Growing commute distances, the ever-rising cost of office space, and a concerted effort to reduce emissions to better protect the environment have all motivated a gradual movement to work from home. Luckily, technological advancements in the last ten years have enabled remote work to become a viable option — and the preferred option to many. And in the past month, the Coronavirus pandemic, and related stay-at-home orders, have compelled those slow to adopt to fully embrace the trend.
As a business leader, I enjoy the energy that emanates from engaged teams collaborating in the office. I, like many leaders, have an underlying fear that distance diminishes culture and relationships are less rich with a largely remote workforce. While evidence has subtly suggested over time my fears are unfounded, this current hard swap to an entirely remote workforce has opened my eyes to the many benefits of working from home; and I’m beginning to see our company culture benefiting from our new normal.
5 Lessons Learned while Leading a Fully Remote Team:
1. Challenge Your Creativity
I’ve heard many express feelings of loss and emptiness emanating from this new independence. Amongst our team, I witness a contrary theme — we are finding opportunity in space previously filled with too many meetings and interruptions. Ideation has become a positive byproduct of more time for idle thought, and great ideas are emerging because of it. We all need time to think, problem-solve, and learn — and now we all have more of it. Use it to your advantage.
2. See the Value of Hard Truths
We are a complex assemblage of our past experiences, academic investments, and contributions from those we are close to. Working alongside or within earshot of a spouse, partner or teen, our professional selves are now exposed — possibly for the very first time. And family members know how to deliver candor, radically. In this experience, I’ve been gifted with difficult truths and I’ve learned not to be defensive. I urge you to also embrace the valuable and diverse insights and perspectives of loved ones. More than anyone else, they want to see you succeed. Leverage that and let them play. Listen and learn from those who love you most. None of us is an island.
3. Learn the Impacts of Intention
We often take for granted the connectivity in an open-office environment where interaction is impossible to hide from. Working from home, it must be curated and crafted. Our team is using communication tools to share, meet, and interact; and our own software to plan and manage projects. And, as a result, we’re discovering even more connectivity and collaboration. The software, leveraged as designed and to its full intention, is delivering on its promise. Be intentional about using the tools you have invested in and explore additional ways to drive further adoption and widespread use.
4. Let Hidden Insights Enrich Relationships
In traditional offices, the space is sterile. We’re now getting glimpses into the real lives of our colleagues and deepening our insights into who they are and how they live. And along the way, our workplace relationships are growing even more enriched. This week alone, I’ve learned one person’s neighbor has a 20-foot wooden giraffe in their yard, another has a 20-pound cat named Oscar, and a third bakes bread to exchange with a neighbor who smokes meat — and together, they have the makings of a killer Ruben sandwich. Embrace what before was hidden and is now apparent — it’s the real-life stuff that reveals who we are and why we are all uniquely awesome.
5. Stay Conscientious and Committed
If all else fails, remember to trust your team members. Remind yourself that you hired them to deliver and that each person accepted the role with the intention to perform well. If need be, take a moment to clarify expectations and then let them impress. Very few will take advantage of these circumstances to have a ‘free’ vacation. I can assure you that most recognize the increased importance of continued focus to help their company survive (and thrive) through this crisis. Call on them to do so, and trust. The reward will be a conscientious commitment to their part in achieving company goals and priorities.
In this multi-part series, LiquidPlanner CEO, Ted Hawksford, discusses the lessons learned and shares helpful tips one month after our team went fully remote due to the growing threat of COVID-19, and the mandatory stay-at-home orders that followed.