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Gleb Tsipursky

Management

Virtual Co-working for Hybrid and Remote Teams

Setting up a virtual water-cooler/cubical equivalent

Published: Monday, January 17, 2022 - 13:03

Are you worried that having hybrid and, especially, full-time remote employees will undermine employee on-the-job learning, integration into company culture, and intra- and inter-team collaboration? This issue recurrently came up with organizations that I guided in developing strategies for returning to the office and establishing permanent future work arrangements.

On the one hand, these leaders acknowledged the reality that the future of work is mainly hybrid, with some staff working remotely full-time. After all, surveys illustrate that 60 to 70 percent of employees want a hybrid post-pandemic schedule permanently, while 25 to 35 percent want a fully remote schedule. Further, 40 to 55 percent would be willing to quit if not given their preferred amount of work from home.

On the other hand, these leaders showed concerns about on-the-job learning, cultural integration, and intra- and inter-team collaboration. To address these concerns, I helped them adopt the best practices for leading hybrid-remote teams in the future of work, in this case virtual co-working.

Remote training through virtual co-working

To facilitate remote training for on-the-job learning through virtual settings, as well as promote effective team collaboration, companies should employ virtual co-working. This involves all members of a team spending an hour or two per day co-working digitally with their teammates when they aren’t in the office.

That doesn’t mean working together on a collaborative task: Each person works on their own tasks but can ask questions if they have them. After all, much of on-the-job training comes from co-workers answering questions and showing less experienced staff what to do on individual tasks.

First, all involved team members should get on a videoconference call. Then, all share what they plan to work on during this period. Next, everyone turns their microphones off but leaves their speakers on with video optional, and then works on their own tasks. This setup means that no audio will be heard by co-workers unless a team member deliberately turns on their microphone to ask a question or make a comment.

This experience replicates the benefit of a shared cubicle space, where you work alongside your team members but on your own work. As less experienced team members have questions, they can ask them and get them quickly answered. Most of the time, the answer will be sufficient. There may be times when a more experienced team member will do screensharing to demonstrate how to do a task. Another option is to use a virtual whiteboard to demonstrate the task graphically.

It isn’t just junior team members who benefit from this method. More experienced team members might need an answer to a question from another team member’s area of expertise. Occasionally, issues might come up that would benefit from a brief discussion and clarification. Often, team members save up their more complex or confusing tasks to do during a co-working session, for just such assistance.

However, note that this call is intended for quick answers to questions and is not intended to be a work meeting. This is not the place for lengthy work conversations. Set up a separate call with a teammate if you need to have a longer chat. If you have specific teammates with whom you’re collaborating more intensely, you should do a co-working session with them daily in addition to broader co=working with the team as a whole.

Incidentally, chats don’t always have to be work-related. Sometimes team members can just share about themselves and chat about how things are going in work and life. The social aspect is one of the benefits of a shared cubicle space, and virtual co-working can replicate that experience.

Such virtual co-working doesn’t cause the drain of a typical Zoom meeting. Team members typically find it energizing and bonding. It helps junior team members get on-the-job learning and integrates them into the team, while helping all team members address questions while feeling more connected to fellow team members.

Conclusion

Leaders worry about new employees hired during the pandemic failing to integrate into the company culture, not getting on-the-job learning, and lacking effective intra- and inter-team collaboration. To address these issues, remote training through virtual co-working offers excellent best practices for leading hybrid and remote teams in the future of work.

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About The Author

Gleb Tsipursky’s picture

Gleb Tsipursky

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky helps quality professionals make the wisest decisions on the future of work as the CEO of the boutique future-of-work consultancy Disaster Avoidance Experts. He is the best-selling author of seven books, including Never Go With Your Gut: How Pioneering Leaders Make the Best Decisions and Avoid Business Disasters and Leading Hybrid and Remote Teams: A Manual on Benchmarking to Best Practices for Competitive Advantage. His cutting-edge thought leadership has been featured in more than 650 articles in prominent publications such as Harvard Business Review, Fortune, and USA Today. His expertise comes from more than 20 years of consulting for Fortune 500 companies from Aflac to Xerox and more than 15 years in academia as a cognitive scientist at UNC-Chapel Hill and Ohio State. Contact him at Gleb[at]DisasterAvoidanceExperts[dot]com, Twitter@gleb_tsipursky, Instagram@dr_gleb_tsipurskyLinkedIn, and register for his Wise Decision Maker Course.