September 30, 2021Read More
As we entered the pandemic – with lockdowns that emptied office buildings and disrupted teams — it quickly became clear that figuring out how to create inclusive hybrid teams would be crucial. But as we now ease out of pandemic restrictions and workers return to the office, many are opting to remain remote. MIT Sloan has been writing about solutions to keep hybrid teams connected for the past year, and recently gathered them together as a set of toolkits for navigating the return-to-work in-person and virtually.
The first article examines the book “Remote, Inc.,” written by MIT faculty member Robert Pozen and technology writer Alexandra Samuel. The authors suggest that remote workers at all levels, including management, think of their home office as a freestanding enterprise – Remote, Inc. – and adopt the mindset of a small business owner. The book then offers suggestions on how to be an effective manager and team leader of a collection of small businesses. It’s an interesting construct, and the authors lay out four key tools: ground rules, team meetings, one-on-ones, and performance reviews.
This article looks at a 4-step framework for how to effectively return to the office after working remotely. Created by a team of MIT Sloan Action Learning students, it offers managers a simple plan for how to work with hybrid teams. The four steps are: 1) identify the key metrics that are vital to a company’s success; 2) identify the optimal in-office days to maximize the efficacy of every metric; 3) rank the metrics for every step of the product lifeline; and 4) use a weighted average to determine the optimal number of days in the office for each step of the product lifeline. The students used Gillette to build their model around and came up with an additional list of recommendations, including 25-minute meetings.
This article reports on the EmTech Next conference hosted by MIT over the summer and has some interesting ideas on optimizing conference rooms to enhance remote participation, as well as strategies for engaging remote workers. The suggestions for the former include employing intelligent cameras that zoom in on people in the meeting, having every attendee, whether live or remote, appear on the screen in the same way, and allowing participants to better see body language and facial gestures. One of the participants, Jordan Goldstein of the global architecture and design firm Gensler, feels that creating mixed reality meeting set-ups will bring people together in ways that will support interactions, even if they’re virtual. He calls for ‘gateways’ within the physical office space that promote hybrid team participation and could include digital whiteboards, departmental and team dashboards, digital interfaces with team member locations and available desks, and integrated screens that make it easier to work together. The participants also address the importance of rethinking participation when part of the team is remote (and especially if they’re in a different time zone) including asynchronous brainstorming on an online whiteboard, remote open office hours, documenting everything, and recording videos.
Erin Kelly (MIT Sloan professor) and Meg Lovejoy (Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies) have created a toolkit for helping companies rethink the workplace to improve the health and well-being of workers. The toolkit includes three work design principles that address personal control, taming excessive work demands, and improving social relationships in the workplace, and offers case studies and detailed resources to help employers create an action plan for a better work environment for their employees.
In October, MIT hosted a talk with Drew Houston, Dropbox co-founder and CEO. The conversation revolved around the company’s decision the previous year to launch a virtual-first work model. A key part of the model is the ‘Dropbox Studio’ where remote employees can drop in for in-person meetings at locations across the country (permanent studios are in San Francisco, Austin, and Dublin, Ireland). For Houston, having an entirely remote workforce was not an option because he felt that the in-person experience was very important. However, he didn’t want to set in-office requirements either when a significant portion of his employees were happier working from home or had moved out of state. Realizing hybrid teams were not going away, Dropbox decided to take a stab at making it easier to work together remotely by releasing a suite of products designed to solve cloud organization problems for hybrid workers.