Work from home.
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Get online and communicate with your team.
In our team environment, we are leaders and teams that move around the space, engaged with each other and students, taking both verbal and non-verbal communication cues from each other. But when this environment shifts to only seeing head and shoulders, mentally focusing with no or minimal physical movement, we need to consider new communication skills and the wellbeing of those we lead during online group sessions.
So when our teams are dispersed and working from home in their bubbles, keep in mind what to watch for both in yourself as a leader and your team.
What to watch out for:
Watch more readily for non-verbal cues; facial expressions, tone and pitch of voice, do they move off screen when certain topics arise or areas of discussion come up, are they leaning forward more intensely into view. In the work environment, we notice the non-verbal cues from our team and ask them if they are okay. On-line chats may not give this opportunity to be more personalised. Think about one-on-one or smaller group sessions to support team members in reconnecting on a social level.
Be aware of the negative and allow space. A study by German academics found that “silence creates a natural rhythm in a real-life conversation” Online, the conversation styles shift, a delay of 1.2 seconds online is enough time for a negative thought to form about someone. Giving yourself and others the space to respond in real time allows this natural flow of conversation to continue. We all need time to think, space lets us do that.
Shakespeare said “the world is a stage and we are all players” And this is no more true when a camera or video is focused upon us. We feel exposed, vulnerable and open to, what we assume, others are thoughts of us. As uncomfortable as it may be, lean into it, allow your messy hair, your background to be as it comes and noise to show that you are in a real environment.
Our home and work life used to be separate, but now they have morphed into one. This can be tricky to navigate as there is an element of vulnerability required. Allowing others into our personal spaces through the internet and video chats, where normally we would be able to leave work at work and have home at home. Creating designated work areas and/or times can support the transition from work to home to family time. But the complexity is still there and will be for some time. Being mindful of how we approach each area of life and the overlapping that is currently occurring will empower us to move more freely through the situations that arise.
As leaders we need to be aware of the amount of people taking part in group chats. It may be productive from an organisation level to have everyone tuning in. But to be soft and strong leaders, keeping group chats open for immediate people involved will help to curb the feeling of disconnect and depersonalisation while our teams work from home.
This week I ask you to consider
Limit info-whelm by taking time to have the video off, the screen to the side or in an adjoining room if appropriate. Face the screen away from you so you don’t see it and it can’t see you.
Use shared files with clear notes rather than a video call.
Build in transition periods between video meetings, these can help refresh us – try stretching, having a drink or doing a bit of exercise
Create buffers which allow us to put one identity aside and then go to another as we move between work and private personas.