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An introvert’s utopia! Staying indoors all day, not having to sit through yet another painful board meeting, finally the age of the introverts has arrived. However, the realities of home working, childcare, housemates and dodgy internet connections, have not made this a utopia that many of us wish to reside in permanently. We have lost those “water cooler” moments that keep you updated on the latest happenings in the office. Office gossip has been replaced by GIFs of cats and smiley faced emojis. Psychological health has become more important than ever, and managers have a responsibility to ensure that their staff feel supported and involved in their team.

So how do we overcome the difficulties of line management at a distance?

The NHS and its workforce have faced unprecedented challenges through this pandemic, and employees need more support and team building than ever before. So how do we overcome the difficulties of line management at a distance, and how can we look to support staff that have been through the biggest challenge the health service has ever faced?

Myers Briggs in the virtual workplace

In times of struggle, we all like to revert back to what feels comfortable. For me, that is using Myers Briggs models to help with team management. Myers Briggs is like marmite, some people love it; others despise it. The level of animosity toward it stems from the fact that there is limited scientific evidence that supports its application. The system arose in the 1940s based on the theories by Carl Jung, however these were theoretical and based on experience rather than scientific evidence. Psychologists have largely dismissed it and opted for the more scientific models such as the Big Five Personality traits. And whilst you probably shouldn’t plan out your entire life based on Myers Briggs, it doesn’t mean that we should totally dismiss it either.

And whilst you probably shouldn’t plan out your entire life based on Myers Briggs, it doesn’t mean that we should totally dismiss it either.

For me, the true power of the Myers Briggs model comes from its team building power. It invites individuals to reflect on their behaviours and how others may perceive them. It gives team members a fun insight into some of the behaviours that they may exhibit in the workplace and an opportunity to reflect on the impact that they might have upon others. Although not an exact science, there is a great deal of benefit to using the Myers Briggs model in group exercises. Individuals who do not seek the limelight are able to demonstrate their skills sets and behaviours. The quiet and unassuming team member who may be regarded as hard to get to know, comes to life as a ‘composer’, someone who has a natural talent for the arts and a flare for creativity.

The model is also useful in helping individuals to navigate challenging relationships within the office. Understanding each other’s values, interests, and general approaches to life can be incredibly powerful in resolving issues and deescalating workplace conflict. Individuals with fundamentally different values and motivations are able to gain insight into their partnership working and can learn from each other from their different approaches to work. All of this helps to build unity and enables all of the group to individually contribute to the strategic goal of the team. Individuals are also empowered to seek out a team member who can complement their skill set. And at a time when many teams have not had face to face contact for months, it is so important that individuals feel able to reach out to other team members.

Building a sense of community and team identity

Social distancing has forced us all to embrace new technologies. At first grappling with video calls feels like a wrestling match that you are losing. The struggle to get your camera to work, fighting with a sticky mute button or your computer resetting of its own accord. These are all real issues that we now have to contend with. But once you conquer this battle and settle into the new way of working, there are significant benefits to managing a team virtually. The technology allows us to make group participation easier through chat bars and breakout rooms, that facilitate more active contributions from individuals. The more reserved members of the team are able to post anonymously, which empowers people who previously may have found it difficult to contribute due to large group dynamics or hierarchy. When managed well, virtual meetings can bring new benefits and insight about your team.

In a time of crisis, it is team working that produces results and helps support individuals during challenging times.

In a time when teams are working across vast virtual distances, leaders must do more to build up that sense of community and team identity. Individuality must not be lost and we should not all become 10x20cm boxes on screen. In a time of crisis, it is team working that produces results and helps support individuals during challenging times. There is still a long road ahead of us in healthcare against the Covid-19 pandemic but collaboration is the key to get us through it. The talents and skills of an individual are more important than ever and we must work together to create a work environment that still encourages diversity and innovation.

Do you manage a team remotely, Q community? Share your experience in the comments.

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