The suddenness of the shift of work from offices to work from home

Team Members Working from Home? The Challenges of Teaming Skills and EQ

The suddenness of the shift of work from offices to home, has forced many employees to quickly learn how to effectively use new technologies, organize a home workspace, and juggle family expectations and needs.  While these issues aren’t challenging enough, working in a remote or virtual team can be even more challenging.  As many can attest, working in a face-to-face team environment can have its emotional intelligence (EQ)challenges.  Those EQ challenges can rachet up considerably under our current circumstances.   What to consider if your team has moved to virtual work from home:

Not just tasks but, relationships.  It is important to balance on-line meetings and off-line task work with intentional relationship contact.  Connecting with teammates to discuss tasks, projects, customers, is important but it is also important to check in on personal and family well-being, non-work activities and interests, and other concerns and expectations.

Emotions run the gamut.  The suddenness and dramatic nature of the changes brought on by the response to the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting people in different ways.  Think of team members who may be new to the organization and concerned about getting ramped up or being laid-off, those stressed with health concerns for themselves or family members, co-workers struggling with their job performance even before the shift to working from home, or teammates whose EI deficiencies are magnified under this more stressful environment.  Sensing and understanding fellow team members’ feelings, needs and concerns becomes especially important.  Knowing how and when to extend patience and grace will go a long way to sustaining relationships.

Listening and asking questions.  Often a challenge for teams meeting in-person, these skills become even more essential when team members are working virtually from home. Web-based sharing platforms enable team members to present, share information and, of course, listen.  Team meetings should enable members to listen without requiring a forced response, provide for a pause in the conversation for members to gather their thoughts before offering an emotional or complex response or simply articulate a considered question or request for clarification.

Opportunities to collaborate.  Remote teams may quickly decide that the most efficient way to tackle projects is to largely focus on assigning tasks to individual team members.  While this may be a necessary process step, teams should be intentional to identify and nurture opportunities for collaboration among members.  Aside from the obvious benefit to decreasing isolation from fellow team members, collaborating on problem-identification, designing solutions, and setting priorities enable teams to build shared understanding and goal achievement.

Teamwork requires work.  High performing teams typically, don’t just happen, they are intentionally built.  Teams now working from home should create or reset their “working agreements.”  What worked (or didn’t) in the same office environment will not necessarily carry over to a virtual environment.  Be sure to address several key questions:  What are the team’s priorities today?  What values and behaviors will we prioritize in our online environment?  How will we communicate?  What about roles and responsibilities? Decision-making? Accountabilities? Gaining agreement on these areas will enable a new focus on teamwork that was perhaps taken for granted in an office environment.

What are your thoughts about these or other factors to consider?