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Strong opinions, weakly held

Social skills matter for remote workers too

Everybody is talking about the New York Times op-ed, Why Some Teams Are Smarter Than Others, because everybody wants to talk about the fact that it says research shows that teams with more women perform better. My anecdotal experience aligns with the research, but I want to talk about another point that the article makes. Here’s a snippet:

Online and off, some teams consistently worked smarter than others. More surprisingly, the most important ingredients for a smart team remained constant regardless of its mode of interaction: members who communicated a lot, participated equally and possessed good emotion-reading skills.

I think that the biggest mistake people make when hiring remote workers is in thinking that remote workers don’t need to be as social as people who work in the same office. The research seems to confirm what I already thought, which is that people working remotely need to be even more communicative than people in the office. In the office, there’s really no place to hide, even people who don’t communicate that much are still in the physical presence of their colleagues. If you’re remote, it’s much easier to disappear, so it is more important to find remote workers who strongly prefer to be present in whatever medium the team uses to communicate.

1 Comment

  1. people working remotely need to be even more communicative than people in the office

    Definitely! I’ve described as a need to over-communicate, to do well in a distributed company.

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