Just last week, a participant in a leadership seminar talked about the difficult situation in her team. Working from home for the last 18 months, the members rarely saw each other. Many of them even prefer not to turn on their cameras during the daily morning meetings: They say that they are not properly dressed or coiffed, they don’t want their colleagues to suffer through that…The distance between people is growing.
The manager is somehow helpless – even though she has made it clear that she would prefer if everyone could see each other. She also doesn’t know what to do about the feeling of some team members that the colleague, who had already done rather little before, was now working even less:
How do you discuss such things over video? What mechanisms are there to really assess individual performance? And what is the reason for any underperformance in the first place – is it the additional burden of homeschooling, possibly cramped conditions, the emotional strain of social distance – or simply the exploitation of greater personal freedom at the expense of others?
Spontaneous communication, not related to a specific concern or issue, makes up a large part of everyday interaction at work – when colleagues are together in one office!
In distributed (remote) teams, however, this doesn’t happen – unless time and space are deliberately created for it.
Without this interaction the moments that connect us with each other – and thus create understanding and trust – are missing: The comment about visiting one’s parents in the retirement home and their difficulties with the lack of contact. The story about one’s child’s frustration with online classes and self-study. The hope of going to the beach for the summer vacations. The joy of being able to participate in the Euro 2020, Tour de France, or Olympics via television. These experiences connect us with others and allow us to participate in their lives.
Where the connecting glue is missing, division arises. Division creates room for fantasy and false assumptions. But because there is so little contact, these then cannot be refuted!
Covid has reinforced this division at many levels of society: the large online companies, which have multiplied their sales, against the sole proprietors, small businesses or gastronomy, which have suffered severe sales losses. Those who have been able to continue working from home versus those who have lost their jobs. Those who want to get vaccinated and can’t get an appointment, versus vaccination skeptics who doubt the benefits.
But the loss of friendships or joy and productivity at work also creates division. Mistrust and conflict between work colleagues who hardly see each other and talk little have increased sharply in recent months.
So address conflicts – even subliminal ones – right now. Have them moderated where necessary – but don’t lose sight of them! A phone call or video conversation is still better than closing your eyes: Because division and conflict live on and grow where they are not uncovered.
It’s high time to consciously focus on community and togetherness:
Take time for your team, colleagues, business partners and customers! Actively create opportunities for enjoyable joint experiences, exchange and joint action – if necessary, even online!
From online team activities to outdoor team days and team workshops, the various formats support each team in its specific situation.
Make sure that your employees or business partners can go on summer vacation with less worries – and are prepared for the new work with more home office, video meetings and less spontaneous interaction in the kitchenette!