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This is the third part in a series of three posts, focusing on teams. The first post focuses on users and society, and the second on businesses.

They are derived from a workshop I ran in June to look at what Covid-19 (and the future thereafter) means for products, users, teams and society. 

The resulting How Might We… questions are designed to be a stimulus for others to come up with solutions in their own context.

We’re going to be building a new everything. So we might as well build it right.

Teams

Right now, there’s an increased uncertainty in our team-members’ availability. Childcare, sickness, isolation and more all stand to have an impact and reduce their ability to contribute important work.

So we have to ask:

  1. How might we… work and plan our projects to account for possible absentee-ism?
  2. How might we… ensure flexible working is built into our operational core?
  3. How might we… support team members who are less able to contribute?
  4. How might we… ensure equity between those in the office and those who are forced to remain remote / at home?
  5. How might we… ensure that our remote workers are being trained, upskilled and are excited about their futures?

A lot depends on our culture and our organisations’ support mechanisms. Maybe now is a good time to improve them.

Our team members’ private lives and available resources are affecting their ability to contribute.

Morale is being hit.

  1. How might we… address inequity (i.e. avoidable differences) affecting our team members?
  2. How might we… ask questions to find out what our team members need, whilst being aware of sensitivities and worries about how this information might be used?
  3. How might we… collaborate with other organisations on a response to employee/contractor mental health issues?
  4. How might we… help organisations and team members return to ‘normal’ in a way that feels natural rather than forced?
  5. How might we… prevent Zoom burnout?

Whilst our teams are being affected, our team cohesion getting weaker.

However, team members don’t necessarily want to spend more of their free time checking in with managers and colleagues.

This is a very interesting topic, and Slate wrote a great article on the pressure on employees to participate in ‘mandatory fun’ and supportive activities that ultimately increase stress.

My favourite quote from that article:

I have a line-manager who I haven’t always had a great relationship with, and I’m exhausted by the constant “mental health check-ins” with someone whose intentions I don’t entirely trust and would much prefer to only interact with on work-based topics. Now I’m expected to discuss my mental health challenges with near strangers who aren’t paid professionals?!

Slate.com

So, in light of constant check ins:

  1. How might we… protect people from good intentions?
  2. How might we… provide mental health support, whilst admitting we are not impartial, mental health professionals?
  3. How might we… just help people focus on the work?
  4. How might we… allow people to opt out, without penalty? (Thanks, Slate).
  5. How might we… enable our team members to communicate when and how they want ‘to talk’?

Teambuilding is hard. Right now, new joiners are even more on the outside. Because it can be harder to integrate into an established group.

And if you’re a new joiner to a company, course, or other community, you carry a lot of anxiety about how you might be perceived.

  1. How might we… best onboard people into a team?
  2. How might we… do the ol’ induction process office walkaround, when there’s no office?

There’ a loss of spontaneity and chanced upon discoveries, which always used to contribute to a project

As Pedro in our session pointed out, when we were all based in an office, a project in development would happen to be glimpsed, overheard about or generally stumbled upon.

The conversations and inputs from an ‘outside’ eye then would often contribute to a project.

This was so regular an occurrence you could even say these hallway and kitchen inputs were a part of the collaborative project development process.

So, now everything is remote…

  1. How might we… formalise processes to include steps and occurrences that would have happened organically before?

(This has crossover with our first post on users and society: HMW… better replicate the chance meetings that allow for shared human connections?)

Lastly, above and around our teams, traditional hierarchies make it hard to work in this new normal (e.g. Leadership team / senior managers)

  1. How might we… move towards more flat structures, collaborative ways of working?
  2. How might we… find new ways to work with the Leadership team?

Moving on

That’s it. That’s the last of this series of articles focusing on products, users, society and businesses post Covid-19. Hopefully some of those will have inspired you and given you thoughts about how to adapt and move forward.

Stay safe and happy.