Start now by adapting your work processes to prepare your company that your colleague can do the work regardless of his/her presence in the workplace. Such tasks or part of them can also potentially be replaced by automation (which is also not in office, but cloud) in the future.
The future is now
The future of collaboration lies in the flexibility, commitment and confidence that my colleagues contribute to the company without the need for a supervisor to hang over and / or to be under his (physical) supervision.
Companies that are now transforming their processes to promote collaboration on remote first jobs no longer create a competitive advantage, but a prerequisite to be able to gain the necessary workforce and talent. The next steps in this transformation are adopting the principles of result oriented working environment (ROWE) and create space for deep work and asynchronous communication.
Digital technologies allow us not to limit talents to the surroundings of work hubs (usually larger cities with dense traffic). We do not need to restrict colleagues who work as information workers by moving their asses to the office. The information worker is not a robot. He does not need to be physically present (not necessarily every day) in the workplace (production line).
Developing skills and principles of teleworking is a good investment for companies. If the company is unable to ensure a sufficient supply of tasks/assigments, it will use the worker's capacity partially. With greater flexibility, workers can be contributors to multiple employers and customers. Respectively, the lower expectations of work engagement are interesting for specific groups (part-time work - for mothers at maternity leave).
This cannot work
Opponents of online communication will point their attention to benefits of non-verbal communication. Yes, it is true that on the imaginary scale f2f> skype> phone> chat> project tool> mail, we will get to understand each other sooner/better in the first way (f2f). However, this could be farther from the truth as it seems.
Being able to articulate what I have in my head is not as easy as it seems. Being empathetic on the one hand and being comprehensible in both conversation and writing is something few are born with.
When we write, we can’t complement our words with facial expressions, gestures, and tone of voice as we do when expressing ourselves verbally. That is why we must make those words express our thoughts clearly. We need to expand on our points until they are clear, easy to understand, and the subject is thoroughly explained.
Building better writing habits is a necessary way for people who need to think about solutions and bring alternative solution proposals. In any case, a good writing is characterised by its clarity for the target audience. It does not contain a lot of smog in the style of erm, hmmm, and cannot apply non-verbal elements which are often not understood as expected anyway.
Written communication create a quality digital footprint that is not a problem to maintain (back-trace, analyse) as opposed to a telephone agreement between two project team members (none of whom have been able to inform the rest of the team of this information).
As a contributor, I have to understand the broader context. Without recurring where we are currently heading one often loses course. It is emotionally challenging to protect yourself from information smog that attacks from every angle. It is also hard to imagine that your busy boss would remind you regularly on f2f basis. Therefore it is a good idea for the course to be expressed in writing (and regularly updated and distributed). In the form of roadmaps, values and project objectives.
Habits and discipline
Working remotely requires habit transformation. For example common conversation triggers that work in the workplace (visiting a colleague 2 tables away, hanging in the kitchen) are not applicable when working remotely.
It is not the subject of this post to point you to specific tools and methodologies right know. My primary goal is to raise the question: How you can rethink yours workflows so that they can be partially or fully transformed into teleworking. Not if.
Feel free to contact me.