Millions around the world have shifted to full-time remote learning and work.  It’s a challenge, because humans are hardwired for face to face interaction. This produced numerous group structure issues and solutions during a lockdown.  For example, iIn a survey conducted by Microsoft, in-person meetings lorded over chat, email, and texting – clearly showing that despite digital tools, workers feel the need to connect unplugged.

Unfortunately (or perhaps, fortunately), the pandemic has made videoconferencing the norm.  Microsoft Teams has reported a gargantuan spike in its daily record … from 900 million minutes per day to 2.7 billion as of March 16.  Zoom “zoomed” its way from 10 million users in December 2019 to around 200 million as of April 1st.  Cisco Webex claims to have surpassed its objectives, reaching 5.5 billion meeting minutes in the first 11 business days of March 2020.

Remote work is here to stay.

But the sudden shift to remote work is a challenge to traditional approaches to managing teams.

What group structure issues and solutions during a lockdown have emerged?

Remote work isn’t the new kid on the block.   But the mad rush in response to the coronavirus pandemic has put group structures and dynamics to the test.  This leaves us with group structure issues and solutions during a lockdown that left even the largerst organizations in the US unprepared.

Many organizations thrive when teams are situated in one physical place. Sharing the same space simplifies communication and logistics.  It encourages quick problem-solving and faster decisions. But what has worked in an office won’t always work in a remote setting.  Organizations that have adapted remote work will be familiar with the unique challenges – ambiguity, lack of focus, errors in communication.

Those who are new to the game may find team morale and trust added to the mix.  Take the dynamics of communication during meetings. In an office setting, you get to see body language and facial reactions.  Videoconferencing takes out that human aspect even if you see participants on screen.

One obvious solution is to reevaluate how everyone interacts. Videoconferencing, chats, and virtual whiteboards are essentials.  The challenge here, aside from technical issues, is the protocol for interaction.  How do you elicit responses from people who may be too shy to talk? On the other hand, how do you keep someone from talking over the others? In an office setting, it easy to put ideas on one whiteboard, while the rest take turns with their input.  It isn’t impossible using virtual tools, but it may take technical expertise (and patience) to capture the same spirit using apps.

Cultivating morale during a lockdown with an atmosphere of community.

Another issue that is now very real, is cultivating morale.  How do you keep the same atmosphere of community and camaraderie without the afternoon coffee breaks or bi-monthly Thursday nights?  What can be done to keep the spontaneity and innovation that goes with physical communion?

One suggestion is to make things personal.  Introduce family members. Have team members do show and tell.  Encourage them to show meaningful objects in their workspace.  One organization found that a virtual “happy hour” kept things in check. About 20 to 30 minutes a week, members join a video call with a drink of choice, and talk about everything else but work.  They take advantage of polls (not related to work), which keeps things light and could be about anything under the sun.  Don’t be afraid to go trivial and silly.  It’s an effective way of keeping morale as the shared laugh is still a shared experience, albeit, virtual.

How does adaptation impact Group Structure Issues and Solutions During a Lockdown?

Whatever works isn’t always what has worked in a co-located setting.  The secret is to begin with the end in mind while training leaders in skills that adapt well to remote group leadership.

Working in isolation especially during a pandemic is hard for anyone.  Its everyone’s prayer that isolation isn’t the norm. Start with the outcome you want – the outcome that you expected in the office and work from there.

For instance, group meetings can be broken down into chunks.  Allow larger meetings to break into smaller ones.  One US firm usually found that this saved time. Smaller group meetings took longer, but it resolved more issues. As a result, the bigger meeting resolved more issues in such a shorter span of time.

Despite the trying circumstances, group structures will find remote work valuable for the future.  An online or virtual team is a great opportunity for leaders to build a team with little to no boundaries.  Employees are less likely to call in sick or take prolonged breaks.  Employers, on the other hand, can take advantage of decreased real estate costs per employee per year, increased productivity, and even lower attrition rates.

Care to dig deeper into group structure issues and solutions during a lockdown?

The following articles and solutions contribute additional information and insight into this topic:

  1. With this simple, flexible and cost-effective solution you will learn to improve cooperation among team members, collaboration between departments, and engagement with employees, all while increasing revenue and productivity.
  2. What are some remote tips for managers?
  3. Transitioning to remote work in a snap!
  4. How to keep work sacred when working from home.
  5. How to engage employees to champion change

Copyright TIGERS Success Series, Inc. by Dianne Crampton

About TIGERS Success Series

TIGERS provides a comprehensive, multi-pronged and robust system for improving your workforce behavior, work culture, profitability and project management and team leadership success.

We specialize in building cooperation among employees and collaboration between departments for profitable agile, high performance team outcomes.  Scaled to  grow as your organization and leadership performance improves, our proprietary TIGERS Workforce Behavior Profile, Micro-Training technology and group facilitation methods result in your high performance team outcomes and change management success. We also license and certify elite internal and external consultants and project managers to use our resources for similar outcomes.