I have spoken to countless leaders in the last few years who have completely changed their outlook on how they want their workplace to flourish. The remote environment that the pandemic provided to the majority of us really became the 'kick in the pants' that we needed for leaders to recognize that maybe our communication, leadership styles may not have been as entirely effective as we once thought. Between streamlining systems and finding platforms to enable constant contact, work started to look and feel a little different. Many of us are even still remote to this day, and there's no better time than now to realize that you control the definition of work, its efficiency, and how your people balance it with their lives.
Not all of us are super tech-savvy, but let's be honest, there was a lot of learning to do when things went remote. The best ways to communicate, store data, clock time - nearly everything became a virtual challenge in one way or another. I'm sure there's something you can think of that you may never have known how to do if you weren't forced into embracing technology. Many leaders may have been apprehensive about the virtual world initially, but it truly is the future of work in one way or another. Not only that, there's no denying it has helped countless organizations streamline productivity and team coordination.
In a recent Forbes article, Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield spoke out about the future of work and what it means to him. He explained, "There's better and worse uses of the phrase. I think the least constructive one is where the future is just something that's going to happen, where we're debating what will change as opposed to taking a more intentional approach and thinking about it as an opportunity to reimagine the way we work. People are making tweets or blog posts or articles that are speculating about what's going to happen to them, as opposed to them being actors in creating it."
Butterfield’s sentiment couldn't be more true. Leaders are put in place to guide their teams and make sure things run as smoothly as possible, meaning speaking up if there are ways that policies or procedures can be better executed. Regardless of whether you're a team lead or a C-level executive, it's your job to provide the most prosperous work environment. That means ensuring the day-to-day is as simple as it can be and that your people have a great work-life balance.
Butterfield also stated that he thinks “technology should be a tool that makes life simpler and more productive—even pleasant, as Slack’s tagline boasts. If it gets rid of unnecessary meetings in the process, all the better. My team and I personally use Slack, so I may be biased in agreement here, but it does allow us all to communicate expeditiously. Squashing little questions and clarifications here and there, becoming simple, efficient, and easy - everything it's intended to be.”
Establishing a Work-Life Balance
Our personal lives get more of a spotlight while working through the distractions of our home environment virtually, but sometimes they even cross the threshold in person at the office. How many times have you had to mute your Zoom calls because your kids or pets were too loud? Or a fight between you and your spouse killed your mood for the day, and you weren't feeling as productive?
If you reached out to your team about the world behind their computer screens when they were miles away from you, then you should continue that behavior when you meet back up in person. Or, if you weren't a leader who did much of that at all, the disconnect likely became apparent. Continually check in on your team members and ask them about their personal lives without being overly invasive. Especially if they've openly shared things with you about their home lives, children, or pets. People who feel cared for will in turn take care of the work they were hired to do.
Butterfield also talked about how he moved to Aspen and spent many days skiing. He advised his fellow leaders to similarly balance their lives. They weren't allowed to just come into the office to sit and work. That balance became a requirement to give their creativity and brains a break which proved to provide much better productivity in the end.
All in all, it's safe to say that technology is an ever-changing piece of our existence. People’s lives and their many complications aren’t going anywhere. Be sure to set aside the time to meet with your team individually and face to face, whether that be on a Zoom call or in the office. Not everything can be well communicated on the keyboard, and a face-to-face meeting will provide an invaluable peace of mind to your people. We can't forget about those connections forged across Wi-Fi networks and cell towers during that crazy Covid year, but we can absolutely improve them.