Mixed ways of working – how will you cope?
Collaboration is about to get even more complex. For the foreseeable future many of us will be managing teams that incorporate very different working styles. Some individuals will be working from home for the medium to long term (Either full or part time), others who can’t work from home will be working in a socially distanced work environment. Some parts of the world may be under intermittent lockdown’s add others will return to normality more quickly. Some individuals may develop enduring immunity (though the science is not clear on this yet) and become impatient with any restrictions.
If you are running a team that spans this type of diversity, then a one size fits all approach will not work.
Let’s take a simple example of a team meeting. How are you going to run it? Will some people meet face to face, if two metres apart? Will others join remotely?
We have been running remote and virtual teams training for over 25 years and worked with over 150,000 participants about these kinds of issues. Our advice would be, if you have any remote participants it’s probably better that everyone joins individually through your online meeting tool. If you don’t then the people joining remotely tend to feel isolated and contribute less.
Some teams may have staggered working days to ensure that offices don’t become too crowded. This may mean you need to pay more attention to managing the handover of work from one individual to another. This is common in teams that work across time zones and also in shift working.
In both cases managers learn to pay tight attention to those critical handover periods where communication and alignment become even more important.
You may also find that there are some tensions between the different groups. In some of our clients where critical staff have needed to continue to work even during the lockdown there has been some resentment from those people who feel they are taking all of the risks , towards the people they perceive us being comfortable at home.
If this dynamic exists within your team, how will you manage it? I guess we will all want to recognise the contribution of those who stayed in positions of more risk, we will also want to acknowledge the challenges that those who have been more isolated have faced. It’s going to be a delicate balancing act.
This more fragmented and mixed way of working will cause several challenges. How will we equalise communication and opportunities for involvement of the different team members? How will we induct new people and get them to know their colleagues? How will we maintain inclusiveness and a sense of community and team spirit over time?
It will be interesting to see how individual managers and teams innovate to deal with this. We are building some of these topics into our remote and virtual teams training. You can see an interactive graphic of our suggested learning path for these skills and contents of our training modules here.
How do you plan to adapt? As line managers we should be starting conversations about this right now if we haven’t already.
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