Virtual Teams

What work should you prefer to do remotely and what’s best done in the office?

As we start to consider the return to work (as if it’s not work when we are doing it from home) we are likely to have an extended period of mixed working where we spend part of the time at the office and part of the time working from home. This is likely to become a permanent part of the working pattern for larger groups of people in the future.

It’s worth thinking about which kind of work is best done at home, and which we should reserve for the time we are in the office.

One useful concept is that of synchronous and asynchronous working. Asynchronous working means we don’t need to be in the same time or the same place as our colleagues, we can send information to someone, they can deal with it at a time convenient to them and send it on to the next stage or back to us. This type of work is normally performed individually and is usually even more productive when delivered from home because we can manage our own work preferences and priorities

Synchronous working requires us to be available at the same time, if not in the same place. This typically requires some form of live collaboration, a face to face meeting, conference call or online meeting.

Whilst we’ve all now experienced that you can conduct many of these meetings perfectly well remotely, there are some types of collective working that do really benefit from being face-to-face, if that option is available.

Things like dealing with conflict, personal development, important negotiations, deep collaboration, cocreation and relationship building might be the best use of any limited face to face time we have available.

Other forms of traditional meetings content such as information giving where there is little or no role for the participants except to listen can easily be done through other technologies and do not require collective meetings.

We’ve also seen from the spirit of the lockdown period the incredible importance of a sense of community to the functioning of remote teams. In a typical office day, we spent a lot of time catching up on the news and gossip, cementing relationships and just bouncing ideas off each other.

It will be important to maintain “goofing about time” in the office as this has real value to the development and maintenance of relationships and subsequent effective remote working. If you are only in the office one day per week don’t miss the opportunity to reconnect in your drive to be productive. As we often say in our remote management training – “community before activity”.

However you choose to prioritize, we should be treating face-to-face time as a scarce resource and making sure that we use it for the tasks where it brings most value. This is certainly not sitting in meetings listening to presentations. This valuable time should be focused on active collaboration, cocreation and relationship building.

If you had one day a week in the office, what would you prioritize doing there?

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