August 11, 2020

Leading virtual teams can become untenable if you expect the virtual world to correlate perfectly with a traditional office environment. According to a recent study by the Harvard Business Review, 82 percent of virtual teams fell short of their goals.1 With that said, everything that makes for a strong leader in an office is twice as important in the virtual landscape. As a hospitality professional and a distributed team leader for many years, I’ve put a lot of thought into how to make the online work experience as personal, human and accountable as it is in the real world (if not more).

Of course, opening up to the possibility of a distributed workforce requires that leaders have a great deal of trust in their team members. This also affords them the perfect opportunity to display that trust in meaningful ways to ensure that relationships grow and trust becomes deeper, broader, and most importantly, reciprocal. Trust is so important that recent meta-analysis confirmed a clear, positive relationship between how much team members trust one another and the achievement of team goals.2 One thing I’ve learned as more and more meetings are held over video conferencing platforms:3 we are all welcoming our coworkers into our homes and, sometimes, our most personal spaces by joining a meeting remotely. With that comes a sense of vulnerability. Is my house or home office clean enough? Is my hair messy? How’s the lighting in here? Will my dog, cat or kid come into the frame and destroy my credibility? I can’t tell where they’re looking, so how are my peers judging my appearance, my tools or my personal space? One of the best ways to combat these feelings of vulnerability is to be just as vulnerable and real on the call as your colleagues are.

I always let my two dogs into the picture (as if they’d give me any other choice) and talk about what’s going on in my life outside of the work in front of us. It is important to stay on task, but opportunities for connection are rarer in a virtual environment, so you need to grab hold of them and allow yourself to be present in the moment. When you do, it helps reassure your coworkers that there’s no shame in being human, and that it’s not a catastrophe if a rogue family member or pet pops up on camera. In fact, the opposite is true! We’ll often take a moment to say hello. The photobomber appreciates the acknowledgement and both they and the team relish in an opportunity to build a sense of collective trust. In fact, candor is the number-one indicator of team productivity.4

Through these micro-moments, we’re able to build relationships both on and off the team. We can use them to inform future small gestures, like sending a balloon to a coworker’s sick child or mailing a handwritten thank you note to a spouse for taking extra time on a special project. In the past, I’ve even sent personalized notes on anniversaries and cheesecakes on Thanksgiving. Every year, this provides a sense of ritual that people love and share with their families. Over time, this level of care and understanding fosters an environment of appreciation and gratitude, allowing everyone to feel confident in giving their best efforts and realizing that their investment in the team and the work we do is always time well spent. A new study supports this thought process for “busting all excuses for not saying thank you more.” Although individuals predicted that the recipients of thank you letters would feel positive about what they received, recipients reported even more surprise and delight than what the senders expected. Moreover, expressers of appreciation overestimated the awkwardness that the recipient would feel, according to The Association for Psychological Science blog.5

Being open and vulnerable with your team is always important, but to really feel appreciated, your online team needs you to be timely and candid with your feedback—both positive and negative—and to check in whenever you can to make sure they feel supported and aligned with the team’s goals and tasks. I do this by greeting the team at large every morning, and also throughout the course of the day with individual pings and phone calls. By casually dropping in, whether by Slack or phone, I’m able to touch base in a personal way as if we were sharing physical space, gauge how everyone is feeling and determine if there’s a need to course-correct or adjust strategy to better fit the team’s mental and emotional state. Think of any time your past managers stopped by your desk to see what you’re working on and acted on the feedback you gave them. Much like a regular exercise regimen, these actions have a cumulative effect that brings a little more trust and mutual respect each time.

As a distributed team grows and develops, keep in mind that, while you’re sharing this virtual space, the work doesn’t happen in a vacuum and your colleagues might be a time zone away, or maybe even 12! Out of respect for their time and space, be cognizant of this when you reach out and cater your expectations to the channels of communication used. Intentional or not, a group-chat platform brings with it an inherent sense of urgency. So, if what you’re saying or asking would be reasonable to mention at the appropriate time in their workday, by all means, chat away. If it can wait until morning (either your morning or theirs), shoot them an email or wait for a more ideal time to ping them directly. Often, especially when people are just starting to work remotely, they’ll fail to set boundaries and might burn themselves out. Try to help set these boundaries for your team by respecting their time outside of the workday.

Your team needs your time and support in the office—but in a virtual environment, it’s doubly important to overcommunicate and over-support in every way. In challenging times like these (or on any given day), being there for your team is all about meeting them where they are and making sure you’re able to share as much of your humanity as possible in your role.

Delivering delight is a key component of how Host supports workplace communities and we achieve that through unexpected acts of consideration and kindness. Caring for other people is central to our mission and prioritizing the needs of people gives us an opportunity to empathize with those we serve, putting authenticity and support at the forefront. Whether your office is in a high-rise or a spare bedroom, Host is here to provide excellent service and create great outcomes for all workers. No matter where you work, there are several ways to make the most of your time and develop the necessary routines to help you feel confident and secure in your ability to achieve great things. Host produced the following articles to offer some advice to help you create a personalized work environment that lets you be at your best, regardless of your surroundings.


References

1 https://hbr.org/2014/12/getting-virtual-teams-right

2 https://scienceforwork.com/blog/trust-impact-team-performance/

3 https://www.cbre.com/covid-19/Effective-Team-Collaboration-Amidst-A-Global-Health-Crisis?article=d03b27c1-f484-4261-acd1-76560dca2825&feedid=fab9f8b5-57a6-4d15-b9e2-f5bd185db42e

4 https://hbr.org/2014/01/how-virtual-teams-can-create-human-connections-despite-distance

5 https://www.psychologicalscience.org/publications/observer/obsonline/people-underestimate-the-power-of-saying-thanks.html

Patrick Cheeseman, Host's Global Experience Services Product and Hospitality Lead, has extensive experience in both the hospitality and digital startup industries, where he has led innovative customer experience programs. Patrick works to define Host’s Experience ”product,” further envisioning what a Host-activated office feels like, how we access talent and how we train our teams to achieve exceptional service outcomes. He joined the Host team from the Sydell Group, an operator of several high-end boutique hotels, including the Nomad in New York and The Ned in London. Patrick is a dog dad to Charlie and Arthur, and loves spending his free time in Belgrade Lakes, Maine.

Entering the Tween Years of Smart Workspace

Entering the Tween Years of Smart Workspace

Host Digital
Drew DePriest,
Digital Solutions & Strategy Lead

January of every year seems to bring out the crystal ball gazers of every tech industry. A new year – and some would argue (incorrectly, but maybe that’s just me and Seinfeld) a new decade – gives rise to reflection as the last year closes and the annual cycle begins anew.
Host Digital
Education From Afar: Perspectives on Virtual Learning

Education From Afar: Perspectives on Virtual Learning

Employee Experience
Ryan Bryant,
Communications Lead

Host’s goals of providing increased digital and virtual learning options have been on the agenda for some time. However, with a global pandemic shuttering offices throughout the world, our learning and development professionals have had to expedite these options to ensure that new hires receive the same level of expert training, even if the training isn’t performed in person.
Employee Experience
Bringing a New Member onto Your Remote Team

Bringing a New Member onto Your Remote Team

Employee Experience
Tyson Jacques,
Director, Global Hospitality Operations

New employees join organizations every day, including during this unprecedented time where many are working remotely during the COVID outbreak. While it's a best practice to spend face-to-face time when onboarding, right now that's just not an option most of the time. Employee onboarding lays the foundation for the success of new hires at your company and provides a baseline to make connections going forward.
Employee Experience
Leading Virtual Teams

Leading Virtual Teams

Employee Experience
Patrick Cheeseman,
Global Hospitality

Leading virtual teams can become untenable if you expect the virtual world to correlate perfectly with a traditional office environment. According to a recent study by the Harvard Business Review, 82 percent of virtual teams fell short of their goals. With that said, everything that makes for a strong leader in an office is twice as important in the virtual landscape.
Employee Experience

The Double Shift Juggling Parenting and Working During the Coronavirus

Employee Experience
Lauren Schwalb
Director, Deployment and Operations

Working parents are facing a particularly challenging time, as the boundaries between work and home have completely broken down, resulting in the need for parents to juggle between parent mode to work mode and back again each day. The “double shift” is now the “double double shift.” Between putting three meals on the table, homeschooling, hosting Zoom meetings and conference calls, doing laundry, cleaning the house and trying to be present as both an employee and a parent, working parents are struggling and facing burnout.
Employee Experience
Patrick Goes to Work

Patrick Goes to Work

Hospitality
Patrick Cheeseman,
Global Hospitality Lead

When I’m focused on exciting new projects and things are going well, it’s always a surprise when they go awry unexpectedly. However, surprise doesn’t adequately cover our collective reaction to the rise of a global pandemic.
Hospitality
The Leader's Role in Fostering New Social Norms as Workplaces Reopen

The Leader's Role in Fostering New Social Norms as Workplaces Reopen

Workplace Strategy
Alex Andel and Karen Ellzey
By now, almost all organizations around the world are somewhere on their re-opening journey, whether starting to plan, bringing employees back to the workplace, or assessing “what’s next” for the future of their work environments. Companies and organizations are appropriately focused on a range of activities such as resetting the physical work environment to achieve social distancing, installing signage, adjusting building systems, securing sustainable quantities of supplies, and adapting service levels in areas such as cleaning and food service.
Workplace Strategy
Customer Service Keeps Us Connected, Safe and Well – Let’s Celebrate It!

Customer Service Keeps Us Connected, Safe and Well – Let’s Celebrate It!

Hospitality
Patrick Cheeseman
Global Hospitality Lead

I think it’s worth our time to reflect on what customer service has meant to us in the past, what it means right now as our social lives are stunted by pandemic concerns, and what it will look like once we finally navigate our way through this challenging era of our lives.
Hospitality
The Employee Experience Formula That Inspires Innovation

The Employee Experience Formula That Inspires Innovation

Employee Experience
Ashley Lippitt,
Host Labs Lead

It will likely come as no surprise that our evolving workspaces, enabled by technology, outfitted with the most coveted amenities and served by hospitality experts, are designed to make employees feel valued, signaling to them that the work they do is important and impactful. But what about when the workspace provided by an employer is removed (even temporarily) and placemaking becomes a virtual endeavor?
Employee Experience
Delight in the Workplace: An Opportunity for Limitless Value

Delight in the Workplace: An Opportunity for Limitless Value

Employee Experience
Ashley Lippitt,
Host Labs Lead

As surprising as it may seem coming from a commercial real estate company, the Host team obsesses over enriching lives and creating delight for people who work in the buildings we manage. We consider the daily journey of our customers and map both their current and best experiences in the workplace.
Employee Experience