The trend for remote work was rising for years before the COVID tsunami hit. At that time, most of the concern was around how this new way of working impacted individuals - questions like: "How do you as a leader need to do to get the most from your teams when you weren't all in the same place at the same time? How can I do great work, remain engaged and connected with my team-mates, and still get the recognition, satisfaction and rewards I achieved in the traditional workplace?"
Now there's a whole new set of questions, and they involve a bigger picture. We've passed the first big wave of remote work, but what will teamwork look like going forward?
What will teams look like?
Individual leaders and workers are increasingly comfortable with remote work and their roles, but organizations are concerned about how those teams will work in the future. Can they build strong, innovative, collaborative companies and teams in the new world of work where the location of the work is becoming less important, and the old definitions of what teams were structured and how we worked are undergoing so much change?
Will we return to the office and rebuild working exactly as before? Everyone working where they want when they want? Increasingly people use the term Hybrid Work, although there seems to be as many definitions of that as there are people in the workplace.
Maybe most often, we hear concerns that they can't build or maintain the strong culture they had before the pandemic if people aren't physically together more often, yet many people are reluctant to simply return to the office as if nothing happened. There is tension, concern, and a strong sense of paralysis. They want to know: what's next for our culture?
The trick now is to be intentional about how and when the work will happen to get the best results. Once that's clear, leaders and teammates will be able to focus on their work and achieve wonderful things.
That's why Kevin Eikenberry and I are so proud of our newest book, released earlier this year, The Long-Distance Team: Designing Your Work for Everyone's Success. It was written to help leaders and team-mates come together to form new, exciting ways of working together.
We don't tell you what your team should look like, nor what your culture should be. Only you and your people know what's right for your business, your workflow, and the human beings involved. This book guides you through some simple questions, with very complex and far-reaching results:
- What do we want our workplace to look like?
- Where, when, and how will the work get done so that we meet our business goals while making this a great place to attract and retain talent?
- If the company and the team had a vibrant culture worth keeping, what do we need to maintain at all costs, what could be improved, and what can we do completely different now that we have this opportunity?
- If you're starting from scratch, can you design the culture and workplace of your dreams?
- How will you enlist everyone's help in assessing, planning and creating the dream team of the future?
What's your ideal?
The answers to all those questions will come if you are intentional, patient, and inclusive. They won't be simple, and you and your team may (probably won't) get it right the first time. At this moment when everything feels like it's in flux, or when their careful Return-to-Office plans aren't turning out as they thought, there's no better time to ask: what would our ideal workplace look like, and why can't we have it?
We won't (and can't) tell you whether you should let everyone work remotely, call them back to the mothership or let them work where they want, when they want. Only you and your people know your business, your strengths, and the opportunities ahead of you.