I recently met with the CPO of a F25 client and hadn’t been to this client in over 2 years because of COVID and he was wearing casual sneaker type slip-ons to our business lunch. Things have changed dramatically because of COVID in terms of how we work. Working from home (remotely) is the new norm – not an exception. Therefore, having successful teams requires a new way of thinking.
Let’s start by looking at some Gartner projections regarding this issue:
BY 2023, home will be the primary workplace for 25% of us! 5% go to work maybe 2-3 days a week – maybe! In 2 years, 30% will work from home – permanently! If you think having teams function effectively was a challenge before, imagine what it’s going to be like in this new environment. You may have team members that may never actually meet in person – never. All their interactions will be online in the virtual world. What that means is a significant impact on team productivity and since most of our work is done in teams – this can and will be a big deal. And if you want access to the best talent, lower stress and lower turnover, this is something that must be attended to. Effective remote teaming must be on your agenda as a leader.
There are some unique challenges in remote teaming that need to be addressed:
- Lack of common purpose/charter
- Unclear team/project dependencies
- Differing time zones
- Poor technology to promote teaming/knowledge sharing
- Lack of motivation
- Getting equal attention from team members
- Lack of standardization (process, tools etc.)
- Inability to manage conflict
- Different culture
- Logistical challenges in getting together
- Lack of accountability/ repercussions
While you could rightfully point out that some of these are not specific to remote teaming, they have a more significant impact because of being remote.
One of the biggest challenges in teaming is collaboration and working remotely makes that a bigger deal and here are some of the techniques that we use with our clients that you may want to incorporate in your toolkit:
- Focus on relationships
- Establish trust amongst members
- Group chats to increase sharing of personal information/memories
- Celebrate – more significantly/ more frequently
- Virtual happy hours
- Communicate, communicate, communicate
While these may sound simple and mostly common sense, unless you as a leader ensure that these are happening – they won’t!
Being more effective at remote teaming can be accomplished but it does require a disciplined approach and perhaps paying attention to some of these keys to success:
- Acknowledge new reality
- Get some training – for yourself as the leader and your teams
- Better Information sharing/Knowledge Management
- Embrace and use technology – you’ll be surprised at what is available out there
- Look for individuals “dropping out” – this is particularly challenging in a remote environment
- Establish and follow ground rules for teams
- Streamline workflow to make it easier to track and monitor
- Attendance discipline – especially being on camera
- Monitor stress/conflict/performance – they can be powerful predictors
We have spent the last 3 decades or so helping organization develop High Performance Work Teams (HPWT) and can attest that it is still the most powerful way for organizations to channel resources and exceed business objective IF you can harness the power of teams. Our new reality of working from home and therefore remote teaming just makes it a bit more of a challenge – that’s all. It just means that you as a leader have to adapt and develop new competencies in you and your teams to ensure that they remain a HPWT.