Our workforces have changed beyond recognition in recent times and the change continues. The days of cubicles and supervisors pacing the office are all but gone and today’s teams are a more complex mix of flexible locations, work days and even time zones. Today your organisation might have one or many of these team types. (Oh, spoiler alert, if your business doesn’t right now I’d bet it might well in the not too distant future!)
Remote Teams and flexible working
- Fully remote – all working from home or fragmented co-working spaces.
- Blended remote – some team members who work in a co-located office and some who work remote.
- Blend of onsite and remote workers – mainly office based with some work from home.
- Satellite remote – those working in offices together but across multiple sites and possibly time zones.
Leadership challenges of remote work
Each of these scenarios presents a bunch of challenges for today’s leaders. How do we motivate people we don’t often see? How do we stay productive, efficient and effective when our people are everywhere? How do we keep our teams engaged and inspired, and how can we be anywhere and everywhere we are needed?
Let’s look first at productivity…
Building a culture of trust
Where once you could raise your eyes and see a sea of busy people getting work done, how do we now know that everyone in our teams is ‘pulling their weight’, delivering what we need and managing their workload? After all, often the number one concern when it comes to flexible or remote work is whether work will actually get done at all!
I think Jason Fried, Basecamp CEO says it best.. “The only way to look at the work, is to look at the work. The work should speak for itself and it should be viewable and visible from anywhere.”
Working out loud – collaboration technology for the win
Working out loud isn’t a new concept of course, but today’s technology makes it much easier to truly collaborate, share work in progress and co-create. It doesn’t matter whether your organisation has Microsoft teams, Webex Teams, Workplace or something more bespoke. What matters is you have a place where people can use the power of chat, meetings and content sharing so that the team, department or entire organisation feels up to speed, included, empowered and able to make a contribution. You don’t need to see faces to see a steady stream of effective teamwork.
Breaking those silo’s
It can be all too easy for home workers or those in outpost offices to feel isolated or excluded as we naturally gravitate to those we share physical space with. If your workforce is blended then it’s great practice to make sure everyone works this way even if they share an office. If there’s a quick meeting or stand-up needed, spin up a video call. Have a quick question or need some help? Ask in a shared space rather than relying on your desk buddy. This all comes with the added bonus that you’re far more likely to get results faster as this gives everyone an opportunity to work together and truly play to strengths.
At a glance
Presence (the indicator that someone is online/busy etc.) is an incredibly useful feature. Being able to see when someone is available for a quick IM conversation or shouldn’t be disturbed helps build a respectful team etiquette. Heed my warning though, using presence to scrutinise how people spend their time does not build trust! (Unless you’re in an industry where its critical people are online and ready.) Trying to manage time this way loses you more time than you could ever gain. Instead, head back to the concept of working out loud; if we’re seeing great quality work does actual minutes logged matter?
And while we’re at it, kill off email for internal conversations; it’s possible I promise, we’ve done it. Think of all the time wasted in your inbox answering things that could easily have been a chat message. Lead from the front, take that time back and spend it where it really matters – inspiring your team.
Tapping into the potential
Working this way goes a long way towards easing some of the other concerns with variable workforces too. When you start to see how your collaboration technology can really enhance the way you interact with your people; when your culture and working practices are based on openness and regular team and one-to-one video calls; when you find great ways to work together even when you’re not together; that’s when you’ll find a far greater level of engagement and motivation.
So, if you have the technology and want to learn more about how to transform your company culture, enable and empower your people and lead from the front no matter what your workplace looks like, talk to us, we’re ready to get you there.