- Remote work is a fact of life now, but offices can still play a role in getting work done.
- Neocova is a small fintech that has balanced remote and in-office teams since before the pandemic.
- Cofounder and Chief of Staff Lindsay Lockhart shared three insights for working with a hybrid team.
- Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.
Community banks and credit unions don’t exactly call to mind a picture of high-tech innovations or virtual teamwork.
But one startup is bringing cutting edge tools to Main Street banks and using a hybrid workforce of in-office and remote staff to do it.
Neocova is a fintech that provides community lenders with the underlying platform known as core banking technology that financial institutions count on to do business every day.
As chief of staff for the company, cofounder Lindsay Lockhart is responsible for making sure her team is able to work together effectively.
Before the coronavirus pandemic pushed the company fully remote, it worked out of a main office in St. Louis, a secondary location in New York, and also had remote employees around the world.
Lockhart told Insider the company intends to return to its hybrid footing and shared her best advice for how managers can effectively balance the in-office and distributed workforce that keeps business running smoothly.
“From day one, we’ve always operated from the mindset of having multiple teammates that are not all in a centralized location, so what is the best way for us to work together as a team?” Lockhart said.
“It’s a way of life for us,” she added. “We don’t know any different.”
Keep the conversation going online
“First and foremost, over-communicate,” Lockhart said. “Assume that no one knows anything, so everybody stays on the same page.”
The Neocova team are heavy users of tools like Slack and Google Hangouts to keep everyone connected and talking throughout the day.
Specifically, Lockhart recommends using twice-daily check-ins for project teams to stay on top of tasks and assignments, though she acknowledges “Zoom fatigue is real” and recommends audio-only meetings whenever possible.
“Provide two touch points — one at the beginning of the day, one at the end — so your teammates know where you are,” she said. “Like most successful relationships, it all comes down to communication.”
It’s also critical for leaders to set aside space for more informal communication and to be an example of transparency about how they are handling the increasingly blurry boundary between their work and personal lives.
“As a single mother of two elementary school children, I am not shy in terms of voicing some of the challenges that we have,” Lockhart said. “I do my best to share with the team so they understand they’re not alone.”
Establish a cadence for your organization
Closely tied to the priority on communication is finding what Lockhart calls a cadence for the schedules and routines of your team.
“One of the silver linings of the pandemic and working in a 100% virtual environment is it really focuses leadership, as well as the whole team, to properly define the culture of the organization without having the human touch points that we had previously,” she said.
Over the past year, that has led the company to schedule fewer meetings, and to ensure that the remaining ones are used wisely.
Before the pandemic, Lockhart would organize monthly all-hands weeks at the main office, but that has been replaced with a virtual event. Although the days of organization-wide gatherings are unlikely to return, Lockhart does look forward to re-introducing the fast-paced, high-energy opportunities for in-person collaboration when it’s safe to do so.
Working together is different from working next to each other
Looking forward to when business returns to something like normal, Lockhart said that it’s important to think about office spaces as being more than just a place to plug in your laptop.
“There’s something to be said about the energy and inertia that you have with the team when you’re in the same physical space,” she said. “You’re able to have more natural conversation and iterate with your team in a way that is virtually impossible to do when you are virtual.”
For those employees who do want to work in the office, it’s most effective when they are part of related teams. It wouldn’t make sense, she says, to assign individuals from disparate departments to use a common space.
“It would be a very disconnected team dynamic,” she said. “We’d want to make sure that we were planning around the proper team dynamic, even in terms of role and functionality. That’s super key for us.”
Striking the right balance is an iterative process that requires frequent adjustment – more now than ever.
“What was successful last month may not be successful this month,” she said.
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