Posted: 23 Oct. 2020 8 min. read

Virtual teamwork: it’s all about (Business) Chemistry

While many across the globe continue to work remotely, there is increased pressure on leaders to understand how to keep people engaged, motivated and productive, how to sustain their culture and business whilst protecting people’s well-being, and how to account for personal as well as professional disruption. Although recognising differences in working styles is not a solution for these challenges, it does help to provide a foundation for other strategies, allowing leaders to play an integral role in supporting their people and their unique stresses.

Virtual teamwork challenges

One of the greatest challenges of working remotely is that we somehow have both too little and too much connection at the same time. Most of us have never been on so many calls and video meetings. In our How to connect with the Business Chemistry types virtually blog we found Guardians are finding this exhausting. We’re hearing from Integrators that the connections aren’t quite as satisfying as in person. Pioneers lament the way constant video conferences keep them glued to their chairs, and Drivers object to the way issues that might have been addressed in five minutes in the office hallway have become 30-minute calls.

How can leaders tackle these challenges?

Leaders can start tackling these challenges by talking about them. Now that remote working has become the norm for many of us, leaders should make time to catch up with their team members and flex their empathy muscle; ask what they’re experiencing and what they need in order to collaborate more effectively. Then show support for people’s unique ways of managing this connection conundrum by getting in the trenches with them and brainstorming with them on ways to address the difficulties they’re facing. Acknowledge that people have different preferences and share guidelines and strategies for collaborating across these differences more widely with the team.

One of a leader’s primary responsibilities is to create an environment where everyone can thrive. Despite the constraints of remote working, leaders can provide their team with options to accomplish their own goals and those of the organisation. For example, if some of the team excel with heads-down time to focus, as do Guardians and Drivers, but you need them to be available and accessible, ask them to block out time each day for this but be available the remainder of the day. If others need to move around during the day to stay motivated, which is true of Pioneers, consider they share their preferred communication method e.g. phone call, video call, instant message, or email. Some people might work best when collaborating with others, specifically Integrators, so be prepared to make a meeting a team effort to allow them to consider multiple perspectives.

It’s not easy to meet the needs of a diverse group of people with sometimes opposing working styles, but providing options helps. When leaders are prepared to lead by example and demonstrate these approaches, others are likely to follow. Of course compromise may be required when preferences don’t match up, but knowing your team and how they prefer to work can encourage them to thrive while they work remotely.

What team-building lessons can executives learn from leading the shift to remote work?

Large organisational change that once seemed overly complicated or too futuristic is now happening at warp speed to the future of workResilient leaders can learn from this crisis and the technology driven world by treating it as an opportunity to redefine their organisations to both survive current challenges and thrive with an evolved work model going forward as our 2020 Global Human Capital Trends report explains.

Perhaps the most important lesson is how the complementary nature of the four Business Chemistry types can create value working together and help their organisation to thrive in the ‘new world’. Pioneers envision transformations that address challenges and position the organisation to grow. Drivers analyse patterns to shape that vision and quickly move from concept to testing. Integrators gather input from stakeholders and consider longer-term implications. And Guardians design new processes to make the vision more effective, efficient, and sustainable.

While working remotely, and getting glimpses of each other’s homes and families, it’s clear that personal well-being and long-term productivity are more deeply intertwined, granting leaders the permission to be more human. People have different needs and conditions to help them thrive, and leaders are seeing the power of connecting more often, acknowledging personal challenges their people may be facing, and encouraging them to take time out to care for themselves and their loved ones.

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Key contact

Jessica Dooley

Jessica Dooley

Senior Manager

Jessica founded and leads Deloitte’s Business Chemistry client practice for the UK and North South Europe member firms. A business behavioural tool designed to help teams communicate and collaborate better for greater success, Business Chemistry is a proprietary self-assessment tool used to support boards, executive, and senior leadership teams across the FTSE, private, and public sectors. She helps teams understand each other’s working styles; hold honest conversations; be better leaders of diverse teams; build plans for enhanced collaboration; team deliberately for a common purpose; and build trust quickly to achieve strategic and organisational goals. The book ‘Business Chemistry: Practical Magic for Crafting Powerful Relationships – a guide to putting cognitive diversity to work’ was released in the US and UK in May 2018.