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Anonymous Career Advice hybrid office

How To Stay Visible When Working Remotely?

Dear Focus, how do I stay visible when working remotely? 

Working remotely or in some cases hybrid has become a challenge for some team members to appear to be visible. 

It is actually a series of different questions I have received via the anonymous career advice form in recent weeks. 

As recommended in is playing the game essential advice article, there are many times you will need to be available, be part of things you do not naturally lean toward, times where what you need to do is be more proactively and importantly managers, bring those up around you. 

Delivery Presence, Deadlines, Internal Networking are the key categories for you to consider when considering how you are visible, and importantly, how you might manage and tackle this as a leader of the team.

Delivery 

  • Delivering on a project, a campaign or a product release is the best way of staying visible, being able to take your opportunity is always the best way of staying visible and demonstrating you were part of important part of work. 
  • Be The Sender: Sending out the message that you or your team have delivered on a large project or campaign is a great way to be seen and a way to be celebrated or supported. 
  • Be part of fixing the problems. One problem two solutions is a great framework to use and introduce
  • Celebrating the metrics vs just celebrating delivering is always favoured within mature businesses so keeping this in mind is impartive.
  • If you and your manager are not having regular check-ins but you would like to ensure they know what you are ‘doing, done and achieved’ I recommend a weekly email to your manager with (a) what is working, (b) what are you working on and (c) what has been delivered and (d) anything to be cautious of, trends within the industry or larger themes you should be on top of.  
  • Managers: Be able to congratulate and bring your team members to present and send the email or company-wide slack update is essential. If you are a c-suite exec or on the management team always bring your team members to discuss the delivery and early numbers in leadership meetings, help to prep them and bring them along the journey 

Presence 

  • Build out your presence while online meeting, offer to take notes, chair the meeting or own the workstream. This is more work, however, with structure and operational excellence this will help to stay visible and build your presence around the company 
  • Concentrate in the meetings and taking part of meetings, always be prepared to add value or unique insights (versus adding more opinions) and contribute to the follow-up conversations or offer to lead new projects.  
  • Managers: Asking for your team feedback and for someone’s expert opinion particularly when they prefer to be asked is essential, it will help you bring on others presence and their visibility but also helps the team to know their presence and their expertise is vital for the companies success. 

Deadlines 

  • Something many have allowed to slip while working remotely is deadlines slipping or not hitting deadlines.
    Hitting deadlines will always be essential and be vital for a companies success. Hitting a deadline is often the difference between being seen, respected and having positive mindshare vs having negative mindshare and having trust.
  • If/when possible create the GANTT or the roadmap and be the point of contact on the deadlines and deliverables 
  • Be deliberate in communications, not over-communicating, update colleagues on the progress of the project and how you are progressing against deadlines. On many occasions, this is happening however remember internally marketing is as important as externally marketing and applies to projects of all sizes 
  • Managers: Setting realistic deadlines – this is the flip side when a manager of a team or business leader, very often setting aggressive deadlines actually hinders your teams chance of being visible and hitting targets and creating a negative 

Developing Your Internal Network 

  • Build out connections – something when working remotely or in the hybrid workforce is you tend to neglect networking and building internal and external connections, actively work on networking and connecting with colleagues within the organisation and have quick coffees and be available to help colleagues if they need someone to assist them or be a support network  
  • One to one’s are always important – ensure you are keeping up with your one to ones, where possible look to meet with your bosses boss in skip meetings. This is often invaluable and creating a connection with your bosses boss or your team’s team creates better connections 
  • Virtual lunches – this might sound like more work and your time however one of the missing parts of connections when remote or hybrid is eating together and drinking together. I recommend making the same lunch and having 30 minutes where you just talk or connect over something trivial, a tool like donut (slack tool) will help you with virtual meetings and randomised meetings, you scheduling this and working with colleagues will be important 
    Here are a number of hybrid work tools and apps to help you become successful in hybrid.  
  • Hybird lunches – sometimes teams go to lunch when in the office and those who are not there will miss out, where possible consider how you might integrate those working remotely or organise a day and time where colleagues can come together and eat or allow those remote to be present in the hybrid lunch. This also works offsite too. 
  • Network events – something a handful of mart companies have created is hybrid and remote network events with tools like hopin and riverside and connect colleagues in break out rooms, with Q&A between departments and presentations on important projects and successful campaigns and releases 
  • Managers consider building out management pods to connect you and your management team more closely 
  • Managers: It is important to remember remote offsites and remote sessions are not always the silver bullet to bring teams together 

There are many more brilliant pieces of advice for managers and leaders in the fixing the broken world of work podcast

Best of luck and keep moving forward.

Thanks,

Danny Denhard

Read the future of work keynote from the end of June to learn more about how the world of work is changing and how to be successful in the hybrid future.

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Leadership

How To Remove Proximity Bias Guide

With the continued move towards returning to the office and the continued pressures and requirements for businesses to move towards hybrid work, we are starting to hear how in-office vs hybrid and remote have very potential different biases. 

We have seen businesses only consider office space and not consider redesigning their office as a hybrid environment, we have seen organisations struggle to rethink perks in the hybrid world and favour a mass return to the office vs developing a true hybrid workforce that will work for everyone. 

Proximity bias (aka a bias to being in person) has had a huge impact on the way some organisations have handled remote work and it has centred around more communication, enforcing more video meetings and meetings were the only way for some teams to get work done.

In the office is how many managers are primed, it is something that every workforce has been conditioned and brought up in and is the way in ‘the line of sight management’ has “worked” for many across decades of working. 

Categories
Company Culture Leadership

Lessons From Apple’s 3 Day A Week Return To The Office Situation

Apple recently wrote to their employees and suggested they were going to be rolling out a three day work from the office rule to start in September.

With the ever-evolving Covid landscape, Apple is now moving September to October’s plan to hybrid work, something to keep in mind Apple is certain locations have seen staff come to work 3:2.

Tim Cook (the Apple CEO) suggested in an internal memo that most employees will be asked to come into the office on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays.

Many tech firms have landed at three days per week back in the office. This shows how important to the business is that internal collaboration, proximity and secrecy plays vital roles to the business.

Apple’s Past Leading The Future?

Apple is a product company and is notorious for secrecy, keeping their tech projects top secret and reducing any leaks is their primary objective.

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Friday Focus

Friday Focus – 26th February

This week’s Friday Focus are five text messages you will have to think about when planning your return to the office or planning the Hybrid Office.

These questions will help you improve your working environment and build a better hybrid workforce.

1/ Fears around returning the office and not liking their colleagues .
Action: think about how you make the office more inviting and applicable to everyone.

2/ Your team’s not wanting to return to a soulless co-working space.
Action: Think about how you reduce the stress of co-working spaces, how you enable better conversation and more deliberate work.

3/ Many colleagues will not want to return to the office.
Action: The office for many builds anxiety and causes stress, how will you be able to improve their experiences and build spaces for better concentration and deep work.

4/ Expecting your team members to come into the office as some managers do not know how to use certain software.
Action: Think about how you will be able to collect training requirements and reduce stresses for colleagues who could have worked remotely or from home to get more work done.

5/ WFH was much easier for some individuals, how are you doing to enable those who found it easier to work from home vs asking them to work back in the office?
Action: Consider how you enable booking in and booking out of the office, how you encourage those who work better remotely to stay connected.

Remote & Distributed Work Resources

For some ways to shape your thinking, we have two dedicated posts that will help and guide you through some of these struggles

Categories
Business Performance

Why over-communication is a bad recommendation when working remotely

You have likely read and heard that you should over-communicate when working remotely.

Over-communication is a terrible recommendation for the remote workplace. 

Communication has to be thought through, deliberate and timely. 

Taking time and flow from others is similar to stealing valuable time and energy. 

Deliberate communication is far more important and far better advice. 

A quick update is rarely quick if the update is not thought through and concise.

Communicate often but be more deliberate. 

Think communicate often vs over communicate. Clarity over having to work through the confusion. 

Create milestones where you will need to communicate.
Understand who needs the update, when and how you will deliver it. 

Channels Are Important 

Communication takes time for both parties, the receiver often has to decode what the sender means, you will be stuck in slack or teams for much longer than you need to be. 

Understand what channels and delivery methods are going to work most efficiently for you and your business. Every business ultimately works differently. 

Not everyone is built for video updates, however, adding audio over a spreadsheet or a document (presentation etc), allows for a richer experience and less need real-time conversations. 

Connect The Dots 

Communication is supposed to connect important dots – connect the dots on projects, campaigns and performance.
If you would like to update on personal situations or would like some help, don’t be put off – choose who can help.
It is important to understand that grabbing a few minutes to discuss remotely tends to be harder and more time consuming than quickly in person.   

Communication Principles

Create a set of principles you and your colleagues will follow. What channels work, what times work, what your expectations are. 
Communication principles will enable everyone to follow the same rules on the same tools.

Different Timing

Understanding how, when & to take the opportunity to communicate is harder remotely but can be worked out. Grabbing someone coming out of a meeting, returning to their desk, bumping into them in the hallway or kitchen doesn’t really happen, there are ways to help with this, by adding statuses on internal chat tools, enabling calendar views and having open rooms where you pop in for virtual HQ chats. 

It is also important to know having your own time for your own thoughts and deep work is important, keeping those around you updated will be important, a reminder or blocking time out will work. 

Internal Comms Battle

On many occasions, internal comms is often harder than external comms. Internal comms has to answer many more questions. Internal FAQ’s or project hubs will help improve this and keep everyone updated simply. There are plenty of tools available to help with this. 

Decision Document

Create a decision document or centralised document to have a timeline of updates, if you miss one update or miss a link in the chain, the wheels should not come off.

Leverage Tech 

Use spreadsheets, words, pictures and record video explainers were required. 

Tools like mmhmm, loom, canva & even instagram all make it free or low cost and possible to create explainers. You can also create this style of internal update on Macs or your smart phone.  

Five Quick Fire Tips 

  • Secret no-one wants to offer up: Save time for you, colleagues, your team &/or your boss, this feels obvious but time remotely is priceless 
  • Have communication hubs, have internal wiki’s, shared knowledge centres you keep up to date. This will reduce quick questions and long email threads 
  • Always question: Can I remove meetings and write a concise update or update the project overview and send a link instead? 
  • Consider the RACI (responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed) model of updates 
  • Can you use BLUF? BLUF is a military communications short for bottom line up front, it is essentially communicating with the most important details first, with clear tone and a clearer ask. 

Recommended Reading

Categories
Business Performance Company Culture

Free Internal Get To Know Each Other Profile Template

Something that is crystal clear is; remote work has disconnected even the closest of teams, departments and even work friends.

This is creating performance issues in many businesses.

Company culture has never been as important as today’s forced working from home environment.

As per our deep dive into the future of work we have seen the workplace completely change from clearer dynamics to messy dynamics where colleagues fail to connect.

The Future Of Work TLDR

Workshopping Is A Solution

The way many are attempting to tackle this issue is in workshops or one big workshop. In the workshop environment, you are juggling a good facilitator alongside personality types.

Introverts will be introverts, extroverts will be extroverts and many ambiverts will have to lean into their extroversion to compete.
You are then relying on individuals to get out of their comfort zone and then challenge louder voices.

Big collective sessions are currently being managed over a video conferencing tool like Zoom, with an open document, with a virtual shared space or open canvas like Miro and a series of notes.

This approach can work, however, often this doesn’t allow for questions or follow up sessions with more personalised and connecting questions between colleagues.

At Focus, we believe connections happen with natural interactions, with infrequent connections, with questions and answers and natural connections being formed by uncovering connections or quirks.

A Fresh Focused Approach

When you join a business you are often provided with a new starter form or a template to complete, it’s shared around and then nothing happens until the next new starter or a conversation happens.

Why wait for this to fizzle out or to be ignored? Especially when many businesses will struggle to hire and are struggling to connect colleagues together.

Below is a series of questions to share around to everyone to complete, all answers are shared on the knowledge centre or your internal wiki and encourage teams to explore each other’s answers and discover new and old colleagues by the questions they answer.

You can encourage connections over email, over instant messenger or over video calls. You will be surprised how connections are made from uncommon questions or different answers.

The Question Template

  • Name  
  • Role 
  • What does your work day to day look like
  • Like about your discipline 
  • Dislike about your disciple 
  • What did you want to do when you were growing up 
  • Best working memory 
  • One book you would recommend
  • Two songs that gets you every time
  • A film that has stuck in your memory
  • Favourite cuisine 
  • Favourite drink 
  • Favourite snack 
  • One brand you admire 

If you would like a Google Doc’s version please click here

The important part of this exercise is to phase the rollout, in the big organisations there will be a flood of internal get to know me’s, this means many in the middle to the end will be lost.

Roll out week by week, have a morning where you share a batch of profiles or department profiles and encourage conversation directly with colleagues you don’t know, whatever peaks your interests.

Some organisations have randomised coffee catch up’s where you can meet your colleague or follow on the conversation. Suggest a time slot each week which is for connecting. This will allow connections to form and to become more habitual than feel like it’s something you have to squeeze in.

Make These Profiles Accessible In Many Digital Places

It is important you enable these profiles on instant messaging profiles, into your email directory and ensuring the profiles are on the internal wikis and knowledge centres.

The secret – always have one home, one canonical home that is the home for all information.

Proactive Leadership Required

Leaders will be looking at other ways to improve this working from home phase, we have recommended in our weekly leadership newsletter two different ways to be proactive including The Mad Glad Sad Retro and developing internal Interview Training & Practise.

Although there are a number of virtual HQ’s now available and being developed, with long IT and software sign off process, this internal framework will enable better connections and refresh a way to bump into each other and or have hallway conversations and enable this in a flexible framework.

In the future, these answers and new connections will enable your leadership team to proactively host ask us anything sessions where the team can come closer together and communication improves.

Remember to suggest refreshes and all new staff that join to complete and share. The smarter the sharing, the better the engagement, the better connections will be formed.


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Leaders Letter Newsletter

Leaders Letter 34 – How To Review & Critique Forced Working From Home

1st February 2021

Dear Leaders, welcome to February.

As it is the first week of February I wanted to write to you with something that has come up in many conversations with a variety of managers and leaders.

The first year of working remotely and how you might address this milestone in form of a retrospective.

Retro’s don’t have to be super long sessions or broken down into complicated workshop sessions, retros do, however, require a deliberate plan and an outline ahead of the hour session and help to provide context points of the remote world of work we entered into March 2020.

Important Points To Keep In Mind

  • It is important to note it was forced worked from home and everyone’s office is now different. Each country or state has seen a different approach, so has impacted everyone differently.
  • The remote office dynamics are very different from in the HQ dynamics and many people have struggled to adapt to working from home (image below to help demonstrate this)
  • Many colleagues have not had the chance to be their best work self and to many, this has frustrated them – this is individual and as a leader, it is important to help where possible.
  • There is a constant demand to perform in remote presentations, so there are more pressures and less opportunity to add your opinion and insights when who shouts loudest is often heard most.
  • There has also been a demand in knowing how to act and deliver on a live video, why? There are constant micro-reviews of you, your background, the noise, the echos from no headphones and the interruptions we all dislike, and to the formal zoom shirt, you always wear in important meetings.

There are a lot more of people who have thrived, it has given them time to get their heads down, concentrate on their deliverables and helped to remove some of the office politics they were exposed to within an office environment.

The Mad Glad Sad Retro

Some Product teams have a mad, glad, sad sessions where they run through a product release and review what made them mad, glad and sad.
This is something that could easily work with teams and departments, this also gives chance for colleagues to share their experiences and help each other with tips and action items. Quick snappy insights and shared experiences are important, the flow of these retro’s should be quick, collaborative and actionable.

Three Quick Retro Tips:
1. Use an open document/slides or miro or mural to enable real-time collaboration and a centralised view, this really helps the format work.
2. Try to be fair but start with positives (Like Bob Iger’s recommendation in leaders letter 2), do not focus in on all of the mad or sad, this will not set the right tone moving forward.
3. If you are looking to delegate, your hidden leader or secret weapon will be great options to lead these types of retro’s. It is essential you attend if you are the most senior, your attendance and participation will be priceless.

Make It Actionable & Follow Up

It is important to keep note, address important issues and follow up with deadlines of how you can make these better and improve for the future. Refer back to open document or Miro and show how you are moving these tickets forward and hopefully moving mad and sad into glad.

It is important you see this milestone as an important opportunity to bring the department closer to together, shape the company culture and collaborate on the future hybrid office.

For the week ahead, Focus on: Planning this session, see it as an opportunity to bring teams together and get around the campfire to share experiences and feel safer in knowing you are proactively trying to make a difference.

If you would like to read more about the future of work and the future of the workplace definitely read our guide below:

Let me know how your planning and the retro session goes by emailing me.

Thanks, leaders and have a good week ahead.

Danny Denhard

PS. You should be planning for the hybrid future, our free ebook is a must-read. The Hybrid Office Ebook


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