Energy Booster

Dear Dr. Jim,
Our team used to thrive off of each other’s energy and the ability to work closely together. But now, with a hybrid workforce, I’m finding it challenging to foster that same collaboration and inspired environment. What can I do?
– Beth*

Hi Beth*,
We see this all the time when there is a major shift of some kind. This is a major shift for many people (when they go from working in the office to working remotely). You’ll notice behavior changes, some people may have been really good at what they were doing before, but are maybe not so good now. Check in with them and ask them how it’s going.

The D.O.S.E.I also recommend, at least three times a week, at an appointed time, get together online and do a check-in. Everybody goes around and first says what they are working on. You do another round of what your stuck points are, or what you’re frustrated about. And then you do a final round where everybody shares a “win” they’ve recently had. This way your employees are engaged with one another and maintain connection. At Vivo Team, we call this a D.O.S.E.—a direct, ongoing, swift, encounter.

Another thing, it’s a bit radical, but you could for 1 hour in the morning and one in the afternoon, have everyone come up on screen and work together at the same time. You can see everyone moving around and doing their thing, and you can have a little chat—just like in the office. There’s not much difference in many respects, except it’s virtual and some people may need time to get used to that. Again, it increases the connection and it can really help people in terms of stress and anxiety just to know people are there with them, even if it’s virtually.

Give it a shot—watch for changes in behavior, respond to help team members get better, and encourage those who are doing well.
– Dr. Jim

*names have been changed

Building a Culture of Accountability to Drive Results

By Tierra Madani, CPHR, HR Consultant, Chemistry Consulting Group

It seems we have all been feeling propelled forward these days as we turn the switch from ‘recovery mode’ to the ON button. As we get back to business, we are facing unique challenges within our working world that need to be mended before we turn our engines on to full speed ahead. 

One of the ways in which we can create a solution around these challenges is by bringing awareness to accountability.

 

HR & Communication Challenges in Today’s Workplace

The unique challenges we are facing in our workplaces can stem from how we are working; including environments that are hybrid, at the workplace and/or remote. Even before the pandemic, many teams were set up in this way just to a lesser degree for some. HR professionals and people leaders have been working in the background on bridging communication gaps and solving conflict that derive from these mixed workplace settings but adding the pressure that comes from picking up our pace has made it overwhelming. 

Broken links can happen anywhere within our organizations and our teams. Two key HR functions that require special attention right now are employee engagement and the onboarding of new hires. In today’s labour market experiencing nationwide staff shortages, our businesses are struggling to retain and engage top talent. It is critical that we look to address and follow-up on communication challenges such as reading between the lines, miscommunications, and different interpretations from a mix of online vs messaging vs texting vs in-person communication exchanges. 

 

Accountability as the Solution

Although we know it is literally impossible to be everywhere at once, for some reason there is this feeling of a superpower that remote work gives us where we are confident in our ability to communicate effectively everywhere we need to. Clearly this is one reason communication breaks down and the quality of our work is being negatively affected. Holding each other responsible to do things right and when we need them done by is the foundation of accountability, and therefore an effective solution to the challenges we are continuing to face. 

Let’s use employee onboarding as a challenge where accountability can help. 

Coordinating orientations and onboarding plans are no easy task, especially when done virtually or when the pressure of staff shortages doesn’t allow for much training time at all. Clearly communicating who is accountable to look after your new employee and when the responsibility is passed over to someone else. There is no accountability without clear expectations set, so that should be the priority from the day the employment agreement is signed. Determine the best method of communication to set expectations with your team, whether through a group email, a text message group, or a new Teams conversation. Also don’t leave your new hire in the dark and do your best to prepare them in advance of their first day. 

A little extra communication and time taken to clarify who is playing what role in the process is key to avoiding pitfalls. 

 

Leading and Supporting Accountability 

HR professionals and people leaders can lead and support accountability, but how and to what degree? 

Building a culture of accountability is a great place to start. Although it is not an easy task, there are several benefits of using accountability as a strategy which makes it worthwhile to take this step back from our fast-paced world to build a new and stronger foundation. By developing and promoting a culture of accountability at your organization, you’ll be improving employee engagement through trust, transparency, communication, teamwork and critical thinking in decision making. 

Use accountability to drive results through ownership, commitment to continuous improvements and resilience. Encourage more frequent performance reviews and/or project status reports throughout the year, instead of only focusing on this annually or semi-annually. Commit time to discussing your employees’ professional and personal development plans and what each of you will be accountable for as you look ahead. 

Connect Casually

Dear Dr. Jim,
What are some ways I can grow and develop my team virtually? 
– Anil

Hi Anil,

Think about what you were doing before working remotely to grow your team. Go through those elements and see what you can apply virtually.

I would recommend people meet with one another in a less than business-like way maybe once or twice a week to do a check in. At Vivo Team, we call that a D.O.S.E. (a Direct, Ongoing, Swift, Encounter) in which people do a quick check in about what their priorities current are, what problems or stuck points they’re and the impact on the team, as well as a ‘win’ they’ve had in the last seven or ten days and the impact on the team. That helps people stay connected.

I would also encourage people to check in with each other on a casual basis, with those colleagues that they feel close to and actually did connect with when they were in the office – that’s another way. One of the other things to do is to get together once a week or every two weeks and have a presentation on some new thing that you or somebody in the team has recently learned. These ways of staying connected can be really helpful.

There are lots of webinars, for example Vivo Team puts out lots of what we call “Swag Bags” for people to check-in. Watch one of those (videos), they’re only one or two minutes and then stay together after that to have a conversation about what you learned, how you might apply it, etc. It’s all with the intention of staying connected with one another, because what we’re noticing, working with a multitude of teams, is that people generally don’t tend to do the more casual connecting like they did in the office. You can do that virtually, it just takes a little bit more discipline to do on a regular basis.

So there are some tips to try!

– Dr. Jim

*names have been changed

Zoom Zombie?

Dear Dr. Jim,
We’ve all heard of Zoom fatigue, but what else should I be aware of or watch out for?
– Marie-Hélène

 

Hi Marie-Hélène,
During this time of Zoom meetings that seem to be back to back, by the end of the day you’re like a marathon runner who’s run out of gas – you’re struggling and trying to keep your thoughts together.

So that’s one thing: too many meetings too close together. Another thing is going to meetings you shouldn’t be in. You should also be aware of taking time off during the day. Go for a walk. Even 15 minutes can make a big difference.

Now, I want to explain something that goes on when you start getting Zoom fatigue, and this research is from Dr. Travis Bradberry (see diagram in video):

  • Boredom/Depression: When we’re down here, we’re kind of bored, depressed, and wondering “What am I doing?” We hear this from little kids: “I’m bored, Mom,” because there’s not much going on and there’s a low stress level.
  • Increased Attention/Interest: What happens as you start performing more and there’s a little bit more stress, you have increased attention and interest, and that’s why it’s really important to be doing things that are of interest to you because you can handle a fair bit of stress (which is part of life) and do well in terms of what you need to do at a certain level.
  • Optimal Performance: Then you get up to this optimal performance level, and that’s where we’re at our best. It depends on:
    • Skills
    • Motivation
    • Surroundings
    • Organizational impact (e.g., too many demands, not enough demands, unclear demands, etc.)
  • Strong Anxiety: What begins to happen when our stress levels get higher, but the demands are still there, people start feeling strong anxiety and then performance starts going down.
  • Complete Meltdown: After which you can get to an awful place of complete meltdown, where you just can’t function anymore.

One of the cues to look out for when you’re working is whether you can still have clear thoughts and move through your priorities that you have set. If you find yourself staring at the screen, unable to maintain concentration, you’re getting into anxiety area, and that, on a long term basis is very self-destructive to your health.

Take care of yourself.  Thank you.
– Dr. Jim

*names have been changed

No Show

Dear Dr. Jim,

My new manager is insisting we use our video cameras during virtual meetings. Is this really necessary? My previous manager was fine with us having them off.
– Holly*

 

Holly,

Would you go to a face-to-face meeting with a bag over your head? No you wouldn’t.

That’s what it’s like to be in a meeting where people are not on video. You can’t see them. Most people are probably multitasking and not fully paying attention, so it just kind of screws up the whole thing.

Now, I realize there can be connection problems and things like that, and that’s fine, but everybody should be up on video – ready and present, so you can SEE one another, and interact with one another, like you’re together, almost face-to-face. This helps reduce people not paying attention and multitasking.

So when you’re in meetings, whether it be Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Workplace, etc., come on video, look at one another, and be interactive and pay attention. Also look at the camera – that’s really important, too.

Your meetings will become much more interesting and you’ll be able to see each other. Get over your shyness – it’s fun! Once you get over it, you’ll find it much easier. It’s just a matter of moving into a different way of doing things. Hopefully this is helpful.

– Dr. Jim

*names have been changed

Digital Visibility Tools and Techniques

It’s not fun to have to track people down or be tracked down. Increasing digital visibility among your hybrid team boosts productivity and reduces stress. With a bit of structure and accountability to digital transparency, your team will thrive.

According to our hybrid workforce poll, a whopping 75.9% of respondents are now working remotely at least some of the time (55.2% of respondents are working at home only, while 20.7% are working at home and in the office). That’s why it’s so important to consider the structures and tools available to help your hybrid team succeed!

Business Communication Platform

Visibility into projects can greatly decrease errors and communication breakdowns. Does your team use something like Slack or Microsoft Teams to share information about clients or projects? If not, it’s worth investigating.

At Vivo Team, we share what our priorities are for the day in a Slack channel called daily updates. This can also be accomplished in a quick huddle. Our norm is to set ourselves to “away” if we need to be away from our computer to save our team members the hunt. 

File Sharing

If you are sick or on vacation or even unavailable because of meetings, do you have a way to access shared files that your team members are working on? This again can be a huge productivity stuck point for remote teams. Whether it’s an intranet or Google Workspace (formally G-Suite), there are lots of options for increasing file sharing capacities within a team.

At Vivo Team, we have a carefully organized file system in Google Workspace for project files, documents, spread sheets and more that the entire team can access.

Shared Calendars

If you are working on a remote team, there is a good chance that it will be time-consuming to book a team meeting. By sharing calendars, this time can be greatly decreased. It might be that you only show business times, but that in itself is a huge time-saving.

At Vivo Team, we are able to access all team members calendars so we can easily see when people are available for meetings. Our norm is, if the time is open in my calendar I am available for a meeting. We are able to book team or project meetings without sending a single email!

Popular Tools

Our poll indicated that the most used tools are Zoom (69%), Microsoft Teams (48.3%), Google Meet (27.6%) and Slack (20.7%). However, it’s less important what the tool is, the agreement is what is important. If you are in a smaller company who doesn’t have a business communication platform, the team can instead agree to share information in other ways, such as via email or through a huddle.

Has your remote team worked out ways to increase your digital visibility? If not, there’s an opportunity here – establish your norms today and stay accountable!