The impact of the Corona Virus and its global effect on people’s lives, on organizational structures, and international dynamics is mind-boggling. It is all what is on people’s mind, well most of you perhaps. But not all is doom and gloom as with these inevitable challenges; they force humanity to grow and to rethink international governance, systems and agility to respond in a people-centric way beyond digital means.
One of the opportunities organizations are embracing is remote working and building up virtual teams. This is, by the way, not a new concept. According to the Global State of Remote work report issued in 2018 by OWL Labs, 52% of employees around the world work remotely at least once per week, and 68% work remotely at least once per month.
Organizations, where a remote working culture is still frowned upon, are now forced to rethink their operational model pretty fast. The Corona Virus has perhaps unintentionally pushed many organizations to send their employees home and communicate through digital and virtual means.
Working through the cloud and on virtual networks brings specific vulnerabilities, such as cyber-attacks. More due to human error than working through the cloud itself. In the UK alone, for example, human error caused 90% of cyber data breaches in 2019, according to a CybSafe analysis of data from the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). A new report from Kaspersky Lab has revealed that security incidents in public cloud infrastructure are more likely to occur as a result of a customer’s employees rather than by actions carried out by cloud providers.
Imagine if your team is dispersed across locations working from one virtual network, how will they respond to a cyber attack? How will their emotions influence their response options to ensure minimal damage to the organizational systems?
Let’s take a closer to a hypothetical scenario that illustrates the importance of emotional intelligence training for virtual teams in the digital age.
Meet the Virtual Nerd Team of Organization Light
Organization Light is a multinational organization headquartered in country A with five satellite offices across Europe and Asia. Due to the Corona Virus and the high risk perceived of ensuring high levels well-being and performance of its employees, the Virtual Nerd Team was sent to work from home. Caesar, the team leader, had been exposed to the Corona Virus and is awaiting his test results. The CEO, Brenda, does not like taking risks, so she sent the whole team to work from home.
Some of the team members were beyond excited!
“Finally, we are able to work without continuous disruption from the extroverts who feel the need to talk every other second.
Finally, some me-time and full focus on what I need to produce without attending boring meetings which have no purpose and are just wasting people’s time, money, and genius creativity!”
But some other team members were disappointed. They love being around people, and they get their energy and ideas from their external environment. Working in social isolation reduces their creativity and performance significantly.
Well, at least there are virtual meeting room apps where they can continue the unnecessary meetings so they can feel connected!
The attack on the virtual networks
Now the curveball! Virtual Nerd Team is suffering from a denial-of-service (DDOS) attack. Their networks and collaboration services are unavailable. The system has been infiltrated by unknown hackers. Caesar, the team lead, is oblivious to ongoing attacks as he decided to write his long-awaited policy recommendation paper on how to deal with the CoronaVirus, now that he is by himself and without human distraction. So he is disconnected completely from the virtual team.
The other team members panic and are not quite sure what to do as they can’t seem to reach Caesar. One team member, Jimmy, takes his iPhone and sends an email from his Gmail account to the IT department of organization Light. The virtual virus from his computer, which is on the same network as his phone, has now infiltrated organization Light’s static systems. The IT desk officer forgot to replace the patches, which were due last week. A significant human error, and which demonstrates the lack of cyber hygiene!
Collaboration in the age of stress, fear, and uncertainty
We live in an age where up to five different generations from across sectors, backgrounds, and cultures are working together. These are people with various mental models, personality preferences, and behavioral workplace habits. When a crisis hits the fan, humans fall back into their survival mode – the fight or flight mode. Organizations have focused on exercising response options from a cognitive ability perspective.How will people respond from an intellectual point of view to ensure minimal damage and loss during times of crisis?
Helping people make sense of how their emotions influence their ability to solve problems, make decisions, perform under stress, be flexible, and several other critical parameters is a must for successful collaboration both for remote and in-office teams.
When your employees face feelings of stress, fear, anxiety, and uncertainty – like many are experiencing now as we speak– emotional intelligence training is essential to minimize human error during digital disruptions and beyond.
Well, how exactly do you see this working out, Nadja?
Exercising human response options
Simulating crisis scenarios and exercising human interaction is the most effective way to help your teams, virtual and in-office, perform above their potential.
Had Caesar understood that his natural state of being is introverted and he loves expressing his intellectual capacity in isolation, he had probably not taken up the role of the team lead. He only realized this when the cyber crisis got out of hand, and hindsight realized that he should have been available to his team members on the virtual meeting rooms network!
Had Jimmy known that his low levels of impulse control and self-regulation prevented him from taking a step back and analyzing the consequences of his actions, he would have figured out that using his cloud-connected personal phone was not one of his most brilliant ideas.
Had Brenda, the CEO realized that her levels of low self-regard and fear of being perceived as a weak leader during times of crisis kept her from making a rational decision, she would not have sent her entire Virtual Nerd Team to work remotely without further consideration to the far more significant risks such as cyber-attacks.
This all seems logical, but for many employees, it is not. Because people function and work with unconscious bias and ingrained behavioural habits that prevent them from adapting to the changing environment. When you put them into crisis mode through role-plays, their subconscious mind awakens as they are processing information in their MAP OF THE WORLD.
They develop a new level of self-awareness, which helps them develop better and more rational response options during the crisis, especially in an era where virtual teams are increasing in an ever globalized digital world.