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Reflecting on different modes of working

As part of my work on the Leading Virtual Teams book, I have been careful to define what is meant by terms describing different ways of working. It’s taken me a while to bring the various terms together, and to reflect on their meaning not just now, but also before the advent of digital technologies and more widely available, reliable, high speed internet connections.

In my childhood days for example, selling Tupperware from your garage was a popular way for women to work from home alongside bringing up children, for example, and that didn’t involve Zoom calls or being online at all.

Similarly, there are many industries in which distributed working (i.e. across a number of different geographical locations) or working remotely (away from a central location such as a campus or corporate HQ) has been commonplace well before we had the capacity to take much of our “office” with us in the form of a laptop or even mobile device.

Graphic showing an overview of different Modes of Working - CC-BY by Dr Maren Deepwell, Leading Virtual Teams (2022)

Home working: The practice of working from home.

Whilst frequently associated with working as part of distributed teams or online nowadays, home working has not historically been associated with use of digital technology. 

Hybrid working: Working both at home from at the office. 

Employees have the flexibility to work away from the office for some days each week, for example working three days per week in the office and two days a week at home. 

Working as a Virtual Team: A blend of all other modes of working characterised by:

Digital workflows and communication tools, no physical location, a permanently home-based workforce, and workplace policies that reflect the needs of a virtual organisation. 

Distributed working: Working across a number of locations. 

Distributed working across number of locations such as different campuses or offices, usually independent from each other and with their own local workforce.

Remote working: Working away from a central hub. 

Remote working can encompass home working, but employees may also work from other locations that are remote from a central hub (such as a campus or HQ).
Graphic showing an overview of different Modes of Working – CC-BY by Dr Maren Deepwell, Leading Virtual Teams (2022)

One of the key themes of the work I have been doing is reflecting on how the way we work impacts on us. More specifically, I am interested in how different modes of working impact on particular aspects of our lives such as physical and mental health, work/life balance or a sense of connectedness.

Inspired by my coach training, in which our coach trainer recently asked us to practice with a coaching tool called Wheel of Life, I have adapted this coaching tool to explore different ways of working such as working from home, hybrid working,
distributed or remote working and working in virtual teams and reflect on how the way you work impacts on you and your life.

Here is one example focused on hybrid working:

Example of a wheel adapted to reflect on hybrid working

Each wheel contains eight sections, including one which is blank for you to add your own category. I have been experimenting with what categories to include based on the research I have undertaken, and the mix of what’s included changes for different modes of working.

For hybrid working, you could reflect on and score:

  • Home working environment
  • Work/life balance
  • Physical and mental health
  • Care and family responsibilities
  • Socialising with colleagues
  • Commute
  • Office or campus work environment
  • and… a category of your choice

Here is another example that I have completed for working as a virtual team:

Example of a wheel with scores adapted to reflect on working in a virtual team

In this example, I have added a lower score for “Virtual socialising with colleagues” and high scores for areas like “work/life balance” and “home working environment”.

Try out this resource

You can download this resource and use it or adapt it to better suit your particular needs.

If you have any feedback or comments, I would love to hear from you. Contact me.

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