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Wednesday, November 03, 2021 05:19 PM

New Routines for the New Normal

By Eme Augustini

Over the course of this pandemic, we’ve been forced to adapt in countless ways at home, work, and in our communities. While it’s been a difficult and painful time for so many of us, we’ve also discovered adaptations and new habits that are worth keeping.

Things like cooking at home, going for daily walks, and prioritizing time with friends and family. At work, we’ve had to change the way we communicate and stay in sync as a team. For this brief column, I’d like to offer a modest adaptation from my organization that we will keep in the “new normal:" asynchronous, weekly check-ins.

When we worked together in the office, it was easier to stay up to speed on what’s going on with co-workers and departments. We could stop and chat while making coffee or discuss projects while at lunch together. While it wasn’t structured, there was a tacit flow of information running through the office.

To continue the flow of information and help everyone feel they are in the loop, we needed to take deliberate action.

Here’s how it works: Each Monday morning in Microsoft Teams (though any collaboration software will do), each person on the team posts and answers some version of the question “What are you working on this week?” Other variants could be “What are your top priorities for this week?” or “What’s important this week?”

This could be a few lines about your intent for the work week. You could also note anything you’re looking forward to or areas you see potential roadblocks. Long to-do lists need not be shared.

Why it works: Weekly check-ins help create awareness of crunch times for projects and focus areas for the week. Colleagues can share forward motion on projects and keep everyone in the loop.

Creating more ongoing awareness of our focus areas also helped reshape our monthly staff meetings. We didn’t need to share as many status updates (as they were available in the Teams thread) and could focus on strategic questions, shared roadblocks, and learning and training.

What it’s not: An attempt to coordinate tasks on specific projects. Seeing a colleague mention a project for the week could prompt ideas, encouragement, and offers to help, which are great and welcome. However, detailed discussions and work on shared projects continues in their dedicated channels.

Also, this is not a way to monitor the performance of colleagues or see if someone is working on a specific task you requested. Don’t confuse brevity with level of effort. (You wouldn’t share a 50 item to-do list over coffee in the breakroom). One-on-ones, team meetings and project discussions still have their place.

This simple weekly practice has helped our team to stay connected and engaged. Even as we consider a safe return to the office, it’s a routine we’ll take with us.

Which adaptations will you consciously adopt as things return to “normal?” Share it with us in the DFWAEngage Forum.