How can you, either as the leader of the team or as the leader of yourself, bring “fizz” and “buzz” into your team environment to create a positive social climate (as suggested by Professor David Clutterbuck in his LinkedIn post.
In particular, how can you do this in today’s world of social distancing and remote teamwork?
WFH (working from home) can help workers to achieve a better work-life balance as they avoid long and stressful commutes between home and the workplace, and they have more time for family. Other benefits of WFH include increased worker satisfaction, productivity and loyalty, and reduced staff turnover.” An employers’ guide on working from home in response to the outbreak of COVID-19”. International Labour Organisation (ILO).
For some people, working from home is a blessing that creates new opportunities to integrate work and life and improve overall wellbeing, substituting travel time with “me time” to meditate or exercise and creating opportunities to balance work time with family time to match their personal circumstances.
For many, however, the workplace was a haven where they could focus on work, separate from the other priorities of family and home life. For them, working from home can create obvious challenges when they have small children also at home from school and where their apartment is now expected to serve both as an office and a home. Their workplace may also have been the “hub” of their social life! Now their social life is limited to web calls and social media, a poor substitute for meaningful relationships and human interactions. Again, from the ILO: While WFH (working from home) arrangements have a great deal of potential, the reality is often more complicated,… Maintaining work-life balance may be a particular challenge for those with family care responsibilities due to closures of childcare facilities and schools, and in the absence of alternative care arrangements. Often, WFH leads to a blurring of the boundaries between work and personal life, an increase in work hours and an intensification of work. Thus, WFH can interfere with private life and cause work-life conflicts that can be challenging for workers’ well-being, and affect overall work performance”.
At the core of “working from home” is the technology that we use to hold meetings online: one-on-one, in our teams or in online events or workshops. How can we adapt our own behaviour to use this technology in the best way possible, to help alleviate the new challenges of work-life balance, bring fizz and buzz back into our online team activities, and to help and support one-another in this online world? Here are some ideas that might help:
Practice Rapport building
One of the cornerstones of Life Coaching is the skill of rapport – building lasting connections with others that deepen over time. Tony Robbins defines rapport as “achieving mutual trust and understanding between two or more people. It leads to deep listening, meaningful conversations and fulfilling relationships where everyone involved benefits.” Tony Robbins – building rapport in Business.
- Create a natural, relaxed and open atmosphere through the practice of “checking in” with the other person or group of people – How has their day been? How well are they able to contribute in this online call?
- Practice mirroring and matching – Recognise and utilise the power of non-verbal communication – this is challenge over Zoom or Teams, but not impossible
- Be present – Focus fully on the other person – what they are saying and feeling, on what they need – resist the temptation to multi-task while in an online meeting, but take the opportunity to write down key pointsor questions that you can ask when appropriate
- Watch for changes in energy flows– the twists and turns of a conversation that may suddenly open up new ideas or shut down engagement and discussion
Plan and prepare
- Discuss and agree the desired meeting outcomes at the start of the meeting
- Review the agenda – the planned flow of discussion together as a common path we may follow to achieve the outcomes we have defined
- Assign roles – in particularly the facilitator role and minutes/note taker role
- Consider the best use of the technology – sharing common tools that update on each person’s own computer simultaneously, such as Trello, Office 365, Google Office,.
- Consider brainstorming tools such as Mural and Miro that support free-flowing ideas for individuals that can then be shared and refined by the team.
- Use the polling and chatting tools included with most online platforms to allow engagement from everyone (especially valuable in workshops if used judiciously)
Be flexible and accommodating
- Recognize when energy levels drop and agree short breaks in the meeting to regroup and refocus
- Be prepared and willing to accommodate interruptions from the family pet or the 3-year-old child with a sudden 3-year-old child’s need
- Be prepared for glitches in the technology – when the network starts to fail or people lose access – and have backup plans in place if appropriate
Acknowledgement is a powerful technique for constructive feedback, especially negative feedback. It is often used to give recognition to others, to help another person feel heard, encouraged and even motivated to stay on the course. Practicing acknowledgement in an online meeting is arguably the most powerful way to support team members where there is little or no face to face opportunity. This Growthroom blog post is an excellent guide in how to practice acknowledgement to team members.
Validation, as a form of acknowledgement, is also especially important when social distancing is in place – us humans are social beings as this Forbes article describes, and as social distancing limits the opportunity for physical engagement, touches, hugs, we can use our online time together to help team members feel validated and worthy – donating “mind hugs” in the form of recognition and statements of caring.
Working from home is likely to be here to stay, at least in some form. For many it is a blessing and for some, a curse – but as with any change, a new normal will emerge that will benefit us all. In the words of the ILO: The WFH arrangements implemented by employers due to the COVID-19 response is temporary. Workers will normally be obliged to resume normal working arrangements when the situation permits and as directed by employers. Employers however may want to assess the benefits and challenges of WFH during this pandemic and decide on a case-by-case basis and in consultation with workers or unions, if any, on the feasibility of implementing regular WFH arrangement, if workers request it. An employers’ guide on working from home in response to the outbreak of COVID-19”. ILO