In this edition of Is This Mic On? we tackle the question of, “What policy (return to work, stay at home, or hybrid) should I announce to my independent, high-performing team?” Read on to hear what we had to say about listening to your team, rushing to communicate, and avoiding binary decisions.
I feel like my team has done their best work in the past year, being more independent. Honestly, I think they may prefer this to being in the office. But there is pressure to make a decision, announce a policy or point of view about returning to the office (Alexa, play Europe – Final Countdown). This is a high-performing team who seems to love their independence. What policy should I announce?
– Losing Independence
Dear Loving (Not Losing) Independence,
What’s the rush to publish a decision?
This is a time to listen and to redesign. There is no “back to normal” or “return to work” (because let’s be honest, high-performing team members never left work – we’re talking about a physical office space, not work). This is a chance to take what we’ve learned, consider what we’ve missed, and focus on what we want for our team, for our customers, and for ourselves.
What we do recommend: start the conversations now. Ask your team how they want to work. What has worked well. What not-so-well. How can we design a new way of working that finds the best of productivity (which may have been up this year) and collaboration/collective intelligence (which may have taken a hit this year). Have the conversations. Make it known you’re curious, listening, and thinking about it.
Last year, a global crisis made a decision for us, for our leaders, our companies, our customers. This year, the unknown creates confusion, stress.
Lack of communication creates frustration.
So this year, we get to redesign and create what works for us and our teams – with our teams. That can’t be rushed.
But, just because you don’t have an answer right now doesn’t mean you say nothing. Saying nothing is saying something. When people don’t have answers, when they don’t feel their voice is heard, they start to feel isolated, left out, and curious to what other opportunities are out there that might meet their needs. That might offer the answers they’re looking for.
So rush to communicate, but perhaps hold off from turning this into an unnecessarily binary decision: 100% remote or 100% in-office. The world is still shifting, your team is still shifting. So open up the communication now, and co-create the next iteration of collaborative and productive work.
Independent doesn’t need to mean solo. It doesn’t need to mean lonely. It doesn’t need to mean 100% remote. Independence can mean having a voice to express, co-create, and re-design. Bring up the topic at your next team meeting and keep bringing it up. Let’s see what you can create. Together.