Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in January 2016 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
The modern workplace is almost unrecognizable from the office your parents went to every day. For that matter, the truly “modern” workplace is unrecognizable from the one that existed even a year ago. When a global pandemic collides with a powder keg of technology, the spaces where people work become far more dynamic.
For those who spend the majority of their day on a computer, working from home is the new norm. And, fortunately, working remotely does have its benefits.
It saves companies the overhead of renting large office spaces and it eliminates the cost and time loss team members spent commuting. Plus, it allows organizations to connect with a broader pool of potential applicants because their geographic location is no longer relevant to their viability as an employee.
But, that’s not to say there aren’t also new challenges with the modern workplace. Being remote makes it harder to communicate, connect, and collaborate, even with the best software on the planet. For example, we’ve all learned the hard way that video chats still can’t compete with real conversations and home environments are inherently full of distractions.
With every new challenge comes a greater risk that team members will become frustrated, lost, confused, and disengaged from their work. Avoiding that potential threat of disengagement is critical for organizations who want to thrive.
Overcoming the Challenges of the Modern Workplace
For leaders, the idea of remote work can feel daunting. After all, if all your team members are working from home, how will you know if they’re actually getting work done instead of walking the dog, doing laundry, or watching their kids?
The reality is, you don’t.
It’s a frightening conclusion, one that would have many leaders seeking a way to regain control and oversight through strict quotas or frequent check-ins. The need for control is an understandable instinct, but control-based thinking isn’t the answer to keeping your employees engaged.
When you try to exhibit additional control over team members, it restricts their ability to innovate and think creatively. You’re locking them into a singular mindset and forcing them to work within it. Without freedom, team members can’t work effectively. They feel trapped, and when you continue trying to control them, it only makes them feel untrustworthy.
How to Re-Engage Team Members in a Modern Workplace
At the crux of disengaged team members is the relationship between compliance and shared ownership.
When team members have shared ownership in a task, they feel responsible for its successes and its failures. They’re invested in the outcome of that project and in the people that are contributing to it. When team members have a sense of shared ownership, they’re engaged.
Team members who are just compliant on the other hand, are headed quickly toward disengagement. Compliance means you do only what’s required of you. That may start innocently with a lack of effort on a project, but it quickly transcends into behavior that’s only focused on doing the bare minimum of work to go by unnoticed.
Getting from compliance to shared ownership requires authentic collaboration. As a leader, you engage employees and foster a sense of authentic collaboration when you:
- Trust people to do a great job, and you provide the resources they need to do it.
- Expect responsibility by allowing teams to truly own their systems and to seek out tasks that align with their skills.
- Give people freedom to make choices that adhere to the organization’s standards of quality and customer-satisfaction.
- Facilitate success in other people.
- Foster a positive work culture that celebrates the successes of team members.
“You want to be the place that gives a fair shake to people, because it will become a positive perpetual motion machine, as opposed to one where you’re constantly back-filling with people leaving, or you’re dealing with internal strife.” — Tim Yeomans, Executive Vice President at FiredUp! Culture
When leaders sponsor authentic collaboration, it improves retention, increases productivity, and drives a work culture where people are engaged and happy with the work they’re involved with.
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Author, Speaker, and Change Agent.
Chris leads a dynamic team of passionate change agents who are dedicated to partnering with organizational executives to create cultures that inspire, engage and ignite the best in people. Our work is dedicated to harnessing the power of culture to equip leaders, build amazing teams and align operation practices to delighting the customer and drive breakthrough results.