Remote work

Dispersed Work Teams Aka Working from Home? How's it Working Out?

By now most of you have likely experienced the pleasures and maybe tribulations (depends on your perspective) of working from home during this unexpected period of the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to now, I’m sure we have all had the need or desire to work from home as a minor part of our office based work environment.  But what is different now that we must work in virtual teams or individuals?  I find it interesting when speaking to colleagues the various levels of preparation their groups may of had prior to being forced into this mode.

Some have developed procedures, others have developed it on the fly, and others have let the teams figure it out as they immerse themselves in the moment.

Now that several weeks have passed, it would be interesting to hear what good practices have emerged.  From my discussions with colleagues and experience working virtually for the last 5 years after 35 years of corporate office life, here are a few efficient ways of working as a virtual team member or leading one that have emerged.

1.           Establish a workday schedule in a “dedicated” work space at home remains important. Set a consistent time period to be locked into work in your “work cave”. Let others know what parameters you have established so they can respect your time availability as you are likely balancing several new priorities in the work at home environment.

2.           Try to over connect with your working team to maintain a spirit of collaboration that is critical to group thinking and sharing processes that may naturally occur through office physical communities. Using all means of technology- chat, phone, video, and yes email (but let’s dial it back) is essential to assure efficiency and effectiveness of these connections.

3.           Take reflective breaks away from your home work space and likely your computer interface to think about your  productivity both individually and as a team so far today. Distractions, intended ones as a result of more virtual communication, and unintended due to your new working space can be accounted for if you can take time to reflect on what you have accomplished. Do this more frequently now.

4.           As a leader of virtual teams there should be several ways you are now staying informed of your teams needs and productivity. 15 minute touch-base team calls/videoconference at same time each morning and midday are ways to show you’re interested in their well being and provides an intentional channel for addressing short term priorities and intra-team interface requirements.  Make this short and sweet but expect contribution and attention by all. Leading a virtual team will mean being agile and possibly bringing a new degree of sensitivity. See blog on What’s up with you? It may be Grief.

5.           The team is likely finding they are more productive in some ways and less efficient in others in their new normal. Encourage this to be formally shared on a weekly basis during a Plus/Delta team video call. When we all emerge from this period, the business climate whether short or long term, will demand changes to drive business performance; some of these we are developing now so let’s record them. For more on this see our blog Prepare Now to Succeed in the Next Normal.

You all have certainly developed other efficient ways of working that may need formalization.  Endeavor would be glad to discuss them and help you focus on a long term implementation plan, part of a business change management approach.

Tim Swenk

Executive Vice President – Capital Projects Effectiveness Team Lead

Tim Swenk has over 40 years of comprehensive experience in the engineering and construction industry. As a member of multi-cultural teams, Tim has a keen appreciation of development of organizations and people through active involvement in the enterprise project management work process…