Virtual Teams

How will I do my virtual calls and emails when I’m in the office?

In one of our hybrid working workshops this week, one of the participants raised a great question. His organisation was encouraging him when in the office to focus on collaborative work, cocreation and informal communication – the things many of us missed during the enforced lockdowns and indeed good uses of our face-to-face time.

His question though was “what am I going to do about all the emails and virtual meeting requests I get on the days when I’m in the office?” His concern was that if he came into the office two days a week, he would have 40% less time to process these things.

He also felt that, as different teams were on different patterns, it wasn’t realistic to declare certain meeting free days. that could work within your team, but for meetings that cut across organisational boundaries it will be difficult.

In the same vein, those people not in the office on the days he is, will still be sending out emails and virtual meeting requests.

If he declines virtual meeting requests, or delays answering emails for 40% of the time, this will have an impact on others he collaborates with. Most of our participants now work on multiple teams so coordinating all of this is going to be difficult.

On the other hand, if we have individuals commuting into the office to sit down alone and answer emails and attend virtual meetings that they could better have done from home, this will be a waste of our face-to-face time.

This is just one example of the innumerable questions we will need to answer about hybrid working. We will need to develop norms at scale across the organisation to deal with these questions. We will need to continuously learn and share best practise as we evolve this new way of working.

We suspect that this neat separation of intensive collaboration in the office and individual work and focus when at home will be impossible to achieve. We also suspect that fully virtual meetings will continue to be the solution to many collaboration needs. it is going to be difficult if not impossible to get everyone in the same room at the same time on a regular basis.

People working in the office will have to keep on top of their emails and attend some virtual meetings. If you are in the office two or three days a week you won’t spend the whole time socialising, building culture and being creative.

We think these things will be resolved through intensive communication and teams and organisations working this through in detail. We are already running hybrid working workshops to accelerate this process.

What are your team or organisation norms in this area?

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