• Steven Kohnke

How to Stay Connected in a Virtual World

Staying Connected in a Virtual World

Steven Kohnke: And welcome everyone to another episode of Coach's Corner, where the experts here at Denver business coach take real questions and real challenges from real businesses and discuss to uncover possible solutions for these challenges. Today, I'm with our expert coach here, Cindy. And Cindy, our question here today is "it seems like virtual work is going to continue for a while. While some of my employees hate it and some love it, the biggest challenge facing everyone is trying to stay connected as a team. Do you have any advice on how to handle that moving forward?"What do you think?

Cindy Carrillo: That's a great question because it is here to stay, virtual is here to stay. You know, I think the circumstances of the pandemic that threw us into a common virtual state of doing business may change, but don't we all hope that that will change and we'll be moving out of that. And I think at some point here the lessons that we've learned from having a total virtual work environment, we've got to be looking ahead now to when the pandemic eases back and it is no longer driving that. What does that look like for the workforce and how do we create that connectedness? And for me, I go to instead of trying to balance that out, I try to look at that in terms of we're going to have to come up with ways to blend ways of connectedness because I think what happened was we were way over on the extreme side of nobody got together. We only had zoom and phone to, OK, what happens when we can start meeting in person again? And I think many businesses are dealing with this and they keep postponing and trying to figure out how to get people back to the office for that. And some of the things that some of my clients have been doing, which I think is really fascinating, is they're looking at a blended work environment where flexible work options are going to be put in place, and they're looking at how people can come back to work physically for very specific reasons if they want.

Cindy Carrillo: And they're really asking their employees what makes you the happiest and the most productive doing the work? Are you that person who really likes to be in that communal kind of environment where you can get up from your desk and walk down the hall and go and face to face? Have a conversation with a co-worker? Or are you perfectly happy and more productive as productive working from home? But it's great to be able to come into the office for a group meeting twice a week. Is it great to be able to have the opportunity to go for a retreat, is it possible to then meet where you've been working in a coffee shop? Maybe you work and meet up and do a face-to-face meeting in a coffee shop with a client or with a co-worker or with a small group team? And I think that the variety of options that some of the clients that I'm working with are coming up with are just fabulous. But what more importantly, what they do is start with their employees. And instead of creating these blanket policies that apply to everyone, virtual work and the pandemic is sort of pulled us back and said, you know, maybe we should create these blended environments and opportunities for our workforce. I find it fascinating.

Steven Kohnke: It's a brand new world out there for work for us, right? And so, you know, I think one of the good things that came out of the pandemic was the proof that work can still be done virtually. Yes, you know, it's I think it's a realization point that a lot of companies have understood. Oh, we don't have to be next to each other, but there are occasions where it's very beneficial. Absolutely. So kind of understanding what that is and a lot of conversations I've had with clients and just employee friends are, you know, yeah, my company is doing two days on, three days off in terms of what in the office, out of the office or. And I think one of the questions that you pointed out was asking your employees, How are you most productive? What do you want to do? You know, there are the four companies that are. You know, mandating people come back. I think that's where we hear the term, the "great resignation" going on, where if employers aren't being flexible or along those lines like, all right, I'll go find someone that is. So I think that flexibility in being able to create your own work schedule and get the work done, you know, that's obviously the most important part, but how you do it or when you do it. Sonya is up to you, and I think that's flexibility.

Cindy Carrillo: Yeah, and as you said, there are some positions, some jobs that just don't have built-in flexibility. We all get that. But when you do have certain roles within your organization, that could be flexible. I think the concept of face time has gone away. Yes. And I think it's forced employers who have in the past not given their employees any self-responsibility for managing their work to have come to understand through the pandemic that they kind of had no choice, right? And work was getting done, as you said. But I think there's there's an inherent level of trust that has to be given on any kind of virtual work experience, trust between the employee and the employer that the work will be done. And when I was running my company way long ago when virtual was just sort of coming in, you know, for us, the conversations that we had with the employee was that look, it's about the work. So if you work best between the hours of X and Y and you knock it out of the park, as long as you're meeting your deadlines, getting the work done and you're available to your coworkers and your team during working hours as necessary, I don't care what your desk looks like.

Cindy Carrillo: I want to help you create a great work environment so that you can do your work in the best way possible. And I think that was a little ahead of the curve. But now I think it's pretty standard practice. And unless you've got certain work hours where you need to be available on the phone and phone, work can be done pretty much anywhere now because of the technology. But it could be done pretty much anywhere. So then having those conversations with employees about their responsibility for the work, not just being happy, but how does the work get done and how do you do it in a way that the end result is you're enjoying your work more? You're getting satisfaction. You're feeling the responsibility. You're feeling the respect and the trust, which we know for employees, is an incredibly important factor when they're choosing to work for someone. And I think it's I look at everything opportunistically, so I think it's a great opportunity to figure it out and do it differently in a way that speaks to the culture of your company.

Steven Kohnke: Yeah, that's what I was hearing. When you're talking there, it's culture. It kind of goes back to that and just being able to understand what that is and how people do work, well, it's really important. I have an I work with a business and they're pretty much only virtual. They do video marketing, so they have to be on set for clients. But in terms of their team, their core team is all over the country. Yeah. So what they do is because they are just in a virtual environment, that's what they're used to, even prior to the pandemic is they get together once a quarter or they'll pick a place and they'll go and just get together for a weekend or something and go skiing or, you know, or before the pandemic, they went dog sledding. Oh, they'll pick like some sort of activity, and that's kind of how they build that camaraderie. So, yeah, we're in a virtual environment, but every once in a while, we will get together and see each other in person and build that team dynamic. That is important, I believe, but our work can still get done virtually.

Cindy Carrillo: Oh yeah, I think it's an opportunity for companies to really look at the culture that they're initiating. And you and I have had conversations about this. Countless times that culture will happen regardless of whether you do it intentionally or not, right? And with this environment incoming, we hope on the other side of the pandemic. At some point here, it's a great opportunity to understand that what the pandemic did to people who work is it made them question why they work and what they need from work, and what they want to get out of work. So the opportunity from leadership in a company is to take stock of that and to really connect with their employees and develop the culture moving forward. That really is reflective of that. How do we retain our employees? Should be the what do they need? What did they want not want like? I want a million bucks and I want a Ferrari. But what do I want to get out of the work that I'm doing? And how am I building my career?

Steven Kohnke: I love that, you know, the culture. Again, we talk about it a lot is the importance of culture and the retention part of it. And you know, one of the things I always talk with clients about is if you're asking them to help you achieve your goal as a business owner and then to do work, do work or do a position or whatever, you have to also reciprocate that in a certain way, you know, and salary now isn't always the answer. No. Oftentimes, oftentimes not. And people care about other things than a paycheck. So being able to have that conversation with your employees will certainly help that out. So yeah, it's a brand new world and this virtual environment. I think it's a great, great movement towards flexibility and people being happier in their work and work-life balance. And you know, I think I've talked to a lot of people where productivity goes up in these cases. So, you know, connectedness is certainly important, but, you know, work being done in a virtual or in-person environment. Now it just depends on the person and being able the company being able to offer that. I believe so. Absolutely. Anything else to add on staying connected in a virtual environment before we close out?

Cindy Carrillo: You know, I think the one thing when you were just talking that brought to my mind is that I think what we're talking about here is that it's not a one shoe fits all and that variety setting a new tone within the business that a variety of options to connect, to work independently, to have the flexibility and to create a work style that meets the needs of employees can take many forms within an organization and that can be OK. We've had a run now for years, upon years and decades where policies are created that have to apply to everyone. And I think what this has shown us is that we can do it differently and have a variety within an organization to be able to meet the connectedness of our workforce in different ways.

Steven Kohnke: Well, sir. Well, I'm looking forward to our next conversation and next business question to come up here and discuss it with you here. But thanks for joining me on this one and we'll talk next time.

Cindy Carrillo: My pleasure. See you next time.

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