Work Better Together Series explores the benefits of team wellbeing in organisations as well as looking into how managers and employees can cultivate a positive work environment. Episode 6 looks at how what managers need to consider when building, nurturing and leading remote teams in order to ensure performance and wellbeing.
Story: Martin's Relational Blocks
Martin once approached me to help him improve his networking skills. As we were exploring where this is coming from, Martin shared with me his reluctance to approach his team mates. As he was their manager, he felt it important to have a good relationship with them. As he didn't feel like he had anything in common with them, he labelled himself a bad networker.
When I asked how many times his team meets with him, his reply was surprising. He told me that they held one meeting a month were all the team is present. When I proposed to him that the issue might not be his networking skills but the amount of time spent with people, he rejected the notion. He didn't have the time to be with people so he was hoping that good networking skills would build good relationships in very little time.
Lesson: Relationships Need Time & Space
Research is showing that the number one problem of working remotely is communication and relationships. As we are more socially distant because of working from home, building and nurturing relationships is becoming harder even though there is more email and social media connection. Why is this so?
Relationships require face to face time to develop. When employees were at the office, even if they didn't interact much, there was always buffer times during meetings, people meet to share a coffee and walking in on each other to bounce off a problem with each other. During these moment, we connected, felt each other and built rapport. With remote these are all gone.
Implications: Relationships, Wellbeing & Performance
In Business Case For Team Wellbeing we explore that employee wellbeing leads to 20% increase in profit, 20% reduction in turnover and 20% increase in productivity. The basic premise is that when there is healthy team relationships and performance, employee engagement goes up and so does employee satisfaction.
Once Martin understood the between spending time with his people and the outcomes he hoped for in his team we could look at solutions. That is when we looked at what Sandilya (2018) proposes:
Stage 1: Ensure Key Workplace Factors Are In Place: to ensure wellbeing and performance, having good working conditions and team relationships are essential. As Martin has no control of salaries, what he can do is ensure he is giving time and care to his people.
Stage 2: Psychological Wellbeing: as he started connecting and caring more, Martin started to feel more alive. His own sense of purpose grew and so did his team's. When people connect their respect to their superiors increase and they would want to reciprocate.
Stage 3: Evaluate Individual Outcomes: as he was connecting, he could see who was struggling, avoiding work and who was performing well. He learnt to adjust his management style to ensure that he brings out the best in people.
Stage 4: Results & Rewards: As his team environment grew more positive and performing, over a period of six months he changed the atmosphere of the team. The results went up whilst the turnover went down. In the boardroom, the other managers were asking how he did it.
Theory: 5 Steps Remote Team Wellbeing
When Martin was forced to go remote, he suddenly lost his face to face time with his team mates. Through Covid he learnt many important lessons which now can be used for the post-pandemic era. These are the lessons Martin adopted:
Choose The Right People: many people who have kids, suffer from loneliness and who struggle to maintain a routine, want an office. On the other hand, there are people who unless they work from home, they will change jobs.
Fixed Office Day/s: although tasks may be easier done at home, communication is not. Emails & online meetings miss out on complex emotional communication and personal contact. Having days where all people are at the office creates community, solves problems faster and allows you to check on people's wellbeing.
Create Rituals: rituals have more to do with regular contact and processes than it has to do with sacrificing bulls. Setting weekly meetings, starting meetings with a check in of how people are feeling in the organisations and having one to one check ins are all great ways to anchor a positive vibe.
Have Team Socials: team building and social activity, when permitted, can be important to make the work team people more like humans rather than machines. It is a chance to get to know people more and bond with them.
Manage By Deliverables: with work that is not fixed with time, focusing on whether employees deliver rather than how much time they spend at work will be a higher return on investment for organisations and employees will appreciate the trust.
Trust & Let Go: as managers don't know what the employees are doing, there are those that get anxious as they don't have control. Learning to trust without being a blind fool is a difficult skill to master when so many things are changing.
Action: Want To Improve Team Wellbeing?
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Waters, S., (2021). The success behind virtual teams: The ultimate guide. https://www.betterup.com/blog/virtual-teams
Sandilya, S. (2018). Index of Psychological Well-being at Work - Validation of Tool in the Indian Organisational Context. Vision: The Journal of Business Perspective.