It’s probably safe to say that for a large percentage of organisations around the world, the pandemic has fast tracked the future of work in many ways. Perhaps one of the most dramatic changes has been the on-mass shift to remote working. I have had many conversations with business leaders who have all been blown away at not only how quickly their employees adapted, but also the levels of productivity they’ve witnessed. Considering the circumstances, I think many would say it has been surprisingly successful, which is perhaps the reason for the roll out of new policies allowing employees the flexibility to work from home for at least part of their working week on a longer-term basis.
Yet despite all the success on the surface of it, we must also acknowledge that for a vast amount of employees, working from home has not been an enjoyable experience and has even created additional stress and anxiety. Many have missed the social element of going to work. Many are working longer hours and find the line between work and home life a blurry one, making it hard to switch off. Many do not have the best home office set up, further depleting any sense of work – life balance, and the list goes on. Ultimately whether you’ve liked working from home or not, most would agree that team interactions were a lot easier and perhaps even more constructive when everyone was in the office. From the water cooler chats and colleagues grabbing lunch or a coffee together, to more structured workshop sessions and management meetings, the constant stream of communication allowed information to flow, relationships to develop, new recruits to feel welcome (and able to get up to speed quickly) and team mates to check in on project updates, and on each other. Of course, the amazing advancement of technology available to us has allowed communication to continue in ways we couldn’t have imagined even a few years ago. With a long list of webinar, conference calling, communication platforms and apps available we have no shortage of ways to keep in touch. Which has largely served us well and even promoted some degree of creativity and innovation. Yet I think most would agree, online catch ups are just not quite the same when it comes to team and group interactions. I’m the first to admit that when I’m facilitating a group workshop it’s a lot easier to read the energy in the physical room than it is to sense it in the virtual room and I have heard a long list of challenges that have arisen for my clients since remote working came into play. When COVID-19 first sent us all off home with our laptops and fast-tracked remote working, the general expectation was that it would be for a fixed period of time. Lockdown would end and we’d all be back to normal. Most of us have come to the realisation that our old way of life may never exist again, which includes our old way of working too. Whilst we were quick to adapt, we were also in survival mode. What was seen as a short-term fix now needs to evolve to become a longer-term, sustainable solution. From an organisational perspective, it’s more critical than ever to create team well-being as a part of that solution. In essence, creating team well-being means equipping your teams with everything they need to operate in the most efficient and constructive way so they can achieve the best possible outcomes (which in turn leads to organisational well-being). Coaching is an incredibly powerful way to achieve team well-being. Team coaching involves facilitated sessions that help your team to:
Explore and define a vision of success and ensure all the team understand why it’s important (ie impact on the bigger picture)
Understand their strengths and values as a group, and how these help them to operate as a collective
Find solutions to overcome challenges that will inevitably crop up
Agree an action plan that moves the team forward efficiently and enables each team member to understand the exact role they play
An experienced coach will help the team address any elephants in the (virtual) room, encourage everyone to contribute, ensure no one dominates the conversation to the detriment of the group, and holds everyone accountable for progress (or lack of) at the next session. Team members learn new ways to communicate, see and respect each others’ perspectives, build new tools and resources, and have confidence in how they operate as a group. At a time when the vast majority of team catch ups are held in the virtual meeting room, it’s not easy for managers to facilitate conversations that hold everyone’s attention and guarantee progress. Meetings can get cancelled, people can show up on the call but their attention might be elsewhere, capturing actions might be missed and so on. When everyone is working together in the office, teams might just about get away with this by making up for it with their constant on-the-job interactions. Ultimately, virtual team meetings need to have greater impact, not less than in-person meetings and if virtual team meetings aren’t creating the impact they need to, the risk of team members becoming disengaged and less productive starts to increase and declining communication flow and relationships within the team is costly to both team well-being and performance. The good news is that team coaching puts rigour and processes in place to ensure team are clear about where they’re heading and why which creates engagement. The well-being of the individuals within the team is boosted because they strong relationships and effective ways to communicate with each other as well access the resources and solutions they need to make progress. As a team they have shared sense of purpose and accomplishment which activates team well-being and ultimately enhances their performance. If you and your team are experiencing any of the challenges outlined in this article and would like to explore how team coaching could add value and help you achieve your vision of success please get in touch for a complimentary discovery call.