Dear brave hybrid or remote team leader — hats off to you, and: you are not alone.
by Charlotte Ekelund at Teemyco.
We see you & want to help by sharing ideas & tips.
In September 2019 my co-founder Oleg and I embarked on our mission to create more happy and high performing team members across the world. No matter what town or family you come from, we think that all white collar workers deserve to work in a team they love. We studied the frontrunners, fully remote and almost fully remote teams and found that despite chat & scheduled video meetings, parts of the team magic had gone lost. The ad hoc conversations driving team fun and culture — the glue — were missing. So we decided to virtually co-locate distributed teams by building an office for them online instead. That way, they could be together without being in the same physical place.
We had just launched the first test version of our virtual office platform when Corona struck the world. As we know, many leaders were forced to go from managing a fully co-located team (A below) to going 100% remote (B). Half a year into the pandemic, many organizations have realized that flexible working is in fact possible, and now transition into the broad C bucket of hybrid teams below. The market shift we thought would come simply came faster than expected. During the pandemic, it’s been a privilege to see and follow many brave leaders out there (in our case some of them, our beta testers!) adjust to the new reality. But let’s also acknowledge for a second how tough the change is. Especially if you have spent years and years managing a co-located team. New challenges arise, especially in the fields of culture & leadership.
Multiple psychology and leadership experts we collaborate with in our product development confirm what we see. If you have found yourself feeling “how the hell do I do this remote leadership thing” lately — you are not alone! Senior leaders pay experts ( a lot of time are self-taught such) to get advice. Forums, blog posts, even private dinners among friends circle around the topic. Few leaders may like to admit it in front of their team — but yes, anyone who has not led remotely before, feels lost, and we are many looking for help! And you know what? That’s ok! Because, in a way, it’s as if everything you ever knew about leadership has been challenged. This change is more extreme than when offices changed from individual rooms to the open workspace layout. Now, as open workspaces turn into virtual co-working, new circumstances have cut out most of the “invisible” human cues which are oh so important to leaders and teams. And you as a leader are expected to perform at your best, while keeping the team motivated, in the new reality.
Therefore, I would like to take a moment to acknowledge YOU. You, who have outside of office hours searched the internet for help on themes such as “tips for remote leaders” or “how to make remote work more fun” (finding maybe my previous posts here or here). You, who have gotten creative with scheduled social remote team activities. You, who have spent more time than usual listening to how your team is feeling. Who do not cancel those daily stand-ups also when there is nothing to talk about and you have tons of work to do, just to be a present leader. Who suggest internally how things can be improved. You, who have sent presents or postcards to your team members’ physical addresses to make them feel seen. You, who have taken time during your private hours off to ask your leader friends for help. And of course you, who have asked us at Teemyco for help. We speak to organizations that are big, small, startupish, mature. Leaders from 6 continents, of various seniority. And while your businesses differ, you have one thing in common: You care. You care about how your leadership affects others. You care about your team, how they like their job and how they are performing. You care so much, that you actively risk and invest some of your time to embrace this scary change as something positive. And it’s due to the fact that you invest time; some of you are even crazy enough to try something as completely new as a virtual office, and/or ask a stranger over video for advice, that you impress us. We see you. Your friends might not. Your significant other might. But chances are not even your team or manager sees how hard you work to make things work for your team. To us, you are a hero. You make our everyday work so meaningful. Thank you for that!
We have learnt a lot during the pandemic. Not just by speaking to leaders but also hands on, we get it. My co-founder and I live 20km apart but we did not physically meet between February (2 people company) to August (10 people company), while building a culture, company and team with people whom we have never met! I have no clue how leaders before us have managed to build strong company cultures with only scheduled talks and chat tools. Extra kudos to you if you are one of those remote-first-entrepreneurs!
We are here to help leaders of hybrid & remote teams, so we want to do this in 3 ways:
- We are building our virtual office platform for as many of you as possible as we speak. We are onboarding new users from our beta waiting list as fast as we can continuously. We think giving hybrid & remote teams an office online to co-exist in will help get the team magic back.
- If of interest, we are happy to share tips, learnings & things we see other rockstar leaders like yourself have tried and learnt, and will therefore soon launch a newsletter for heroes like you. It can be inspiration for scheduled team activities (e.g. on the company pizza parties, Kahoot-games, Lunch & Learns etc), routine tweak learnings (e.g. twice per week coffee hour vs every day — what works best; unscheduled but morning gatherings prior to the first meeting etc) or asynchronous cohesion fostering (e.g. weekend picture competition). If interested, sign up at the bottom of the page here.
- Please don’t be shy to comment any best practice below! What has worked well in your team? Was that ugly-hat-competition-thursday-drinks more fun than usual? Did the Teemyco room that you called “the spaceship” provoke more fun moments than other rooms? Or was the baby picture competition particularly appreciated? Also if you don’t have a Teemyco office — sharing is caring!
Hats off to your hard work as a hybrid team leader. The former recruiter in me says hi and “you won’t regret investing in it” & hopes you can see it as a phase with a steep learning curve. During hundreds of interviews, I never heard any candidate ever tell me they wanted to leave a job because they didn’t like the productivity tools used. But the leader and the team team matters.
Loads of love,
Charlotte, co-founder & ceo at Teemyco.
PS. Sorry, not sorry, for the image above not being a fancy digital cool picture but instead contain my hand writing. I chose to rather spend that hour speaking to heroes like you, trying to help out, than digitalizing it. Originally the image of example struggles was shared internally in our hybrid, nowadays no longer fully remote but seldom if yet occasionally, partly co-located Teemyco-team.