Let’s land virtual and hybrid working for our teams in 2022

2021 was heading in the right direction for our global team. Ok, not the best start as my team embraced virtual along with unique individual lockdown challenges, but as the year progressed the gradual return to office and introduction of hybrid working started to fall into place. And then… well, you know the rest, Covid strikes again. Time for a rethink.

So, as we kick off another year working virtually, I’ve decided to take a step back to reflect on ’21. Making a few ’22 commitments for myself, and discuss ideas on what we — I assume you’re reading this for a reason — can do to land virtual and hybrid working successfully in ’22. Importantly doing the right thing for our teams.

In the next 5mins (read time) I’ll focus on three areas that research has shown are impacted by virtual working — Trust, Satisfaction and Innovation. The goal here is for us to stay mindful of these topics, reducing ‘virtual distance’ by promoting a ‘sense of “humanhood” back into everyday work and everyday life’ [The Power of Virtual Distance A Guide to Productivity and Happiness in the Age of Remote Work, by Lojeski and Reilly].

Oh, and Happy New Year :)

Trust

The foundation for successful collaboration and high performing teams that all pull in the same direction. How we present ourselves has a big impact on those we lead, more so in the virtual environment.

“Leadership begins not when others trust you but when you trust yourself” — I like this quote and the concept of the “Trust Triangle” [from HBR, Begin with Trust] so let’s reflect on these points to reflect within the virtual environment.

Source: https://hbr.org/2020/05/begin-with-trust

Communicate, communicate, communicate [Logic]: Is over communication a thing? (perhaps a topic for another time) but taking time to be clear, repeat and solidify goals that keep the team connected in this virtual world is a good thing. Consistency is key — in how we present ourselves in a meeting, set agendas / actions / feedback, and always follow up on your commitments (no matter how small). In ’22 I plan to build on solid comms plans with, and for, the team.

It starts with hello [Authenticity]: Or “Good morning”, which a member of my team pings us with every day! At first I didn’t think much about it, but now it’s become a nice (and quick) daily tradition of connecting in with each other at the start of a day. It’s so easy to feel less connected when virtual. In ’22 I plan to take it a step further and share a photo / snippet / or update from my weekend during our Monday “hello” ping.

The small things [Empathy]: You would pick up on during those ad-hoc coffee or corridor chats have turned into organized 30 min long “virtual coffees”, adding to our day of clicking between meeting after meeting (after meeting). Carve out time in regular individual or team meetings for ‘chit chat’ instead. Individually taking time to dig a little deeper (“How are you?” won’t cut it). I can’t fix everything but in ’22 I can plan to be present and there in the moment to show I care. Remember it’s ok to feel vulnerable yourself.

Satisfaction

In our new virtual and hybrid worlds, investing time in individual connection is super important. Let’s focus on these types of connections…

  • ​​Cultural — Support and meaning in your team and work.
  • Social — Feeling included and valued.
  • Informational — Having the information to do your job.
Source: https://kissflow.com/digital-workplace/remote-work/team-building-activities-for-remote-teams/

Regular feedback [Cultural]: Establishing a culture of feedback during individual catch ups can be positive and/or constructive and, where relevant, shared with the wider group. My ’22 goal is to remember our common vision / purpose to keep everyone on the same track, which can be lost in the virtual world and helps bring a sense of meaning to the work we do.

Feeling included [Social]: Take time to celebrate ‘wins’ together and grow from ‘learnings’ together. I encourage this every week. In the hybrid world it’s easy to either focus attention in the room vs the video, or if you’re on the other side of the screen feel less comfortable chiming in. Don’t let this happen, my ’22 goal is to ensure every voice is heard and everyone feels valued.

Feeling included [Informational]: Transparent and timely pass downs, and encouraging a collaborative environment between individuals in chat groups that’ll work in both office and home environments. My ’22 goal is to ensure every individual can access what / who they need from the office or at home. Using my shared doc with notes and links is a good start.

One step further — I’m now thinking about creating a small shared project spanning the entire team, to continue developing connections in all these areas during virtual and in person settings. Plus building on creativity and innovation, which leads me onto…

Innovation

An area that I suspect is suffering as a result of our new environment — “Creativity comes from spontaneous meetings, from random discussions.” [Steve Jobs].

When researching this subject I kept thinking about those early “flying machines”. Now, place those early pioneers into a virtual world — the design and build process would look very different, and would the idea to do it ever have been envisioned?

Photo taken by me — Early flying prototype

Breaking down barriers: Specifically, those virtual walls we build up around ourselves each day clicking between meetings. Respectively recreating casual / spontaneous collisions in the virtual world. “Respectively” being key here, context switching between personal and professional in the home environment is detrimental enough. In ’22 I’ll be making space for the team to work together digging a little deeper on a current topic / challenge, encouraging idea sharing in our ‘chat’ settings (those forums I mentioned earlier).

Organically organised: Two words that don’t normally go together. In ’22 I plan to organise a global team wide competition (e.g a dragons den style) set around key themes relevant to my business area, with specific deadlines (and of course prizes). Ok, it’s not a new concept and is “organised”, but — encourages brainstorming, supports creativity, and has the potential to amplify organic idea growth.

One step further — I wonder if I can build a quick chat bot to artificially reproduce those impromptu collisions, creating a brief and spontaneous connection within someone’s day, knowing their calendar and current work topic ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ?

Thanks for reading. Comments / suggestions / learnings you have on “landing virtual and hybrid” are all welcome.

I’ll leave you with one final lesson from me — when you do get together in person as a team, perhaps avoid a Virtual Reality activity. The irony of me arranging an in person catchup for us to jump back into another virtual world was not lost on me 🤣

Photo taken by me — VR fun

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Drew Jarrett

Drew Jarrett

Working @Google across SYD & LDN. Developer. Innovative. Problem solver. Passion for making a difference through what I do. Proud Dad of two amazing girls.