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How Do You Quickly Adopt and Manage Remote or Hybrid Teams?

The pandemic forced many leaders into managing remote or hybrid workplaces seemingly overnight. How did our creative Vistage community maintain performance, communication and trust from afar? We spoke with Marc Wolin in New York and Patrick Maynard, Ph.D., in Ohio to hear how they not only survived but thrived.

Marc Wolin is CEO of Seneca Insurance Co., a Crum & Forster company. Seneca’s nearly 300 employees began working remotely, upending long-held procedures and workflows. The experience has informed Seneca’s plans to adopt a flexible hybrid model going forward.
Patrick Maynard is President and CEO of I Am Boundless, a nonprofit that provides residential support, autism programs and other health services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and behavioral health challenges. Remote working will likely evolve into a "hoteling" strategy (i.e., reserving desk space) for administrative roles post-COVID.
Wolin: It improved performance, in many respects. We did away with a large portion of our paper systems and came up with new work processes that were digital. Our tremendous employees really stepped up and got the job done. Some projects took half the time they would have before COVID-19 because people really put their noses to the grindstone.
Maynard: We expanded in services, so performance increased. Before the pandemic, we were offering some virtual services, but it was mostly on the sidelines. When the pandemic hit, we had a tool in place and began using it more. In March, we were in 27 counties, and by December, we were in more than 50 counties.
Wolin: We had to have more meetings and more disciplined meetings. We are institutionalizing what we’ve learned with the goal of taking the best of this work-from-home environment and carrying it over.
Maynard: We had already been expanding geographically, which forced us to deal with engagement, training, oversight and accountability. The pandemic accelerated these issues for us. We decided that we couldn’t over- communicate.
Wolin: You have to have constant communication, and empathy is very important. Our teams thought of ways to stay connected virtually with fun things to do, like happy hours and other ways to keep the personal touch. We also reminded people about their mental health benefits. We let them know that they didn’t need to be chained to their computers, and we encouraged people to take their vacations.
Maynard: Communicate, communicate, communicate. I knew our direct service providers had to go in to the office, and I didn’t want them to feel abandoned. So, I continued to go in and started doing fireside chats online from my office. The feedback was positive. They said, “You didn’t abandon us, you helped allay my fears. You’re answering our questions.”
Wolin: It improved performance, in many respects. We did away with a large portion of our paper systems and came up with new work processes that were digital. Our tremendous employees really stepped up and got the job done. Some projects took half the time they would have before COVID-19 because people really put their noses to the grindstone.
How has the shift to work-from-home or hybrid working affected your team’s performance?
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Maynard: We expanded in services, so performance increased. Before the pandemic, we were offering some virtual services, but it was mostly on the sidelines. When the pandemic hit, we had a tool in place and began using it more. In March, we were in 27 counties, and by December, we were in more than 50 counties.
Wolin: We had to have more meetings and more disciplined meetings. We are institutionalizing what we’ve learned with the goal of taking the best of this work-from-home environment and carrying it over.
What processes or policies did you put in place to ensure solid communication?
Click on the author image to swipe
Maynard: We had already been expanding geographically, which forced us to deal with engagement, training, oversight and accountability. The pandemic accelerated these issues for us. We decided that we couldn’t over- communicate.
Wolin: You have to have constant communication, and empathy is very important. Our teams thought of ways to stay connected virtually with fun things to do, like happy hours and other ways to keep the personal touch. We also reminded people about their mental health benefits. We let them know that they didn’t need to be chained to their computers, and we encouraged people to take their vacations.
What did you have to be mindful of to build and maintain trust across your team?
Click on the author image to swipe
Maynard: Communicate, communicate, communicate. I knew our direct service providers had to go in to the office, and I didn’t want them to feel abandoned. So, I continued to go in and started doing fireside chats online from my office. The feedback was positive. They said, “You didn’t abandon us, you helped allay my fears. You’re answering our questions.”
Photos courtesy of members
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