Skip main navigation

What next for workplace teams?

Chris Attoe talks through how to think about addressing challenges as teams in the workplace going through and beyond COVID-19
In this step we want to start looking ahead to what’s in store for teams, in the workplace, as we work through the current situation around Covid and come out the other side of it and what we do know is that there are going to be challenges faced by teams in every workplace in every setting. What we don’t know is exactly what those challenges are going to be, but what we can do with those in mind is start to think ahead, plan ahead to how we might address those challenges and also to learn from the current situation we’re in and the current experiences we’ve had over the last few months.
And so we want to carry through that big theme from last week around learning and creating the conditions and environment for learning as a team or as a workplace, through to this week. And so to link back to some of the content we talked about around teams last week around noticing, acknowledging and then addressing the reality that teams are facing and using that approach to drive appropriate and helpful actions and strategies we want to touch back to that and acknowledge that that is an ongoing,  a cyclical, an iterative process that we never stop. So we can’t just see what the impact is on a team, think about how we’re going to address that, and then say ‘job done’.
Its something that we need to keep doing and is particularly relevant in this situation as we emerge from Covid. So what we can do in thinking about how we can use that approach for challenges that we’re not quite sure of yet that we don’t know exactly what the reality is going to be for our teams is to fall back on the evidence and the research findings from decades and decades of work that show us what the key factors are in workplace health. And so we’ve touched on all of these throughout the last two weeks so far, but.
To briefly recap and frame some of the thinking, we’re talking about relationships in terms of individuals with their managers in terms of the whole team. We’re talking about work life balance. So thinking about how people keep separate their home and work lives, how they integrate them, how they draw those boundaries, and also thinking about on that individual level, an individual’s roll and clarity on what they’re doing. But also what a team’s role and approaches to managing their workload. There’s some some important things there around work design, so that’s the amount of work. how it is delegated and divided out, what time lines we’re working to, pressure and even the kind of overall amount of work.
and that very much sits within an organisational context is an important factor as well. So what are the systems and processes that we all operate under and use? And also, what’s the climate as well? And to pick out another particular principle that’s very important is around development, both career development and learning and development and that might be something that has to shift significantly as we as we work through Covid and come out the other side, around how that’s delivered.
Thinking about things like face to face versus online training, but also thinking about challenging circumstances in the workplace and what that means for everyone’s development, which we know is a core need of people excelling and thriving and being well at work. So to link back to a particular example from last week as well, we talked about Susan’s experience of her team in a positive sense of providing an opportunity for them to connect and build their relationships socially by having dedicated online sessions for that, but also that that helped her in terms of her role clarity, individually, and as a team which she found having that clearer, really gave her more purpose and meaning in her role.
So what would work to think about that example is, as things evolve and develop, what might change? So maybe part of Susan’s team are able to go back into the office and part of them aren’t. So now, before we had people all working face to face and then suddenly everyone moved online, now we have a hybrid between those two situations. So what else might we need to think about around how we can support those kind of key principle factors in that new environment? So obviously there’s a limitless number of examples where, those kind of situations are going to involve and change and as a result the challenges and the steps we can take to meet them are going to evolve.
But what would encourage is to start reflecting and thinking on what some of those challenges might be and how we can plan ahead as we know, lots of organizations and teams and leaders are already doing.

Chris starts by highlighting two important considerations: the need to look ahead and consider how teams may be affected beyond COVID-19, and the need to acknowledge that there will be challenges and uncertainty.

The COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown were seemingly thrust upon us with little warning (whether this should have been the case or not). However, as we adapt to the current circumstances, we may have more opportunity to prepare for the future. However this may still be more reactive, with less time and less control than we might like.

Let’s run with the example from Susan that Chris mentioned, which we examined last week.

Image of Susan

In Week 2, Susan’s story highlighted to us that her organisation may have taken a strategic approach to work relationships and connections. This included her manager reaching out to her, and her team meeting regularly to organise their work and social activities available online.

Is is likely that this approach was developed rapidly with little planning. Consider now that Susan’s team and manager have the opportunity to think ahead about work relationships and connections, and how they may change beyond COVID-19.
People returning to the office may be staggered or phased, some people may work from home more regularly, and teams may need to be restructured if their work has changed. Regardless of exactly what change happens, there is an opportunity to prepare for it.
  • This could involve ‘noticing’ and acknowledging (by management) that there will be more changes to come.
  • Teams may agree with a blended approach to social activities, some online and some in person.
  • Managers could prepare for in-person meetings that require multiple people dialling in remotely
The list could go on. But the principle of this example is that we may have the opportunity to reflect on and plan what may happen next, even in uncertain times. We may even have gained a helpful insight into our team and their preferences having gone through this together.
Once again, we should highlight that approaches should be locally tailored and driven to provide the best outcomes for staff and teams.
However, these approaches can link back to the content we’ve already covered in Weeks 1 and 2. These can be applied beyond COVID-19 and the current challenges, such as:
  • Managers noticing, acknowledging, and holding contradictions or providing containment for teams. This may relate specifically to situations involving challenging emotions.
  • Managers considering the needs, challenges, and resources of their teams. This Organisational Psychology approach includes the positive or ‘resources’ aspect.
  • Leaders thinking about the needs of their teams in more detail, possibly using a personal, social, and work-related framework for these considerations (which can be both team or individual).
  • Targeting the specific factors that we know play a significant role in workplace wellbeing, including working relationships, work-life balance, role clarity and autonomy, team systems and processes, and workload or work ‘design’.
Have you thought about the needs of your team as you emerge from COVID-19? What could you or your team do to plan ahead? Do any of the approaches covered sound particularly appealing?
This article is from the free online

COVID-19: Psychological Impact, Wellbeing and Mental Health

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now