WFH Fatigue: Giving your team the right collaboration tools for success

Even if your team is thriving with virtual collaboration, there’s always space to improve their experience.

Many employers never properly addressed the remote work fatigue that hit employees in the first year of the 2020 pandemic. If not properly address, employees are left exhausted and fearful of this post-pandemic “new normal.” What started off as efficiency has turned into meeting stacking that leaves little to no room for productivity. If you’re an organization leader, it’s especially important you address this exhaustion by re-examining the tools you’ve given your team to be successful.

Case Study in Focusing on the Right Solutions

I took over a new team early in my career.  I had been on the team for a couple of years and felt like I understood issues and had a ton of thoughts on how to make improvements.  A couple of my planned first moves were simply around messaging the “right” way to do things. I went to coffee with a friend of mine and talked with him about the issues as I saw them and how I was going to message “the fixes” to my new team. He listened intently and after I finished he was quiet for a few seconds before he said, “If I was on your team and was sitting at my desk processing after you said all that, I wouldn’t be encouraged or inspired to do any better than before.”

Yikes. I asked him to elaborate.

He went on, “Everyone generally wants to perform better. And they’ve probably thought long and hard about how to do just that. Your messages might even be things they’ve thought about. Likely in their mind, they are missing supporting resources from your company. Do they have everything they need to do their job? If you came to them with ways you were going to serve them and support them, you would likely cause a pattern interrupt in their mind. It would provide some much-needed new mental talk tracks to lead to new outcomes.”

His candor and wisdom guided me towards developing new tools for my team and building a different framework for how to think about serving as a leader.

If yours is one of the thousands of businesses entering month six of WFH, your team might be ready for some new tools, some new self-talk tracks, and different ideas about how to work together.  Before you pursue more ambitious projects, it’s important to ensure your team feels supported. Here are a few ideas for keeping the collaboration going:

1. Update Your Chat and Meeting Apps

Chances are you’re already ahead of the game on this one – but if your team hasn’t already selected a standard meeting solution, why not? Apps such as Webex Teams, Microsoft Teams, and Slack are designed to cut out some of the noise from emails and provide one place for collaboration that can even include emojis and gifs. These apps allow you to create teams of people that can all have access to shared info and keep a history of how the project has evolved all in one place. Team members can turn notifications on or off depending on their level of involvement. Often these apps will even let a newly added team member go back in time and catch up if they were late to the party.

If your team isn’t using one of these apps, it will be a welcomed addition, likely even a game changer.  If you’re already using this type of app, try leveling up a bit and adding things like emojis and gifs to your conversations. Often times you’re losing body language and tone, so adding emojis and gifs help humanize your text and bring life to chat.

2. Adopt a Video-First Culture

Speaking of body language and tone… Have you committed to a video-first meeting culture? Encouraging everyone to be on video at every meeting will ensure that you make the best use of the time. Seeing people’s reactions gives insight and ensures people are engaged.  Almost all meeting platforms now use people-finding technology to give you the ability to change your background.  Working from a messy room doesn’t need to be an excuse for turning your video off anymore!

3. Replicate the Water Cooler

Have you experimented with impromptu meetings yet? Sometimes when our company knows there is a topic we’d gravitate toward talking about in the hallway, at the coffee machine, or the water cooler, we’ll set up open invite meetings about a topic like “how you’re processing back to school news” where people know if they want to chat or listen in there is a virtual meeting space to recreate the physical spaces where those discussions naturally happened.

If you lead a team, another helpful impromptu collaboration strategy might be to use a meeting platform to establish a standing “office hour” a couple times a week. Your team might not want to request a formal meeting and build an agenda, but if you’re available, they might pop in and benefit from your expertise and wisdom.  These types of virtual spaces make up for more interpersonal connections that some of us are missing.

Are you trying to replicate in-person meeting rooms in your hybrid structure to prevent employee burnout? Partner with RoomReady for meeting room guidance.

Phillip McArdle

Chief Heart Officer