On Monday, a friend announced, “We have our first case of corona virus at the office. Our company just announced: ‘Presence Optional’. I’m now working remote.”
On Thursday, President Macron of France (I live in Paris) announced that all schools (from day care through universities) will be closed to limit the spread of the COVID-19.
We all now face remote work. Remote work for the entire team.
Remote work imposes “new-normal” behaviors.
Remote Work vs. At the Office
What is it like to work full-time remote?
Remote Work: Individual Benefits
- Flexibility with time management
(you can launch a laundry between conference calls 😉)
- No commuting time
- More time with the kids 😋🙃🙄😖😠
(Mixed emotions…to say the least!)
- Savings on meals
(…yet the distraction of constant access to the fridge…🤔)
Remote Work: Team Losses
We also lose some of the benefits we might take for granted when we regularly interact with team members
- Sensing colleagues’ mood
(“Euh…Let me come back in 5 minutes…”)
- Getting instant feedback on project progress
(You walk by their desk and see that they are working on it.)
- Feeling part of the team ⭐
(“Ready for lunch/the meeting?”
“What do you think of…?”)
Who’s Got Remote Team Spirit?
Technology tools will allow us to stay in touch via vision and audio. Yet without touch or smell, we lack the human connection which builds trust and belonging.
Employees with soft skills and emotional intelligence will shine as team leaders. They can keep up a positive connection and professional motivation over weeks of physical distance.
Will that be YOU?!
Little annoying behaviors become big ones with distance. Let’s look at two:
In the office: When Joe interrupts during a meeting, it is unpleasant, possibly even vexing. And yet, we perceive his enthusiasm and give him the benefit of the doubt.
Later, at the coffee machine, we can mention that we too had been enthusiastic about the idea we were presenting. To his, “Oh, I did not realize it!” we can respond, “Something to be aware of for a next time. Cream or sugar?” And the conversation moves on.
With remote work: When Joe interrupts on the phone, he is rude and self-imposing. (This is a caricature…and notice how previously Joe’s actions were unpleasant whereas now his person is being judged!) We shut down. Why bother work with someone who appreciates us so little!
Following up to reconnect requires intentional effort. Our paths no longer cross casually. Do I make the phone call or not? If this is the only topic of conversation, it feels like a reprimand. Then we are the ones who are unpleasant work companions!
With remote working, “little” annoyances become like French cheese. They stink with age! Physical presence creates opportunities to nip differences in the bud.
Emotional intelligence will help you identify and resolve these teamwork-disrupting behaviors.
How are you building your relationship skills savvy?
Your boss, Jane, has been anxious to receive the presentation you were finishing. Satisfied with your work, you zoom it off.
Questions amass in your mind. It is normal. Humans fill in data void with impressions, oftentimes fears. Did she receive it? Did she look at it? Is it good enough? Is she not answering because I did such a bad job the she has to redo it but does not want to tell me?! We fill in the silence with worst-case scenario stories.
Here is what likely happened. Jane saw the report, was pleased to receive it, made a mental note to review it later, and continued with her current task. It did not occur to her that focusing on her work (and thus not sending off a message acknowledging receipt) would deter you from your work.
On a time and mind management level, we need to know about next steps. Is this project complete or will I have to return to it…and how soon? Should I next concentrate on a task requiring one hour or half a day?
At the office we could drop our head in and ask, “When can you get back at me?”
In remote work, we can send yet another message…and risk more silence.
Besides, who wants to invest time in no-value-added correspondence such as, “Did you get my message?” It feels like nagging. It can be avoided!
No malice led to this frustration. It is simply a lack of emotional intelligence skills.
How to Build Emotional Intelligence FAST?
As your team transitions into remote work, unexpected and challenging situations will surface.
YOUR response with emotional intelligence makes a difference! So how to gain these soft skills fast?
One of the biggest barriers to mastering these soft skills is not realizing we need them. In the examples above, both Joe and Jane were unaware. They were acting “normally.“
We are living exceptional circumstances. We now require “new-normal” behaviors.
And they will call on
- Your humility
- Your vulnerability
Sticky Situations and Constructive Responses
Here are some remote work situations you will likely encounter and corresponding constructive responses:
With imposed remote work, emotions will be running high.
Yours and those of team members (and those of the family team…. Have you tried working with kids running around and your partner complaining about the mess?)
✅ Find ways to calm yourself. Integrate them into the day. If you have children, teach your kids to do the same. Coordinate “zen-time’ as well as work hours with your partner
Routines & Rituals
Remote work will get your routines, big and small, off kilter.
Your team might still meet virtually for the regular business brief, but you won’t pass by your colleagues’ desk to walk into the meeting room together. Gone too is the pre-meeting banter that warms up the atmosphere and directs focus.
✅ Create opportunities for informal exchange as well as for formal communication.
✅ Revisit the purpose of your meetings and have very clear agendas. Avoid letting folk get into the habit of multi-tasking during conference calls and meetings.
Control & Follow Through
How can you verify people’s efforts in remote work? If we loosen the grips of control, what will happen to quality?
The goal is to develop intrinsic motivation in your team members. This means paying attention to the way we communicate as well as to what is said.
“Content + PROCESS = Effective Communication”
✅ Be vulnerable (Yikes!) with your team and let them know you might not be aware of your “controlling” behaviors. Possibly create a sign that invites discussion on your leadership and communication style. (an upside-down emoji 🙃, a request to pause 🆘, the words ‘Hummmmm. Encouraging?’)
✅ Learn to laugh more. Laughter gives you and the other person those few nanoseconds required to calm down.
Laughter also releases endorphins, the “feel-good enzyme.” In a study led by Robin Dunbar of Oxford University and reported in Scientific American, his team concluded “that the long series of exhalations that accompany true laughter cause physical exhaustion of the abdominal muscles and, in turn, trigger endorphin release. (Endorphin release is usually caused by physical activity, like exercise, or touch, like massage.)”
Just Do It…HOW?!
The above sound simple. But how to be vulnerable without getting run over? How to allow for critique without being ridiculed?
(I wrote more about this here: How to be a team leader, even in a competitive workplace?)
Here is what I learned the hard way:
Be in a group
In a group, you gain outside perspective. You have accountability to change and grow. We are humans, not robots. Transformation happens through relationships.
Growing in emotional intelligence is like a journey. We can reach the same destination by going through different paths. On our GPS we can choose various routes. At each intersection we get to choose again what path to take.
It takes courage to change. We climb a mountain one step at a time. We gain soft skills in the same way.
The term “Soft skills” is a misnomer.
Soft skills are TOUGH to learn and STRENGHTEN relationships.
Plan for the long haul
Prepare yourself with encouragement and accountability to stay in the game. You (and I and your team members) will mess up. We need help getting up, learning from mistakes, and getting back in the arena.
Humans are creatures of habit. Lasting change means breaking old habits and developing new ones. That takes time and accountability.
Practice makes better.
So, what is the IDEAL SOLUTION? 😀
Get onboard with the BE YOUR TEAM’S M.V.P. (Most Valuable Player) program. It’s
- Online training in emotional intelligence
- Private community to ask questions to experts and peers
- Coaching (individual and group) to set measurable growth goals and to stay on track
Interested?to see if you qualify.
So, what are you doing to get your team successful in remote work? Tell us below.