Combating The Hyperactive Hive Mind
If you could identify with some of the behaviours in part one of the Hyperactive Hive Mind series, then you’re likely aware that how you work needs to change.
As the world shifts into more permanent forms of remote and hybrid models, it also drives our need to find a more structured form of collaboration. Remote work can be productive, satisfying and provide you with the work-life freedom you've been looking for - as long as you consciously refrain from the 'hive mentality'.
And you can, with a few new practices that are easy to integrate for your team.
Swap messaging for project management.
Replace unstructured texting and email with online scheduling and project management tools like Scrum, Trello, Basecamp or TeamWork. These options provide tools for team members to collaborate when they aren't in the office, while allowing meet-ups at specific times or when each phase of a project is complete. Help eliminate the need to ping team members with questions on the fly by checking on the status of a project at designated times, and set deadlines for each phase by having weekly or (quick) daily meetings that let people focus on the task at hand with an endpoint in mind - without being inundated with constant interruptions. You can also cut back on the need for live video calls and help eliminate that virtual fatigue so many workers are experiencing since the shift to remote work.
Set office hours.
How can you get work done if you're answering emails and instant messages every 15 minutes? You can't. And you can't always control how often people will send messages and emails either. But you can control whether you look at them every 15 minutes or not. Like anything else in life, you need to set boundaries. Even better than that, set office hours. If you create an expectation that you are only available to text, call, or check emails from 9-11 am and 3-5 pm, for example, coworkers will learn when to reach out if they need a quick answer. Otherwise, they can wait. In most cases, the issue isn't urgent enough to require a response in 15 minutes unless, of course, you're a brain surgeon.
Start as you mean to go on.
Setting expectations is as vital for you as it is for the rest of your team. Establishing a routine that you can stick to teaches the rest of your team what your availability is. But expectations are only effective if you stick to them yourself. If you state your office hours are from 9-11 am and 3-5 pm every day, don't respond to emails and texts outside that window of time. If you do, you're teaching everyone they don't have to respect your time because you don't either. Be firm with yourself - setting a precedent that suits you empowers you to start as you mean to go on.
Constantly being on to respond to the number of communication tools we’ve adopted as remote workers is actually a recipe for disaster. Cal Newport, Georgetown University professor and author of Deep Work and Digital Minimalism says “it mismatches with the social circuits in our brain. It makes us feel bad that someone is waiting for us to reply to them. It makes us anxious.”
It sure does, and in a world where the competition for talent is increasing and people are leaving jobs because they're simply unhappy (and often overwhelmed), creating healthy communication dynamics for remote teams is essential to business continuity.
So, the next time you're inclined to multitask (or expect your team to juggle) multiple things at once while remaining in constant communication, remind yourself and your people that in the age of knowledge work, the mind is actually our capital investment.