As a leader, CEO or business owner, you're faced with trying to rally a team that is mainly working remotely. Keeping morale high and productivity flowing is even harder through a Zoom window.
I don't need to reel off a slew of statistics about the effect of working from home on team members. You've most likely already felt it from your own experience.
But while it does have benefits, there are challenges for those working remotely. These include:
- The lack of connection to other team members through face-to-face conversations and interaction. According to a Deloitte study, 45% of workers say they miss social interaction to maintain a cohesive culture.
- The feeling of loneliness and isolation, which are the top issues facing those working from home.
- The impact on creativity as a result of fewer serendipitous meetings and moments. People need rituals and ad hoc 'moments' such as socialising or fun activities together.
The good news is that, as a leader, you are not powerless. What you do - even in these difficult conditions - impacts your team's performance. There are simple, practical ways to counter the side effects and improve wellbeing.
For real inspiration, look to nature. You can learn how to develop creativity and build connection by following the lead of nature's great builder:
Photo by Šárka Krňávková on Unsplash
The common perception of the beaver has it gnawing down trees and damming rivers.
But what is less known is that beavers are what is known as a keystone species. Keystone means the actions of the beaver affect all parts of the local ecosystem and help it thrive and grow.
According to National Geographic, beavers are second only to humans in their ability to shape their landscape. When a beaver builds a dam, it changes the paths of rivers and streams, creating more wetland space for other species to thrive.
By slowing down the river and increasing the area of water, beavers can cause a rise in the bird population. In slower waterways, more plants grow, more insects breed and more foraging opportunities bring more birds.
An increase in wild salmon and trout populations, and the size and diversity of waterside plant species have all been credited to the presence of beavers.
Through its actions, the beaver single-handedly makes its environment more abundant and diverse. It does this by slowing its whole environment down and making space for others to thrive.
As a leader, you can apply these lessons to impact your COVID-hit team positively.
Photo by bantersnaps on Unsplash
- Create space for your team members by assigning them time to take breaks. This means not viewing the time as skiving off, but as something that helps you be more productive. Give your team time to go for a walk in nature, or to spend time outside getting fresh air.
- Dedicate specific time in the work calendar for your team to enjoy down-time. A catch-up over coffee or time to chat about non-work related items recreates those vital 'water cooler' moments of connection.
- Knowledge workers thrive on interaction. Maintain connection by having lunch together - either in person, when possible, or on Zoom or Teams.
- Zoom fatigue is caused by everyone staring at you and looking at yourself all day, which burns up brain space. Reduce Zoom fatigue by suggesting everyone turns off their camera from time to time.
- If you can blend working in the office and working from home (WFH), the ideal office-WFH balance is to spend one to three days in the office and the rest at home.
- Consider your office design. How can you bring more of the outside world in? Plants and even pictures and views of nature out the window do make a difference.
Organisations have so much they can learn from nature. We're all still part of the natural world, regardless of how far removed it may seem staring at your smartphone in your office.
Natural cycles still exist and operate, even if you don't see them. When you don't recognise that these cycles are part of your nature, you can suffer from disharmony, stress and anxiety. Getting back to nature is the antidote - and taking lessons from nature is key.
As we've seen, the beaver is one part of the ecosystem but affects all others positively with its actions.
You have the same power.
If you want to build a stronger, more cohesive team, be more beaver.