With Covid-19 various entities have had to redefine what is meant by collaboration in the workplace. Remote viable options while adapting on the fly was not easy for many. What are some of the lessons learned and what can you learn from various sources? Here are a few items for you to consider as you explore collaboration at work. Think more broadly about the future, this article may give you some ideas.
Extrovert vs. Introvert
Extroverts have adapted with zoom, Microsoft teams and other software to meet groups on line and schedule one on one interactions. Introverts have appreciated working from home, being able to concentrate more on their work, and having more fun doing it with less interruptions. That is unless the extroverts have been calling to many meetings. How do you balance the two?
One good idea is to have regularly scheduled team meetings, huddles, check ins. Why? It is important to maintain contacts and work culture. Team members need to feel that they are a part of the team. It is also important to have informal, fun get togethers too. Virtual happy hours, a video conference with no real agenda, or just a chance to check in. The human connection is important to build relationships and listen to each other. Having on line social events build esprit de core. Test the waters. Explore this with your group. Do what works. Consider personalities and balance.
Listen, be Empathetic, and Consider the Individual
When checking in, empathetic listening is important. For one-person life literally may be better. For another they are doing just fine. Still for others it is a struggle with kids in virtual school, working from home with everyone (spouse and partner too) at home, taking care of the pets, and coping with life. Some employees are in danger of burning out. Adding flexibility for employees where possible helps. Providing resources on how to address stress is important.
The Mayo Clinic suggests:
Act to manage stress
- Getting regular physical activity.
- Practicing relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga, tai chi or massage.
- Keeping a sense of humor.
- Spending time with family and friends.
- Setting aside time for hobbies, such as reading a book or listening to music.
Not everyone can do this with their busy schedules. What can you do to encourage and help others?
Keep in mind for some employees they have been asked to take on additional responsibilities too. If you contact others remember employees are not always available. Identify the boundaries. Little things like honoring boundaries and managing meetings effectively go a long way towards reducing stress too.
What About Meetings?
Stay on time with meetings. Start meetings on time. End meetings on time. Sometimes give a gift of time by ending a meeting early. Make sure to think ahead. Prepare an agenda so that participants have the ability to read the agenda ahead of time and think about it.
When meeting someone one on one reflect and consider everyone’s situation is different. That’s why checking in personally and listening with empathy is very important for everyone. Some check ins may be a few minutes in duration. Others will require more time. Budget accordingly. We all have different needs.
Feedback and Transparency
Good leaders invite and welcome feedback. What could we be doing differently? What would you like to have happen? How can I help you better? What do you think of the duration and frequency of our get togethers? Encourage employees to ask hard questions. This cuts down on idle gossip and allows leaders to address fears, concerns and issues up front timely.
On projects have regular status updates. You can’t just run into someone down the hall anymore. This requires proactive actions by leaders. You have had some time to test and try some new things. Ask how it is or is not working. What could be improved and how could it be improved?
Be straightforward. Operate with honesty and integrity. Be open and share what you can and what is needed. Don’t overwhelm with information. Think about how much to share. Be conscious of others’ time too.
For those that were working remotely before the pandemic, work cultures have also shifted. Before the virtual meetings were all about work. Now there has often been a shift to address more of the human side of things too. People are taking more time to touch base with each other and see how things are going. This has been and will continue to be a challenge.
Many high-tech firms have automated systems to sign off on checklists. Programmers used to write code and then either push a new piece of code and send a Slack message or email the rest of the team. Now codebase does that automatically. This saves time and effort. Instead meetings focus around the most important things and in particular human interactions. This seems to be a very positive turn with automation and collaboration.
There has been a more intentional push towards individual corporate culture and staying connected. A greater emphasis is placed on “why”. Understanding why is also very good for promoting and developing trust. Some firms developed platforms to share ideas, photos, and interesting links. With increased trust productivity is enhanced and morale is enhanced.
Blockers Revisited and Alignment Going Forward
Checking in frequently is more important than ever. Identify what is blocking them, holding them up, giving them frustration. Really listen. Note not just the words, but the underlying tone of the words. Empathize and ask more questions. Ask them to “tell me more”. Someone could be struggling professionally or personally. Be curious with the intention of helping. Be accessible.
Many firms have found that they now greater faith in their employees and trust that employees will be disciplined in action. When everyone knows their roles, communicates effectively with one another, and is aligned, productivity soars and human capital excels. The key is effective collaboration. Take advantage of The Collaboration Effect® by connecting relationships, listening actively, and educating judiciously so that you can build bridges to negotiate closure.
About the author
Mike is a professional speaker, mediator/negotiator that helps clients resolve issues and be more productive as a conflict resolution expert with the IRS and others. Is conflict blocking your results? You may contact Mike directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and at (651) 633-5311. Mike has written 11 books including, The Servant Manager, Business Valuations and the IRS, and Peaceful Resolutions that you may find helpful. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, NSA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]