Leading from home – a new normal?

Leading from home – a new normal?

Let’s start with this – video conferencing is fatiguing. Our brains can only consciously process so much information at once because we have limited working memory. Because of its features, videoconferencing requires huge amounts of conscious capacity resulting in fatigue. 

The impacts of video conferencing

1. We miss out on a lot of non-verbal communication

Our emotions and ideas are mostly communicated through nonverbal signals like posture, hand gestures, distance, body language, facial expressions and tone of voice. All of these elements are restricted in video conferencing. In a face-to-face meeting, we process these cues automatically and are still able to listen to the speaker at the same time. However, on a video chat, we need to work harder to process nonverbal cues. Paying more attention consumes more energy.

2. A lack of chit-chat 

When studying how two people are connected to each other, network scientists will use the term multiplex — or conversely, uniplex — to refer to the depth and strength of their connection. So if you know someone only from work, that’s a uniplex tie. But if you know someone from work, the gym, and the school your children attend, that’s a multiplex tie. Research shows that we tend to seek out and prefer relationships built on multiplex connections. We build a deeper relationship faster to people with whom we can find multiplexity. Those relationships are richer, more trusting, and longer-lasting. In person, we often meet people on the way to a meeting to catch up on issues or discuss our views before going in. But working from home reduces our capacity to have these informal discussions and the opportunity to transition our connections from uniplex to multiplex. 

What to do about it all? 

This is business, but not business as usual. As a leader, you need to understand your team and recognise fatigue before it becomes a concern. Here are our tips for leading from home in this new world, so that you can best support your team. 

Find meaningful ways to check-in with the people on your team 

Checking in on an employee’s needs is understanding their context and how you can support them in it. Ask:

  • How can I best support you right now?
  • What kind of flexibility would help you right now?
  • What has surprised you about working from home recently?
  • What are you doing to support your own wellbeing right now? How can I support that?

Emotional check-ins have to go deeper than “how are you” because no one really answers that question honestly. Try these instead:

  • What’s changed for you today?
  • What have you learned about yourself or your family this week?
  • What are your top three emotions this week?

Don’t ignore the office chatroom

It is almost inevitable that several video rooms or Whatsapp groups have been created within your organisation. This is an opportunity for you to open up a little about yourself and lead by example. Normalise interoffice chit-chat via different tools to build and strengthen your relationships. This is particularly critical for any staff members that are new to your team. Consider using these channels to express your own vulnerabilities. Leadership is about setting expectations; if you don’t let your guard down, why should you expect anyone else too?  

Connection doesn’t always have to be a video meeting

Here are some things you can do to build team connection without adding *another* video invite:

  • Establish a virtual exercise or hobby group
  • Share your favourite healthy recipes 
  • Play a game 
  • Try adding mindfulness activities into meetings 

Know the mental health resources available to your team

Know what resources you have available through your organisation for your employees. Understand what they provide and how to connect your employees with what they might need. 

Take care of yourself

Finally, as a leader, your team is looking to you to take care of them by providing guidance, reassurance, and stability. This can be exhausting. Who is taking care of you? Make sure you’re getting what you need to stay resilient through this time.

Our program, Active & Thriving, makes a lot of these solutions easy and accessible. To inquire about implementing the program from your team simply contact us at hello@activeworkplace.com.au 

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