Supporting clients to work in an online environment

We have all noticed the benefits of working in an online environment; convenience, cost, and global reach. However, we are noticing a lot of anxiety and some levels of team decay in clients who only use Zoom for internal communication. This anxiety relates to a perceived loss of a relationship, community, and alignment.

There is also some concern about how people manage the “influx” of private lives into the zoom relationship. For example, how do we interact when a coaching client has a child on their lap or when we or others have to answer the front door during an intense strategy session. And,  how to coach someone who is sharing a workspace with their partner or children who are doing their homework or playing Minecraft.

There are no easy answers. Perhaps we can support ourselves and our clients to work in an online environment, not try to get them to replicate an offline environment more perfectly.

Some answers may lie in how we prioritize relationships in our online conversations and how we balance flexibility and boundaries in relationships.

We have noticed how Zoom relationships often prioritize the connection between the leader and individual staff members rather than between staff members. The zoom context seems to exacerbate the “leader talking the most” and “all relationships through the leader tendency” in groups. This in turn undermines social capital and ultimately alignment within the group. Using breakout groups and creating one on one chat opportunities can help with this.

With regards to boundaries, we need to understand where boundaries are possible and where flexibility is necessary and critical. Perhaps it is ok to coach someone who has a toddler on their lap or who is breastfeeding their baby. Perhaps doing so can even help us to understand the lives of our clients better. Either way, we have to adapt and get used to our future.