On January 11, 2021, we published a list of six specific ideas we’ve learned from leaders who are having real success engaging and leading their remote and hybrid teams. You don’t exactly have to have read that post to benefit from this one. But why wouldn’t you? Read it here.
Here’s the rest of our baker’s dozen list of ideas:
7. Pay attention to the “Spirit of the Hive”. It’s no revelation that team synergy gives you way more than the sum of your team members’ individual contributions. But the tie that binds people who have been accustomed to working under the same roof can unravel quickly when everyone’s Working From Wherever They Choose.
In an August, 2020 study report, the Boston Consulting Group revealed that “Most surprising in our analysis is the outsize impact that social connectivity has on productivity.”
I saw this firsthand during a COVID-safe in-person presentation I made in September, 2020, to a group of hospital managers (small group, huge room, all wearing masks and distanced). During the introductions, one guy became visibly emotional as he saw his friends and colleagues for the first time in six months, saying “I knew there was something missing about this Work From Home thing. Now I know that what was missing was each of you.”
8. Review your Work From Home policy. You do have one, right? I’m pretty sure your lawyers and HR professionals have seen to that. But read it from the perspective of a super talented job applicant whom you’d love to get on your team. Watch the tone. Would you want to work there?
At your retirement party, no one, and I do mean no one, is going to make a speech lauding the Work From Home policy you crafted. But they might talk about a leader who made Working From Home easier, and more connected, productive, and rewarding. Just make sure it reads like it was written by a human (who may also be a lawyer or HR pro).
9. Stop policing. Start trusting.
No, I’m not naïve.
We spend a lot of time at my house looking for the TV’s remote control. Stop looking for the remote control at work. You have no control over a remote workforce. Only influence. Use it well.
An executive team was pondering the establishment of a hybrid workplace setup after their facilities had been reconfigured to allow for social distancing. “How about 3 days at the office, 2 days from home?” someone suggested. Another in the group said, “Yeah, but nobody’s two days can be Friday or Monday, because we all know how that would go (wink, wink),” Then the CEO generated pin-drop silence when he countered with, “We say we trust our people. Do we trust them or not?”
They opted to trust. Three months in, they’re recording better productivity than ever. And nobody’s abused the system.
10. Find safe, creative ways to meet in person from time to time. An ad agency manager I know meets individual members of his remote team at outdoor cafes, in their neighborhoods. It’s totally voluntary, and he buys the coffee. They wear masks (except when sipping) and maintain distance. He swears by the restorative effect on the connectivity of the relationships, and the creativity of the work. I’m not suggesting taking any undue health risks – I’m a believer in this thing. But I’ve also seen creative professionals figure out a way to do one-on-ones safely.
11. Suppose you’re the CEO, or other senior level leader. Get yourself invited to a virtual meeting of the teams keeping you in business. Don’t hog the meeting. Tell them how much you appreciate them, and why, and then get out of their hair.
12. When conducting hybrid meetings or training, with a combination of onsite and remote attendees, lose the references to the distinction between the two groups. It serves little purpose to keep saying things like, “Those of you out there in Zoomland…”. This is how we do meetings now, and probably always will be to a high degree. Just get on with it.
13. Finally, if yours has always been a community-minded organization, I hope the pandemic hasn’t changed that. One of the best ways to nurture the Spirit of the Hive mentioned above is to involve everyone in an outward effort that helps someone, or something, in need. Two examples: a company’s employees volunteered to help Washington, DC’s Smithsonian Institution by transcribing ancient handwritten documents. Another got involved in a virtual tutoring arrangement with a local middle school.
The geographically distributed workforce is here to stay, even after the virus goes away. Learn to make the remote and hybrid environment an asset, and not a burden. Let us know how we can help.