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If you are leading a team that is suddenly doing all of its work remotely, take simple steps to maintain human connections, writes Tom Catalini, CIO of The Museum of Fine Arts Boston.

What are you doing to keep it human?

That is a good question for leaders in a time of crisis, and perhaps even more relevant right for those of us working across remote connections.

If you are leading a team that is suddenly doing more remote work than ever before, I think it's important to make adjustments to your leadership style. Many of the same tried and true tenets of leadership still apply, but the parts about listening and empathy and relationships can really be stretched at a time like this.

My team is suddenly scattered. Until recently, while many of our team members worked remotely from time to time, we typically spent most of our working time in the office together.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, that has all suddenly shifted, and we are all 100% remote all of the time. Fortunately, there is a wealth of collaboration tools and, like many of you, we are relying on several of them more than ever before.

But that doesn't mean we should gloss over the transition that we are all going through. We need to recognize that the human elements of our work need attention.

So while we work in a frenzy to address all sorts of new issues, it is important that we don't get so lost in that work that we do damage to our teams. Especially since this Coronavirus situation may go on for a while.

Here are a couple simple strategies I used that worked well for our team.

1. Share photos of your new home office workspaces.

I went first and shared my makeshift setup in my house suddenly where my family of five is now at home all the time. I'm hoping to make some improvements, but for now it's working out well (though I miss my standing desk).

As more members of my team shared their home office photos , we all got a small glimpse of each other's home life, including pets and children. It was a nice thread that included discussion of families, all the different places we live, and sharing lots of little details that helped everyone feel just a bit more connected. It's not good to just talk business all the time, which can be an easy default when everyone is working remotely. It's also important to not just interact as a voice on the phone or an avatar in a chatbox.

Which leads me to the second idea:

2. Hold a video conference check-in.

We held a team video call for over an hour with no agenda other than to check in with each other. We all got a chance to test out the technology, work out kinks with equipment, and share tips on the tools we are using.

More importantly, we got a chance to hang out and have an open discussion. Topics ranged from the pandemic, to things happening in our organization, to more talk of children and pets and roommates and food.

 

Related Article: Adapt Your Leadership Style to Your Teams' Needs
by Niel Nickolaisen

 

With all the cameras turned on we got to see each other's faces, wave, and joke around with stuffed animals and other shenanigans. It was a lot of fun and it helped to keep our human bonds in tact. We will do more of that.

The New Normal

A lot of things are still unclear. Workloads are shifting significantly, with some team members becoming over-burdened while others are suddenly light because their work cannot be done remotely.

Organizations are facing new challenges, and some are dealing with existential threats. It is a long road ahead, and for many, things will become a lot more difficult before they start to get better.

Which is all the reason to keep things human. Personal connections and caring for each other are more important than ever, and hopefully, there will be a significant carryover of new practices from this crisis into the future.

What other challenges do you face? What are you doing to keep it human? Please share using the Comments.

Be well and stay safe.

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