Working from your home office, the local café, or wherever you choose. There’s no doubt that flexible working is a big plus.
With the average Australian commuting more than an hour a day to get to work, cutting the need to travel to work can shave hours off your working day. Not to mention the time saved in getting dressed and ready to head out the front door. Many people also find they are incredibly productive as they don’t have constant interruptions from team members and colleagues.
If you’re not careful though the flexible working revolution can erode your team’s dynamics.
A case in point…
I was chatting to a client who has recently changed jobs. They’ve moved from an organisation where there was a really strong team dynamic. The team members knew each other, interacted well and it was a close and collegiate environment.
In contrast, in the new environment there was little sense of team. People didn’t know each other and didn’t seem inclined to get to know each other. Work was mainly done via email and teleconferences, and you never knew who would be in the office and when.
In both environments, the team’s worked flexibly. Team members could work from home when it suited and they hot desked when in the office. The difference was the amount of effort and focus the two organisations placed on creating a sense of team.
When teams are working remotely and flexibly it becomes more important than ever to ensure care and attention is paid to the team’s dynamics and creating a sense of shared purpose and belonging.
Here’s four tips to get you started:
1. Ditch assumptions
Don’t assume that because the team is working flexibly that less attention needs to be given to the team’s dynamics. In fact, more effort and focus is required.
Your team, regardless of where and how they work, still has a culture and so it’s necessary to understand the culture that exists, the desired culture you and the team members want to create and what’s the gap. Once you have this understanding, you are then ready to work through the steps you need to take to create the optimal team culture.
2. Elevate connection
In remote and flexible working environments there are still plenty of options for face to face. If the team is in the same geographic zone, set aside an agreed time each week or month where every member of the team needs to be in the office, so there is face to face time.
If the team is spread across geographic zones, encourage the team members to use technology which involves face to face images and voice. Instant messenger is good for quick answers, but it’s not the way to build dialogue and connection. Likewise, with teleconferences it’s too easy for a team member to sit on mute and not participate.
As a team, agree on how you will communicate and what type of methods you’ll use and when. Different team members will have different needs and preferences, so set aside time to understand each person’s individual requirements.
3. Build relationships
If you are the team’s leader find time to build one on one relationships with all members of the team – regardless of the location.
People want to feel like they belong to something and this can be hard if they feel out of the loop and disconnected from the rest of the team.
Ask each team member:
- What brings out the best in you at work?
- How do you want to stay connected with the other members of the team?
- What do you need from me and how can I help you be successful?
4. Create shared purpose
The most effective teams have a clear and shared sense of purpose. As I’ve written about before “What’s on your team vision board“, it is worthwhile to jointly develop the team’s purpose and vision for the team’s work? This can be done as a facilitated discussion – either remotely or face to face.
When this is in place, it’s easier for each person to know the role they play in bringing that purpose and vision to life. That helps to create clarity and accountability – two attributes often missing in teams.
Spiritual teacher, David Whyte wrote in his book ‘Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity’:
“At its best, work seems never-ending only because, like life, it is a pilgrimage, a journey in which we progress not only through the world but through stages of understanding. Good work, done well for the right reasons and with an end in mind, has always been a sign, in most human traditions, of an inner and outer maturity. Its achievement is celebrated as an individual triumph and a gift to our societies. A very hard-won arrival.”
Bringing belonging and meaning to the work we do matters, and so paying attention to how a team forms and connects is critical no matter where the work is done.
Getting you ready for tomorrow, today®.
Michelle Gibbings is a change leadership and career expert and founder of Change Meridian. Michelle works with global leaders and teams to help them get fit for the future of work. She is the Author of ‘Step Up: How to Build Your Influence at Work’ and ‘Career Leap: How to Reinvent and Liberate Your Career’. For more information: www.michellegibbings.com or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.