A pandemic had a strong impact on all organizations. One of the biggest changes has been in the way we operate as a company and work as a team. Overnight, working from home became a reality. We became part of a social experience on an unprecedented scale. At Fullsix, where we have a team of over 150 people, this caused a real revolution and launched new perspectives on what it means to work as a team. And, as you’d expect, we found that, after all, the discussion is not so much centered on office vs telecommuting, but on communication.
Allow me to share some of the main conclusions I have personally drawn from this unique experience. The first is the simple fact that we are in a position to do so. All of a sudden, organizations managed to get into telecommuting and continue to function. Our human capacity for adaptation is amazing. The second conclusion is that we managed to be productive. And the third is that it is extremely exhausting. At least for most of us.
Although the pandemic created unique circumstances, there was no lack of evidence as to the impact of telecommuting. A famous 2-year study at Stanford University shows that telecommuting contributes to a strong increase in productivity. And employee turnover decreased by 50%, they took shorter breaks, worked less and took less time off.
The work in general became more and more complex and more and more collaborative. At Fullsix almost all our projects are developed in cross-functional teams. We usually emphasize the positive side of everything (such as better results and more integration), but this also has a negative side. A study carried out by HBR reveals that excessive teamwork drains employees and hurts productivity. Data collected over 20 years reveals that the time spent by managers and employees on collaborative activities has increased by 50% or more.
This increase in collaboration is associated with an exponential increase in media. We live in a world marked by almost constant communication. The rise of mobile phones has exacerbated this even more, obviously generating a flood of real-time communication at your fingertips. And that creates serious problems.
First, it generates constant interruptions, which is not good for high-value tasks that require concentration. And each interruption has its cost. Second, you value being connected more than being productive.
We have a natural tendency to privilege recent events over past events. And this trend is constantly put to the test in a world full of stimuli, where there is always that message, email or alert that has to be answered. A study carried out by Yahoo Labs found that the average response time to an email was just 2 minutes. We clearly privilege the urgent over the important.
We have to change. And the least obvious and most difficult change is to assess current internal processes and procedures and adapt them to this new reality. We found at Fullsix that the main problem is not so much where you work, but how you communicate in this context. This is crucial for a management team to create clear rules of engagement across the organization with regard to communication. A useful tool was the implementation of a Communication Pyramid inspired by companies like Doist (productivity software company).
One of the lessons drawn from this Pyramid of Communication is that the types of communication are not all the same. And that we must strike a balance between asynchronous and synchronous communication. Asynchronous communication occurs when we send a message without expecting an immediate response. Synchronous communication, on the other hand, occurs when we send a message and the recipient processes the information and responds immediately. Personal communication, like meetings, are examples of purely synchronous communication.
The basis of our Pyramid is a collaborative tool that allows for easy and asynchronous teamwork (eg Microsoft Teams). Email is mainly used for external communication. A second step is annotations in context, especially in collaborative documents, shared online (eg Google Docs or MS Office 365).
Only after these “basic” levels do we enter into synchronous communication, such as videoconferences or physical meetings. At the top 2 levels of the pyramid we have monthly team meetings, face-to-face with the direct superior and a company meeting every two months. This is not to say that these face-to-face meetings are less important, quite the contrary. Synchronous communication is essential for us to work as a team and, therefore, we must focus on quality and not quantity. But, as I said, modern communication tools have created a “steroids” version of all of this. And asynchronous communication has a role to play here. Finding the right balance between these two types of communication is crucial to being more productive and reducing attrition.
In my opinion, leaders have a crucial role to play in defining that balance. The New Yorker described this very well in an article “Email is making us miserable”. We have to counter some of our human impulses in order to generate better results and, most importantly, protect our teams from that environment. In doing so, we as leaders are not only doing what is logical, we are also doing what is right as human beings.
*Por Erik Lassche, CEO da Fullsix
Source: Meios & Publicidade by www.meiosepublicidade.pt.
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