Sustaining Healthy Teams during extended lockdown

Updated: Aug 30, 2021

Through April we did a couple of runs of our popular workshop on Sustaining Healthy Teams in Extended Lockdown, aiming to support digital leaders with the huge change we’ve all experienced, as well as to jointly create possible solutions to the gaps that the virtual-only world has left us with.

The workshop was initially developed by Philippe Guenet and Nairy McMahon (first session 2nd April) then developed and re-run by Jo Wright and Steve Williams on 15th April. Both sessions had over 40 attendees and even higher interest, hence the decision to re-run.

Extended lockdown has huge impact on all of our lives, and sustaining healthy team relationships in this new world is critical to enabling high performance now and in the future.

The workshop started by exploring where participants were on 3 questions:

  • How comfortable they were with the virtual world before lockdown

  • How the past 2 (or 4 for the re-run session) weeks had been for people

  • How they were likely to feel in another 4-6 weeks, if told we have another 4 weeks of lockdown to go

We used some of the Zoom features to allow the participants to join-in and let us know where they felt on the spectrum of those questions:

A wide range of experience, here, with many participants pretty practised – perhaps unsurprising for the Digital Leaders attending our meetup.

There was huge variety in people’s experience of the first 2 to 4 weeks of lockdown. Especially interesting to note is the absence of scores on the far left of the spectrum – few participants were totally hating it.

In fact, what’s emerging is some of the benefits and advantages of lockdown for individuals, from less time spent commuting, to enjoying time with family/kids that just wasn’t there before.

There was a much wider range of emotions at the thought of a very extended lockdown, however. Participants spoke of both the personal and professional impact of this.

We then explored the many things we took for granted in the pre-Lockdown world, using breakout groups and a Jamboard. Here’s an example of one of the outputs:

One of the most consistent themes was the current gap or lack in spontaneity or informal opportunities to build relationships with colleagues.

Another was the clear separation of work and personal life – pre-lockdown there was not only a clearer start and end to the working day, there were often physical cues to the change – change in place (office to home) and transition time to decompress.

After a short break, we then used breakout rooms and Jamboard again and asked our groups to explore what needs to happen to intentionally maintain/sustain the health of the team through this period – in 5 thematic areas:

  • Leadership

  • Communications & ceremonies

  • Work organisation & planning

  • Social connections

  • People development

Loads of creative ideas emerged from the hive mind:

Leadership key themes:

Transparency; Human, vulnerable, fallible; Listening, active and present; Coaching

Communications & ceremonies key themes:

A key word was “Intention” in…. Creating virtual water cooler moments; Connecting on a human level including the fun stuff; Starting the day with a ‘Hi’/end with a ‘Bye’ to signal you arriving/leaving work; Conscious short check in calls to replicate informal chats; Agreeing meeting agendas and etiquette, increased planning to ensure effectiveness; Engaging/inviting everyone to contribute to conversations; Separating work and social/chat channels (although not everybody separated work out previously and may not want to change that.)

Work organisation & planning key themes:

Creating reliable meeting structure; Increased need for planning meetings to ensure clear purpose, expectations, tools etc; Re-contracting roles; Being specific about boundaries incl. hours of work etc

Social connections key themes:

Creating team activities to help bonding (pub quiz, online group gaming etc); Creating social moments (virtual coffees/open Zoom rooms)  and channels for informal chat (Slack, MS Teams)

People development key themes:

A wide spectrum from those deprioritising focus and to those seeing this period as an opportunity to invest in virtual programmes as cost effective whilst ‘normal business’ is suspended; Basic level/standard of virtual platform training as key to encourage collaboration; New soft skills development (e.g. excellence in remote meeting facilitation – human skills) are needed; Importance of understanding the real & emerging skills needs, and identifying the new questions that will need answering; Investing in this shows the org values its people and wants to keep the conversation going

It was great to hear from so many participants about their experience, challenges and ideas.

In conclusion, we see a new hierarchy of needs emerging in this new world (which is unlikely to fully return to the pre-Covid ways):

  • Base level: Knowing how to use technology effectively to allow communication

  • Next level: Becoming skilful in remote facilitation/meeting techniques – to get real collaboration

And once these needs are satisfied – to get truly high performance, there’s a need to focus on:

  • Building and sustaining healthy teams in a virtually connected world

  • Developing and supporting leaders to imagine and build new futures, and leading their organisations to success in the new world order

To discuss how Philippe, Nairy, Jo, Steve, or Liz can help your organisation, leaders or teams be high performing in this new world, get in touch :