purpose. A team charter allows everyone to agree to a set of tasks, roles and responsibilities, and ensures everyone is ‘on the same page’ as to how they should behave and the goals they need to achieve.

5. Facilitate work anytime, anywhere

By its nature, field work does sometimes mean employees are without an Internet connection. This should not hinder their ability to be productive however. Ensuring they can sync files to their devices and work on these when they need is crucial. Whether it’s blueprints, a sales document or architectural plans, field workers need to be able to edit documents on the go and share these with office-bound colleagues once Internet connection is restored.

The mobile workforce

With field and office workers often struggling to ‘stay on the same page’, it’s crucial that you facilitate this using best practices and technology.

SharePlus allows field workers to connect to your company’s SharePoint and Office 365 environments, communicate with colleagues and collaborate on documents from multiple file sources on premise or in the Cloud while on the go. Even when there is no Internet connection, field workers can edit documents before syncing their changes to SharePoint later on.

To find out more about how SharePlus could configure to your field workers and their needs, contact us today – we’d love to hear from you.