Just about every company has made changes to expectations and approaches to ways of working. Cast your mind back to commuting, face-to-face being the norm, impromptu catch-ups at the coffee machine, after work drinks….. overnight they were replaced with Zoom meetings, virtual quizzes and instant coffee.
With September being a new ‘stake in the ground’ for many organizations in implementing their ‘new approach’ it’s clear that ‘hybrid’ working – a mix of in-office and working from home – is being adopted by many. A recent SRI poll of 1000 people found that a whopping 85% advocating for hybrid working as their preferred option.
However, trust, team cohesion and information sharing seem to be some of the most ‘at risk’ elements when individuals within teams work in different environments and aren’t consistently face-to-face or all remote together.
Working apart impacts team dynamics, the frequency and quality of communications, conflict, and the amount and quality of social interactions.
Communicating via Zoom presents many challenges. It’s so much harder to interpret the context of a situation, body language and tone. People are more likely to speak over one another and ‘screen fatigue’ can affect mood, creativity, innovation and ultimately meeting outcomes.
Successful hybrid working requires a deeper understanding of the individual and collective strengths of a team and where there may be potential blind spots. Proactively making the effort to understand how individuals will need to adapt how they operate in the context of hybrid working will be important for teams to perform at their best.
It’s widely recognised that effective virtual teams are determined by the extent to which individuals feel psychologically safe, are socially cohesive and share skills, experience and knowledge freely, without the fear of being judged. While all these factors interconnect, trust and communication are the foundation for high performing hybrid working teams.
Supporting leaders and managers by arming them with the tools to understand the individual and collective strengths of their teams will help them lead effectively in a hybrid environment.
Performance should be judged on output, not activity. Focus on building trust and accountability amongst the team. Share your unique strengths and look to find your collective strengths as a team. Genuine collaboration leads to higher quality outcomes and boosts innovation. ‘Participants in a Stanford Study who were primed to act collaboratively stuck at their task 64% longer than their solitary peers, whilst also reporting higher engagement levels, lower fatigue levels and a higher success rate.’(Forbes)
Pay attention to how employees work best to allow them to perform at their best. Take the time to ask the questions. ‘What do you need to work at your best?’ ‘What are your drivers and motivations for work?’ ‘How can we create the right environment to get the very best out of you?’
We are all facing new challenges and new opportunities. Showing that employees’ unique strengths are valued, the positive intention behind their behavior is recognised, and give them the room to get things wrong now and then, is the key to driving performance and engagement through these extraordinary times.
Lucy Cliffe – Consultant – Global Consulting