WFH Fatigue: Giving your team the right collaboration tools for success
Do you feel like your team is thriving with virtual collaboration, or do you have a sense it could be better?
Back when lock-downs started in March, your work from home (WFH) office might’ve seemed like a blessing in disguise. Without time needed to physically move around a building or campus, you likely picked up some efficiencies. (Albeit some distractions too depending on kids, pets, roommates, etc…) You were surprised at how much you could get done at home and how many meetings seemed to seamlessly shift to an all virtual space. But now, you’re exhausted. What started off as efficient has turned into meeting stacking that leaves little to no room for productivity.
The good news: you’re not alone. But if you’re a leader, it’s especially important you address this exhaustion by re-examining the tools you’ve given your team to be successful. Let me explain.
Earlier in my career I took over a team. I had been on the team for a couple 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 couple 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/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 an 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 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 connection that some of us are missing.
Do you have any unique ideas for how to keep communication flowing among your virtual teams? Or do you have a leader who has made life better in our new WFH world? Let them know – then let me know! You can always reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.