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Bringing vitality to virtual working

28th Apr 2020
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Across the globe, businesses and leaders are having to find creative solutions to challenges brought by the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak and its numerous socioeconomical consequences. For weeks, this has now impacted us all in our day-to-day lives, and many have had to significantly change the way they work. It’s safe to say workplace agility has been put to the test.

None of us know how long this may last or just how severe and long-lasting the impact may be, but it seems clear that it will not go away in the foreseeable future for most of us. In light of this, we have all had to re-think some of our working practices to ensure they fit with the nature of virtual work, as well as with the culture of the individual business.

For many, adapting to the current situation has entailed a lot of trial and error. There is nothing wrong with this – in fact, in the best of worlds, it leads to old practices being re-evaluated altogether, and new ways of working being explored that can benefit business culture even after the crisis is over. It is highlighting the importance of teamwork and promoting agile mindsets.

Based on our psychological insights regarding interpersonal dynamics and, as always, creating an inclusive environment, as well as our own experience of going virtual, YSC has compiled a list of both practical and psychological tips for how to navigate working from home.

Practical tips

  • Be prepared and stay disciplined: Maximise pre-reading to ensure time spent together is as useful as possible. Stay on time, have clarity on purpose and outcomes. And remember, over-running carries the risk of unwanted participants inadvertently joining your virtual meeting. Finally, share the load, ensuring a range of colleagues take ownership for various segments of your session
  • Get creative: Think about how you might use webinars, video-recorded core messages or get some virtual chats going…but be realistic. You cannot simply replace a 2-day off-site with 2 days on VC
  • Get to know your tech: Whatever VC or platforms you use, really draw on its functionality. Most have break-out room features, screen-sharing, polls, whiteboards, voting buttons and ‘raise hands’ options
  • Use your camera: VC beats phone, all day, every day! It is always better to see each other. At a basic level it encourages focus and presence, it enables connection and facilitates effective verbal and non-verbal communication, most obviously through tapping into facial expression

Psychological tips

  • Agree to clear ground rules: Be razor-sharp and transparent on who owns what activities. Doing so will maximise psychological safety and minimise annoyance at any perceived ‘wasted time’. Time and focus on relational connection becomes more, not less, important when we are not able to be together physically
  • Celebrate ‘embarrassment’: Many colleagues may not have a suitable space at home, or young children and pets may make a guest appearance. Rather than allowing this to create awkwardness, create psychological safety around this, enjoy it and use it as an opportunity to get to know each other more deeply
  • Manage energy: Work in short, sharp bursts or ‘sprints’ (maximum 90 mins), with plenty of breaks – both ‘virtual’, where colleagues can connect and network and ‘offline’, where colleagues can have downtime or check emails
  • Play to the diversity of styles and needs: Create variety in your agenda by mixing up the modes and methods. If you have had an analytical debate about budgets in the first session, follow it with something that will engage different styles afterwards, such as a visioning activity or relationship building exercise.

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