I work on a team where I'm the only person who is remote. How can I feel like I'm part of the team?
Geographically dispersed teams are more and more common; however, when you are the only person that is separated from the rest of your team, there is a big risk of feeling left out. This is one of the most challenging types of distributed teams and, as the sole "remote" person, you will need to work harder to feel connected to the rest of the group.
First, you must work to establish relationships with your other team members. Since you don't have the advantage of the same type of face-to-face time that the others are enjoying, you will need to make extra efforts to connect on a more personal level. If the team is using any internal tools for collaboration, take advantage of using them fully. Add photos of yourself. Consider connecting with your teammates via Facebook or other social networks. Call your teammates and share a little about yourself, your interests and hobbies. In this way you can start to form friendships that go beyond business relationships. Try to travel as often as makes sense so that you can spend some face-to-face time with your team.
You can also establish trust by being available, responsive and reliable. Go the extra mile to communicate often. Because you don't have the ability to talk face-to-face like the others, spend more time communicating in other ways – via IM, email or on the phone. Let your personality shine through so that your teammates will get to know you.
Finally, if there are still issues that are leaving you at a disadvantage, speak with your management and team about these issues and ask for their help in resolving them. If you are on conference calls and there is a lot of chatter that you can't understand, ask the group to repeat for you. Speak up on the conference calls as often as you can to help remind the group of your presence. Find a mentor or team member who can help you overcome challenges from not being present – for example, someone who can be IM'ing during the meeting to let you know what might be going on in the room that you can't see.
Though being the sole remote team member is a challenge, if you make the effort, it is one that can be overcome.
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