In the past few months, several of my coaching calls have ended in my clients uncovering a deep desire for connection—either with family or colleagues.
The goals typically start with, “How do I deal with under-performers or slackers while working virtually?” or “How can I handle my impatience with inefficacy or inefficiency?” If working in person, it is easier to push or course-correct the under-performers, but how can one do so virtually if people sign off early or without completing tasks. Another common complaint is, “I’m not feeling inspired to work because I am not going into the office.” An extrovert certainly will feel this way.
There have been all kinds of responses to the pandemic with regards to seeking change and relaxation. Some folks have thrown caution to the wind and started travelling as soon as the lockdown was lifted. Others have chosen not to do so due to older parents at home or their own discomfort with the situation. Some people have handled the working from home to their advantage, while many others have lost track and gotten caught up so much in that intense work mode that mentally they do not give themselves a break to rejuvenate or refresh themselves. It then leads to issues of impatience and snapping at others. Slow down every once in a while, and get a sense of how everyone around you feels, including yourself.
Here are three things to keep in mind to connect with your team while working remotely.
The boundaries between professional and personal life are blurred now. The fundamental attributes to establish trust requires empathy and respect. Actively create an environment conducive to empathy for your virtual team. The thing about empathy is that the more you give to yourself, the better you apply to others. While virtual productivity is necessary, sometimes overlook the plan in favour of connection. The need to show and receive care is far more than ever before. Frequent check-ins on the well-being of each team member are crucial. Such micro-steps can assist in overcoming isolation and creating healthy surroundings.
The so-called slackers maybe know how to maintain the balance of their personal life too. Perhaps, the question to ask is ‘What can I learn from those who are not interested in working 14 hours a day?’ After all, all work and no play does make Jack a dull boy.
What worked before may not work anymore. Actively create an atmosphere for engaging virtual interactions through a high-touch environment. It is easier to miss critical conversations and other details through WiFi lags and interruptions from family members. Consistently ask questions and solicit opinions, to gain valuable information and insights. Encourage honesty within the team by practicing it yourself first. Openly inform them of your availability to be there to listen and hear them.
We spend so much time with our colleagues at work. If you always end up being in an automatic mode with a very work-specific agenda during virtual calls, you slowly start losing touch with all things human. We are not machines and operating like one will take its toll on you and let itself out in odd ways—such as losing your temper with a team member.
High-performing teams need to collaborate, and it is difficult to collaborate without connecting at a human level. For an authentic connection, distance does not matter. Recognising who to connect with and at what level is key. The intention to genuinely be interested in the life of a team member is vital.
We all need healthy doses of relaxed fun times with family, friends, and co-workers in addition to agenda-based interactions. If we de-prioritise those, it is hard to be useful at work. You think you may get a lot done by working long hours, but only up to a point, after which it becomes counterproductive. Research proves that social connection can enable emotional regulation, lead to higher self-esteem and empathy, and improve our immune systems. All of these are much-required leadership demands in current times.
Views are personal. The author is the founder and CEO of Talent Power Partners a global leadership development company based in Bengaluru. She is also the author of the book, ‘Checkmate Office Politics’.