In a hybrid of virtual and physical landscapes, what makes a team perform at its best? The answer is tuning into the workforce, says Brian Mariotti, principal of Allen Jack+Cottier.
There has been no before or after COVID-19 for Brian Mariotti.
Mariotti, who became an owner at Allen Jack+Cottier late last year, has had a baptism of fire. As the working environment continues to change at a rapid pace, Mariotti says adaptability lies in how you approach the problem, not in a set of fixed answers.
“We have guiding principles that help inform the decisions we make when we are being agile and adaptable. Whenever we face a challenge, we ask ourselves how our response to the situation will allow our people to work better.”
The large, open office spaces at Allen Jack+Cottier will allow for a smooth transition back to the workplace, while still adhering to government advice on social distancing.
But the office is no longer defined by four walls – more meetings will be a hybrid of virtual and physical team members. Leaders will need to make a “concerted effort” to spark informal conversations, Mariotti says.
“It will be important to program pulse-checks with your team members to ensure that your workforce knows you are across the issues as they come up and nobody is left behind,” Mariotti explains.
“Now more than ever, it is important to be quick on your feet. Leaders are now acting as communicators and connectors, instead of bosses.”
Mariotti says AJ+C regularly polls its workforce to see what methods work best for individuals and teams, "so that we can adapt our way of working and have something to support everyone".
AJ+C’s workplace surveys have revealed everyone has had different experiences during the lockdown; some are eager to be back in the office, others have thrived working from home, and everything in-between.
Mariotti says that one of the ways his leadership team has combatted this challenge is by structuring more intentional time for employees, so that they are still receiving the same amount of value virtually.
“To be a leader is to be adaptable. We are laying down a lot for the future, in terms of retention, flexible working and efficiency. It’s a tough time, but there is an opportunity to implement changes we’ve been thinking about for a long while.”
Health and wellbeing of staff is an important focus for AJ+C. Initiatives during COVID-19 have included mental health, resilience and mindfulness webinars, online yoga classes and an employee assistance program. “Helping people understand mindfulness and giving them tools and techniques to manage their stress is also important,” Mariotti concludes.
Learn more about Allen Jack+Cottier.