Small Practice Shifts for Big Changes

Thriving in Trying Times

Small Practice Shifts for Big Changes

We are living in an unprecedented time when many people and communities are adjusting to primarily working and gathering in a remote/virtual environment. While technology is helping us to sustain human connections and organizational functions, we should continue to learn best practices for a smoother transition. Here are some practices that can help us stay connected with our team and work.

Opportunities to Make Small Shifts for Big Changes
Play Positive Leader Game
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Setup to Optimize Human Connections

Even in a remote environment, there are many actions you can take to optimize human connections at each virtual interaction. Build high-quality connections with your group using social cues, information sharing, and inclusive practices.1, 2, 6, 7, 8

  • Be present by making eye contact, emphasizing gestures to show that you are listening (e.g., nodding and verbally acknowledging, like “mm-hmm”), and making sure you are fully visible on the video screen.
  • Share your remote space with colleagues by describing where you are now, giving a mini virtual tour, or noting what it’s like to work in the new environment.
  • Be inclusive by inviting those who have yet to speak up to take the turn, noticing when participating in different settings creates unequal access to information (e.g., side chats between people in the same room creates a sense of isolation for a member who is dialing in), and monitoring your speaking time in relation to the rest of the group.
  • Equip teams with tools needed for optimized workspaces by checking with each team member and group what can help them adjust to the remote environment; these can vary in forms (e.g., keyboards/monitors, communication apps, flexibility around schedules).
Bring Routines into Your Environment

Being in a new environment requires us to establish routines to effectively plan our day. That is why taking small thoughtful steps toward finding your ideal work settings in your remote location can be extremely helpful in coping with the situational change.1, 3, 4, 5

  • Find a physical space that can resemble your original work location by ergonomically matching to your workspace or finding a location that can inspire motivation.
  • Build new daily habits that energize your work (e.g., if working from home, replace the spontaneous visit to your fridge with a 7-minute exercise routine).
  • Take a regular break by using methods like the Pomodoro technique (25 minutes of focused work, five minutes of break).
  • Start your work with a purpose check-in by asking simple questions like: “Why am I showing up today? Whose lives do I contribute to through my work?” Regardless of your new environment, you can find a sense of stability through reconnecting with your purpose.
Communicate Using Various Channels and Techniques

Being in different locations from each other means we have less interactions from randomly seeing one another. However, even connecting entirely online, there are ways to creatively enhance our communications that could bring the teams and groups together in remote environments.9, 10

  • Update the team often even when there is no events or decisions to share. Letting everyone know where you are in the process or just that you are working on something may be news to your team or organization. 
  • Leverage different communication channels such as town halls, virtual staff meetings, and chat forums in addition to frequent email announcements to share the consistent messages and allow spaces for providing feedback. People process information differently, and repetition and opportunities for all members to improve the communication channels together are especially important when working remotely.
  • Actively facilitate meetings by making it clear to the group who is going to be the facilitator and utilizing that role to foster equal participation from everyone.

  1. (Article) “If Virus Concerns Have You Working From Home, Here’s Some Advice From the Pros” from Michigan Ross featuring Susan J. Ashford
  2. (Research Article) “Agony and Ecstasy in the Gig Economy: Cultivating Holding Environments for Precarious and Personalized Work Identities” by Gianpiero Petriglieri, Susan J. Ashford, and Amy Wrzesniewski
  3. (Article) “Foundations for Successfully Working From Home for the Recent Officeless” from Glassdoor
  4. (Article) “Do More and Have Fun with Time Management” by Francesco Cirill
  5. (Video) “7-minute Workout” by LifeHack
  6. (Blog) “Connect Across Distance: Building HQCs for Remote Work” by Jane E. Dutton
  7. (Article) “Working Together When We’re Not Together” by Google
  8. (Online Resource) “Distributed Work Playbook” by Google
  9. (Article) “What Should You Say? Leadership Communication During the Coronavirus Pandemic” by Amy Young
  10. (Article) “How to Connect Meaningfully in a Virtual Meeting” by Wayne Baker