After talking with a group of federal government employees about their telework experiences, one manager asked a good question: What do you do differently when your team is working in the office a few days during the week and telecommuting/working from home the other days? In his case, his team was beginning to experiment with telework arrangements. Team members were expected to be in the office 3 days a week but allowed to telework on the other 2. Seems like an easy question, right? My advice:
Do the opposite of what feels natural.
In other words, experiment. After speaking with him for a few minutes, I realized that his initial inclination was to do team related activities on the days they were in the office together and individual work on the days they were teleworking. For example, let’s suppose his team is mandated to be in the office Tuesday through Thursday but allowed to work from home on Mondays and Fridays. Let’s also assume he has a weekly team meeting with all the members of his team. What day of the week will he hold his team meeting? My guess is sometime between Tuesday and Thursday. Seems logical, right? Everyone will be there in person, face to face. Regardless, I say he should hold it on Monday or Friday. Here’s why:
When you are just starting to work virtually, how in the heck will you learn if you don’t start working virtually? Forcing yourself out of your comfort zone will accelerate your learning out of necessity. The team will have to adapt.
Second, if you are one of those managers that believes people will be slacking off during the days they are working from home, then you at least know where your people and what they are doing during the time you are together. This can help ease managers into telework arrangements if they are a little leery about the new work structure.
In today’s work environment we are all expected to collaborate, work as a team, and be more productive. I wholeheartedly believe all of this can be done even in a workplace that is 100% virtual. Often it is more about the comfort level of the leader and learning through experience.
What would you do?