Calling all remote teams! If you’re a company or a freelancer working with a client company, listen up: This one’s for both of you.
It takes a talented team working smoothly together to build great products. Good communication is where it starts and ends, and it’s a two-way street. Yet one big hurdle to smooth communication is a failure to understand the other side’s perspective.
What if clients and freelancers could step into the shoes of the other, just for a minute? We think it would open a huge window of understanding, resulting in stronger working relationships, happier teams, and better products. So, let’s try it.
Here are 4 common remote work scenarios along with the perspectives of clients and freelancers. Imagine you’re on the other side – and see if it gives you a new way of looking at things.
1. Cameras: Can they be turned off during meetings?
Freelancer: There are a lot of reasons I may not feel like turning my camera on. Maybe I don’t look great today, or my background is kind of a mess, or I’m on the road. Maybe I’m eating lunch – who wants to see me chewing? Being in a lot of meetings with my camera on is also tiring. I’m not trying to avoid connecting with everyone. And isn’t that part of why we work remotely, so we can work in ways that suit us best? As long as I’m actively contributing to the meeting, I don’t think it matters if you can see me or not.
Company: Remote work is great, but we still want to keep at least some of the in-office vibe we used to have.Seeing faces is important for that. You just feel like you understand people better when you see their facial expressions as well as hear them. It builds trust and helps us feel like everybody, including freelancers, are more connected to our company. We're trying to build a good relationship and having cameras on would really help us feel more like a team.
2. Project Management: How much visibility over tasks and time is enough?
Freelancer: I’m an experienced pro and committed to doing great work for clients. For that, I need well-defined project requirements, agreement on task deadlines and collaboration tools, and regular check-ins. How and when I get tasks done, however, is my responsibility, and I need to have control over it without being constantly asked what I’m doing and how long it’s taking. After all, that’s one important reason I work as a freelancer and not an employee – I want to be able to set my own working hours and organize my life my way. I’m reliable and know how to ask proactively for help when I need it. Please give me good communication and trust, not micromanagement.
Company: Balancing workloads and using resources the most efficient way are high priority. Otherwise, we won’t be able to produce a great product on time and stay within budget. It may sound simple, but it takes constant management. With a remote team, it’s harder to know how team members are doing and to make sure nobody has too much or too little work to do. That’s why we need to have visibility over daily or weekly tasks and see where the hours are spent. We know we have a strong team, and freelancers are an important part of it, but it doesn’t seem like too much to ask to have an overview of everyone’s work in addition to regular check-ins. We just want this project to run smoothly.
3. Team Building: Is it ok to promote remote team spirit?
Freelancer: I’m happy to be integrated into the workflow and form good working relationships with everyone at the client companies I work with. Just remember that I’m a business partner, though, not an employee. I like meeting smart people and learning from them. It’s one thing that attracted me to being an independent worker. Working remotely can be lonely, too, so I may be ok with online social interaction. But it should not be a requirement or an expectation. As a freelancer, I’m here to do a specific job to support this project. In that sense, I’m part of a team. I’ll be friendly and communicate well. Please just don’t try to make me part of the company “family.” I think it’s possible to build trusting work relationships without trying to feel forced to be part of the company when I’m really not.
Company: When we have a great freelancer whose contributions are integral to the project, it feels natural to treat them like one of the team. Productivity can really take off when team members like each other and want to work together. Promoting a sense of team spirit with everyone, employees and freelancers alike, makes communication much better. Sure, we know that independent workers have a different status with the company, and that they are usually only short-term. But why wouldn’t we want to try to make them feel part of the team if we know it benefits the project?
4. Team Meetings: What’s really necessary?
Freelancer: It’s important for the project team to align on work progress, and I'll do my best to be available for these meetings. As a remote, independent worker, however, it’s easiest when meetings are scheduled in advance and at regular set days / times. Planned meetings really help me manage my time. I may have other freelance commitments and may be working non-traditional hours, too. (Freelancing gives me flexibility to work when I’m most productive, and maybe that’s in the middle of the night!) Remember that I’m available to answer questions and give updates asynchronously, via our project and communication platforms. Using those channels can perhaps eliminate some real-time meetings. I think we can all agree that the less unnecessary meetings there are the better, right?
Company: Regular check-in meetings are a priority for us. We try to keep them to a minimum, but it depends. The more complex the project, the more we need to check in to make sure everyone is working on the right things at the right time. That may mean spontaneous meetings now and then. We want to use our collaboration tools as much as possible to keep us all aligned – sometimes, though, a meeting is the fastest way to keep us all on the same page and talk through next steps.
Do you see yourself in any of these scenarios? We hope looking at the other side’s perspective gives you some insights into why they might be approaching work collaboration differently. That understanding in itself can help every member of a team communicate better.