Guiding a business through the remote working lockdown has been demanding for every leader. Many report experiencing more micro-management from their boards, while also feeling distanced from a geographically spread leadership team.

Although some individuals enjoy working remotely – they are liberated from the office and love the freedom – others have begun to seize up; missing the lubrication of the unscheduled and unscripted office encounters with colleagues that spark ideas, fuel motivation and drive possibility.

These are colloquially known as the ‘water cooler moments’ but – given fewer offices seem to have water coolers any more – are just as likely to take place while making a cup of tea or coffee in the office kitchen, taking the lift, or while wandering past a desk on the way to a meeting.

The point is, these are all impromptu opportunities to chat and share thoughts, ideas, observations, or even the merits of watching Premiership football at home on TV with the artificial crowd hubbub turned on or off (I’d take the fake crowd noise over the sound of the players, but I’m a long suffering Norwich City fan and there’s only so much personal player anguish I can listen to).

 

Exploring the possibilities

Football aside, these conversations are often what I’d call the ‘possibility conversations’ that happen when we’re freed from the day-to-day duties of running a business and are let loose to think about ‘what could be’ in our organisations. The temptation, particularly during this period of remote working, is to fill our diaries with transactional back-to-back operational meetings, leaving no time to have those possibility conversations.

Leaders must promote the necessity of creating a time to connect and share. I’ve often written about organisations becoming shadows of their leaders. This is a time for a leader to make sure they set the example to their employees and take the time to have those possibility conversations. There is lots of tech out there that can facilitate these meetings and interactions, but there is always the option to pick up the phone and have a chat.

 

Physically apart but mentally together

‘Remote working’ means we are physically distanced from each other but leaders and their businesses cannot afford for it to lead to a mental and social remoteness between employees.