By: Bruce H. Golboro
This is the first in a series of articles produced by ITData covering the challenges of the Pandemic on our work environment and how we can use technology to alleviate some of those effects.
Many of us have moved to a work environment that is virtual. Collaboration that was normally fostered in a face-to-face environment has moved into the virtual realm. Some feel very comfortable working this way while others are more challenged. Leadership needs to take notice and make every effort to foster the teamwork necessary to reach the same level of success. Our experience supported by research indicates 3 major areas of focus for leadership to maximize its collaboration efforts:
The World Economic Forum produced its “Loneliness Chart” below from their State of Remote Report 2020. 40% struggle with collaboration or loneliness issues while another 12% are concerned with distractions. The stress in this new environment needs to be confirmed front-and-center with leadership. This will break down resistance and encourage users to embrace the benefits of the virtual environment.
Once these barriers are addressed, it is important to build trust amongst your participants. Open, honest dialogue only flows in a place where each person is acknowledged for their participation and feels comfortable communicating differences of opinion. We have found that bonding / team building exercises help build this trust. It takes a special leadership quality to foster this type of communication since constant challenging is difficult to manage. Special training is helpful when teams try to engage in difficult decision making while time constraints require quick responses. Some other suggestions to help include: limiting the size of teams and identifying team members with very specific skills to support fact findings to build a consensus. Erica Dhawan & Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic summed it up well in their Harvard Business Review article, How to Collaborate Efficiently if your Team is Remote:
“You can find your own unique way to create team spaces for social connection. How you do it is less important than whether you do it.”
Many companies jumped right into a platform for virtual communications like Skype, Zoom, Teams or Duo. As in any platform selection, the decision should be based on features and functionality requirements. These include:
- How interactive are your sessions? Do you need Q&A, breakout rooms or a classroom environment?
- Do you need screen sharing for presentations?
- Will you be working together on documentation or white boarding ideas?
- Will you be hosting large groups?
- Will participants be chatting during the sessions?
Each virtual platform contains different functionality to address the issues above. Depending on the need, some are easier to use than others.
The final challenge to building strong collaboration is around organization during virtual sessions. Research indicates that support grows as organization around these sessions improves. This requires the following items:
- An agenda delivered in advance
- Clear task assignments
- Ample time for discussion
- Documented follow up expectations
Addressing these 3 areas will go a long way to encouraging collaboration during these times of forced isolation allowing your team to bond, grow and succeed.
Bruce H. Golboro is the Chief Operating Officer of ITData Inc., a technology services firm. You can reach him at email@example.com