The team had come back together in a virtual meeting. After months of home-office, they feel that they’ve become accustomed to this mode of operation. A regular check-in, a professional conversation on the topics at hand, a few jokes and they call it a day ending the meeting. Everyone immediately stepping back into their home office.
No problem, they say.
But sometimes it dawns on them, that something is missing.
When they used to grab a coffee together, they would talk about a client they had talked to. They would share what strategy had worked for them to figure out the new communication platform. They would describe what they had seen in the shop the day before.
They would be themselves stories, just because they could. They would share their respective experiences.
People do that all the time. It helps them make sense of who they are as individuals and as a group. It makes people accessible to one another. It helps them reach out to one another.
Working from home the situation is different. They still share experiences, but less with their colleagues and more with those they meet in presence. It transforms the felt proximity with colleagues adding some distance. The physical acts required to reach out and connect with a colleague add to the complexity of seeing themselves as a well-connected group.
The aloneness of the home office contrasts with the shared needs in a team. This is less relevant for a well-oiled team that executes habitual processes. It is more relevant for those needing to make decisions allowing the team to move forward. Or those dealing with more complex and regularly changing tasks,
That’s when they are confronted with the question of reaching out to others or figuring things out on their own.
They are at risk to assume that whatever they have to figure out depends on explicit knowledge they can research. Or that it is just a question of making a decision. That’s when they may find themselves overloading themselves with work and responsibilities.
The shared experiences not only allowed them to feel connected, it also allowed them to build a tacit knowledge of the situation in the team, the work being done, and who they are. That is the type of knowledge they need to tap into to do their work together with the team.
The problem isn’t home-office in this case. It is much more the “no problem” reaction individuals will have. One that is based on disconnecting themselves from their experience and emotions. One that pushes what seems to be a small discomfort aside without letting themselves become aware of it. Leaving the information aside that something is missing, forgetting to take the time to reflect on it. Ending up avoiding seeing that they need to reinvent the way they work with one another.