Virtual Work Reset Issue #1
In this Issue: Ready for a reset in your virtual work? Three factors to consider and strategies for the first factor - Preserve Energy and Focus.
3 Key Factors for Effective Virtual Work
Ready for a Virtual Work Reset? Consider how you are balancing these three factors for effective virtual work:
Preserve Energy and Focus
Coordinate and Collaborate Effectively
To be most productive we need a balance between Energy and Focus (typically for independent work) and Coordination and Collaboration (for interdependent work). I first heard this concept from Lynda Gratton of the London Business School and it provided a new way to see opportunities to shift out of a world of 'Zoom fatigue' and boundary-less workdays. I've added Prioritize Relationships as a third factor. Work is accomplished through relationships. Real opportunities to nurture relationships require more intention when people aren't collocated. Including everyone in Zoom meetings was the early strategy. It was a way to feel connected and less isolated. It was useful at the outset of a new way of working. However, it may now have outlived its usefulness and now have unintended consequences. In this first of a series, we'll begin to consider how you can reset for the months ahead.
Putting the Three Together Each of the three factors sound logical. Yet, how many of us consider these and the balance we have among them when planning work and looking for ways to make life more reasonable? By balance, I mean giving equal consideration to each not allocating equal time in your day for each. If we go too far in emphasizing one of the three principles, we risk the value we need from the other two. My sense is that Collaboration (in the form of meetings) is over-emphasized right now. It's extremely important but the overemphasis is resulting in reduced Energy and Focus and less effective efforts to Prioritize Relationships. Preserve Energy and Focus Given the pandemic, whole families are home. As a result, working from home can be filled with distractions. It's not just the distraction that can be challenging but also the time it takes to refocus. I often hear of days of endless Zoom meetings with little or no breaks. These zap energy in the moment due to the very real impact of 'Zoom fatigue'. They also diminish energy because while people are in endless meetings there is individual work that needs attention. To get that work done, people work longer days and have less time to rejuvenate. Work norms that preserve space for focused individual time help to reduce distraction. Norms that support boundaries, unplug time, and active energy management also help. Coordinate and Collaborate Effectively When priorities require people to work together, being able to determine what part of the work needs coordination and what needs collaboration can help preserve energy and focus.
Coordinate means to share information and resources so that each party can accomplish their part in support of a mutual objective. To Preserve Energy and Focus each person can work independently and then pass their part to others, similar to a relay. This can be accomplished via asynchronous communication, or working together in different time periods.
Collaborate means to work together to create something in support of a shared objective. This requires synchronous (same time, same place) communication via meetings or calls.
The biggest opportunity to Preserve Energy and Focus is an assessment and reset of meetings. Which are essential? What can be sent out in advance to reduce the meeting time (e.g. announcements) and improve the quality of the meeting (e.g. background materials and clarity around what people should be prepared to discuss/decide)? Stay tuned for Part 2 for more on ways to Coordinate and Collaborate Effectively. Prioritize Relationships Relationships are key to accomplishing effective work. The process of building relationships builds trust and psychological safety - two qualities that are important for individuals to bring their full discretionary energy to their work and to speak openly in service of the purpose. Meetings can help in increasing familiarity but if there is not a lot of interaction it can simply be draining. Balance the rigor of assessing meetings and other types of information exchange with a focused approach to Prioritize Relationships. Start meetings with a brief check-in. See more: https://bit.ly/3pXkkD8. Make space for impromptu conversations by leaving your favorite meeting software open at key times. I'll provide more strategies and resources in a future issue.
Preserve Energy and Focus
Be clear about what work is most essential:
What's your purpose? How do you contribute to the larger whole?
What work is most essential to advance that purpose? Who needs to be involved and in what ways - independently or interdependently?
View work through the lens of preserving energy and focus:
Is this meeting really necessary and, if so, is it designed in a way that maintains or generates energy?
Can core work hours (e.g. 4 hours) be set in which everyone is available for collective work? What flexibility beyond that can be provided to team members to set their own schedule?
What norms do you have around the way you work together? Are they still relevant for virtual work? Do they enable a balance between the 3 key factors?
Can/should you adopt what Leslie Perlow describes as 'preserved time off practices' to enable people to rest and to build capability in the team? (Harvard Business Review, June 2014, "Manage Your Team's Collective Time").
Heighten attention on energy management:
How are modeling the importance of preserving energy and focus?
In what ways might you strengthen your own energy management? Assess how you're spending your energy and consider, how you might spend your energy if you were doing so consistent with your deepest values. Take the assessment in this article: Harvard Business Review, October 2007 "Manage Your Energy Not Your Time", T. Schwartz and C. McCarthy.
What rituals do you have for yourself and your team to preserve energy and focus? How often do you block time to focus and signal 'do not disturb' to your colleagues?
What boundaries do you need to set/maintain to achieve your priorities? See "Boundaries: Achieving Results without Losing Yourself" https://tinyurl.com/4tv2ox6d
How are you signaling 'unplug time'? What is your ritual to create a 'third space' as a transition between work and home? That is, how do you get the benefit you may have gotten on the drive home?
Curious? Want to Explore More?
Book a complementary call https://calendly.com/scheduletimewithcarol to explore how I might support your success in virtual work or other areas. I work with leaders via individual coaching, small group learning communities, team resets or development, work redesign, strategy, culture and change.See what clients say and find resources at www.blueheronassociates.com.
Stay Tuned and Keep in Touch
Future issues will take a deeper dive into the other two design factors and other topics that help unleash potential.
I'd love to hear your ideas and how you put some of these ideas into practice. Reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for reading and stay well!