Aligning with the entire team as everyone moves to a fully remote way of working can take a couple of days to run smoothly. Dynamics are changing, fully online communication is more prone to miscommunications, and spirits might sink without the so-needed “social glue”. For those of us that get energy from collaborative brainstorming, the inability to get into a room with a colleague, pens & a flipchart and come out with a fully fleshed-out “battle plan” might feel like we can’t get things done like we used to. Even we at OrangeTrail, who are specialists in online collaboration, admit that for some activities online just isn’t the same thing. So, knowing that the first few days are likely to be bumpy, how can you make sure you and your team can overcome this and keep the ball rolling for the weeks to come?
Give it time. Plans won’t be perfect the first time, the structures you’re putting in place today might become obsolete in a week’s time. Come to terms with the fact that what you’re working on now might not be needed due to the changes of tomorrow. The nature of these current events means that in some cases, planning for the short term might be better than creating plans for one month from now. A willingness to iterate is what will help you stay flexible as a team and adjust to the new conditions as they appear. Most industries, including those with high levels of digital literacy, are now reinventing the way they operate, and teams globally are also learning new ways to not only collaborate but also stay connected with each other beyond screens and keyboards. While collaboration across borders and time zones is no new thing for most of us, this is probably the first time that the overly-connected world is being placed at physical distance for an extended period of time. As most of us are already doing in our personal lives, we must now simply take it one day at a time.
Allow for flexibility. Probably never has an agile way of working been more in line with the dynamics of the “real world” than now. If you’re like us, then your operations have shifted 180 degrees in the last couple of weeks in response to the COVID-19 crisis. We needed to evaluate our options, find the best way to help our current clients & industries who need it most, but also navigate the human complexities of moving to a fully remote way of working. Questions like “How to work internally under these new conditions?” or “How does our product/service need to change to be of use?” are probably on top of everyone’s mind. However, becoming aware of this inevitable need to adapt and of the inability to have the final answer/solution from the start can also be a great opportunity. If the status quo of the way you work changes overnight, how would you make it better? This sudden push for flexibility is already innovating business models and industries around the world. Perhaps this is also an opportunity for you personally or for you as a team to re-evaluate WHAT you do and WHY you do it, which might lead you to some creative solutions for HOW you can do it now and in the future.
Communicate consciously. Once the technical requirements for remote work at scale are starting to fall into place, we might find that the human aspects start to play more and more of an important role. Feelings of isolation, tiredness, blurred lines between work and off-work times are only some of the things that people will start to experience in the coming weeks. While the priority now is in setting everything up for effective online meetings and online collaboration, mitigating these other issues will make the difference between a sustainable effort or a quick burn. Take the time to talk with your colleagues about how they’re feeling, set up virtual lunches, check in with others, work in small groups and give each other the time to figure it out. As we at OrangeTrail were reflecting earlier this week, this might, for us, require the skills for a marathon, not a sprint.