Team “Work from Home” vs. Team “Work from Work”:

When your Employees are Divided

We have talked often about how to survive and even thrive financially, through marketing, and through self-care, but months after the shutdown, we’re starting to see even the teams with award-winning cultures noticing cracks under the pressure of this new normal. Experts agree that the companies most likely to make it through this uncertain time are the ones that have the strongest focus on their people.

Now that the Quarantine Fatigue is setting in, connection becomes the biggest challenge for every business.

Let’s use an example:

Sam is a 30-something designer whose outside of work schedule involves getting together with friends, caring for his dog, exercise, and learning. He is collaborating with Claire, another designer. She is also a 40-something mother of two, who is caring for a parent in her home along with her two young children. Each of them has a similar workload on the project, and the deadline is coming up. Neither one has ever had a bad performance review, and because Claire’s daycare closed due to the shutdown, Claire is working at home. Before the pandemic, Sam and Claire were friends, and would occasionally grab a drink after work for happy hour and would often seek each others’ advice on projects and relationships. They were very close.

Now, Sam and Claire are both feeling frustrated. Claire is exhausted and working double-time to produce the same level of work quality and feels like no one recognizes how hard she is working. Sam is frustrated because he can’t collaborate face-to-face with Claire, and because he can’t see what Claire is doing every minute now that they’re not physically together, he is becoming resentful thinking he’s pulling more than his own weight and is talking about it to his coworkers that are also working at work.

This rift in the team could have a lasting impact on the business. Both employees are doing their best, but the lack of connection is affecting their work. We’re seeing a Sharks & Jets style “Work at Home” vs “Work from Work” conflict where each team feels like they are against the other. Not a great way to preserve the team culture that you worked so hard for.

What can the leader do? Is this fixable? Definitely.

Fix 1: Daily check-ins.

While it sounds like a burdensome task for leaders to check in with their people every day, this can be easily accomplished with many different programs. Microsoft Teams, even Slack, give an opportunity for collaboration on what everyone needs to accomplish in a day. Personal check-ins with supervisors are ideal. The leader becomes like us as a coach: give an assignment, and follow-up often to see the status of the assignment. If everyone is being equally transparent about the amount of work that they are accomplishing, then the resentment goes away. Communication increases, and so does engagement.

One thing that we love from a client of ours is a weekly happy hour with the entire team, and the only rule is that they cannot talk about work. Each week, they come up with a starter topic, like favorite YouTube video of the week, or favorite joke, and they have a Zoom call for just an hour. No rules about kids or animals spoiling the call, just a stress-free reconnection.

Fix 2: Assume Positive Intent.

This can apply in so many instances in both work and personal lives. If each person in the situation assumes positive intent, rather than immediately thinking the other person is out to get them, then it is easier to have an open, honest conversation with the other person. Seeking to understand will help bridge the gap that distance can sometimes create.

Let’s go back to our example, with Sam and Claire. If Claire would take a moment and assume that Sam is not trying to bash her for having a family, or not being in the office, then she could understand that Sam just wants to know that everyone is pulling their weight in the business. If Sam was assuming positive intent, he would start with the fact that Claire is accomplishing her work, and while it might not be easy for her, she is working double-time to keep up (and would probably rather be at the office!).

There is some great work by Byron Katie around positive intent and four questions that you need to ask with negative statements. That’s a topic for another day, but we’d encourage you to check it out


Is it time to get the band back together? We know that it is not physically possible to do that in many cases, but the coaches are experienced with teams of many sizes to re-align the team in a relaxed and fun way. Are your employees fighting? Are employees feeling disconnected? Let us help. A neutral third party with broad experience might be exactly what the doctor ordered.

About the author,

Director of Marketing, ActionCOACH Columbus

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