The Covid pandemic brought in a new era in terms of the future of work at least as far as location is concerned. Virtually overnight, the business world went from collectively agreeing that all work, in any industry, must be performed in the office, to realising that at least in the knowledge economy, it can nicely tick along for at least extensive amounts of time, with absolutely no in person interaction on the part of their workers. The need for physicality has been shown to be false. Everything changes from here on.
While “the Proof of Concept of remote work” has concluded with the widely spread understanding that chaining people to physical desks is not only not needed, but highly undesirable, and while consequent reactions to strengthen that point abound, such as the great resignation and the fact that all research shows that 2 in 3 employees would not remain in a job that offers no remote working element, there is still a lot that is missing from our understanding of hybrid work since it is a very recent phenomenon.
One thing that is debated is whether teams now have different interaction patterns and dynamics and whether team leaders struggle to find their feet in the remote world.
While enterprises everywhere are scrambling to create new policies and processes that fit the hybrid model where they will allow some proportion of remote work and expect some in-office occasional presence, we advise every team that hasn’t done so to schedule regular “Team Re-launch” exercises or workshops to re-negotiate their own ways of work and the outcomes.
There are a number of best practices that have already emerged and had indeed in fact long been used by pre-pandemic-remote-only enterprises like Cisco or GitHub that aim to make people’s lives easier such as:
- “One remote – all remote” — which amounts to the fact that even if the majority of the team happens to be physically in each other’s presence in the office in a meeting room, as long as at least one of their team is not able to be there then they should all connect to zoom and treat the meeting as a virtual one;
- No-meetings days (or portions of the day) — where employees have protected time to think and get on with solo work, etc;
- No video mandatory on internal meetings — an informal policy any team can adopt if they feel some of their team members still struggle with the video element of their remote meetings;
- Shorter/smarter meetings — an anti-burnout practice starting to take hold in the business world where the meetings are neither as long or placed firmly at the top of the hour as they used to but instead start 5 or 10 minutes past and end 10-15 minutes before to allow people time to cognitively readjust context and take a breath;
- Socials/Re-humanising regular meets — occasions where the team comes together in person and not only online have become very important with the most innovative of companies having found ways to encourage and support set-ups where team members meet for social reasons with regularity;
- Examination of “individual/solo work versus common work” — Knowledge sharing and in-person collaboration need people’s presence so conferences, networking and set-ups that encourage real-life collaboration will become the norm;
- Tools and support for true feedback loops and the people work — now more than ever, managers and teams need the tools to have open communication channels, structured and dedicated time for the human work and a space to discuss and attempt to improve their team health and dynamics. As such, feedback work tools have become essential in the absence of the direct-line-of-sight, body language and water-cooler moments that the office presence previously allowed.
Many big pieces of the former status quo have yet to be deciphered and translated into the new normal of hybrid and many aspects have to be considered. This represents a paradigm shift in how it changes and challenges the notions of command and control, organisational structure and clarity, the delimitation between work and life and so on. Some of these are bigger issues than others, such as the shift to servant leadership which is far greater of a challenge than finding ways to make people feel a sense of belonging and purpose when they aren’t walking through branded corridors with motivational quotes anymore.
When it comes to the Psychological Safety of teams in the remote world, what we see is that it isn’t vastly different of a mechanism than it used to be in the office-only previous reality. Since Psychological Safety could never be affected by the team lead only, but it needed the entire team, the fact that the manager has more cumbersome access to the team is largely irrelevant.
The main determining factor of whether teams can uphold and better their degree of Psychological Safety or not in the remote world as well as the physical one is their level of willingness to do the human work. The work that sees the team come together to talk, examine, experiment and become closer through team actions, workshops, exercises and targeted plays that are specifically aimed at increasing a certain speaking up behaviour.
Holding space (and yes, virtual space works as well) for those conversations, informing them with data and closing those feedback loops will help team members see such dramatic change for the better in their interpersonal interactions that they will become even more invested in doing the work to maintain and increase their Psychological Safety in this new hybrid reality.
Join us again next week where we further dissect “Psychological Safety and Performance vs. Productivity”
The 3 “commandments of Psychological Safety” to build high performing teams are: Understand, Measure and Improve.
Read more about our Team Dashboard that measures and improves Psychological Safety at peoplenottech.com, or reach out on our contact page and let’s help your teams become Psychologically Safe, healthy, happy and highly performant.
You can order the book People Before Tech: The Importance of Psychological Safety and Teamwork in the Digital Age on Amazon.