Remote teams or working from home (WFH) isn’t all that new for corporate employees having its onset in the 1970’s. What is new, is the digital age which not only allows for WFH, but work from anywhere (WFA). Among others, military spouses, dual-career families and millennials in general come to mind. In fact, WFA millennials have been affectionately termed: digital nomads. There is evidence that WFH ups performance and employee satisfaction. In one study, performance increased by 13%. Nine months later, the same employees were given the choice of remaining remote or going back to the office. Those who chose to WFH increased performance by 22%, suggesting that it’s best to provide a choice (Bloom, et al; 2015). There is also some evidence that WFA and its geographic flexibility, reduces attrition (Choudhury: 2021).
The real question is: how does WFA affect communication, brainstorming, problem solving, knowledge sharing, socialization, camaraderie, and mentoring (Choudhury, Raj: 2021) to say nothing of data security, and other regulatory issues. There is the potential for people to feel isolated and disconnected. Even though videoconferencing helps with interpersonal cues like facial expression and body language, the concern is that virtual colleagues are less likely to become close friends because their face-to-face interactions are less frequent (Cooper & Kurland; 2002).
According to Melissa Raffoni (2020) leaders can ask themselves 5 questions to help teams succeed in virtual environments:
- Am I being strategic enough? Challenge yourself to up the engagement quotient to make up for the deficit of face-to-face interaction. This means asking more questions during your interactions, checking in with team members to make sure you are aligned, and leaving extra time for those moments to take place during presentations or group meetings.
- Have I revamped communication plans? Think about how you will run your weekly check-ins with team members. Will you hold these meetings by phone, over slack, or schedule a video call? While best practice says video is best, you may need to adjust your approach based on the preferences of individual team members.
- How might I reset roles and responsibilities to help people succeed? Check in regularly with team members about how they are coping. During your one-on-ones, ask: “How are things going for you? What challenges are you facing? What do you think you need to be successful? How can I, or the team, help?”
- Am I keeping my eye on (and communicating about) the big picture? With your to-do list looming in front of you, and no colleagues to pull you out of your head, you may be tempted to stay buried in the weeds. But people rely on leaders for direction, especially during uncertain times.
- What more can I do to strengthen our company culture? One way to accomplish this is to regularly set aside time for team members to highlight and share wins delivered either to customers, each other, or to the business itself. If well-crafted, you can tie the “bright spot” sharing to the company’s vision, mission, or values, reiterating the importance or the organization’s purpose and the essential role that everyone plays in achieving it.
Weekly Challenge: In light of the 5 questions above, what do you, as a leader need to focus on to improve the remote work experience?
Supporting Your Success!