“This working from home is working great. Working from home might be the new normal”. This statement or variations of it occurs a lot on social media these days, during lock downs all over the globe. People tend to feel more efficient in their individual work because they are not disturbed. Teams are reporting to be just as efficient or even more productive during these working from home times.
One can get the impression that we don’t need to meet anymore. We can just all stay at home.
I agree that we have learned that a lot can be done remotely, but I’m careful jumping into conclusions that this works just as good, or better than meeting physically. And so should you!
The longer time we work apart, the more we will loose sense of each other.
The main reason for the teamwork to work well, pretty much from the beginning of this working from home period, is because we didn’t have to spend time building relations to our team colleagues. Because we were working closely before, and meeting physically, our relations was already built. As time goes by, we will loose sense of each other, and more misunderstandings will arise. When new team members join, and others leave, the team dynamics will change, and it will get harder for the team to function properly. If you don’t spend time on building relations and discuss “working agreements” of some sort when you work remotely, I predict that your team’s effectiveness will start decreasing very soon..
Your experienced team is still forming
Teams that are not used to working remotely, will experience that this will be a game changer. It can be compared to adding/removing team members from a team or changing the domain the team operate within. Team members will have to orient themselves within the new boundaries and people will be nice and friendly (cordiality) to make things work in the new situation. As time passes and team is getting used to the situation conflicts can be expected and polarization will come to surface. If you know “Tuckman’s Team stages” this is where your team goes from forming to storming phase, which is completely normal. Again, pay attentions to relations and how to build trust.
What will happen when work is unknown from the beginning?
The period of remote work has been relatively short, and I suspect that most of the work your team is doing now, to some extent was started up while you were still together. The shared understanding, that is built automatically by being in the same room and being able to interpret body language and facial expressions, should not be underestimated. As we get our hands into complex problems and we are building solution that are complex by nature, we can not rely on this inherit shared understanding. If we do nothing this means that vital aspects of the problems is not covered. the amount of misunderstandings and failed coordination will increase, and it will lead to lower quality of the team’s output. The team will have to focus on how they communicate within the team, and with people outside the team and other teams.
In short, be aware of potential pitfalls of working remotely. I have listed a few. Maybe a combo of working from home more frequently, but still meeting physically will be the right for your team. If you have the opportunity to meet physically with your team, use it!