While the question has become increasingly more common in recent years, the Covid-19 pandemic has greatly accelerated the need to answer a vital question.
Can an organization operate with Teal principles even in a fully remote-working environment?
In fact, it's not only possible, but it is substantially easier. To see how, it's best to look at the three factors of what makes an organization "Teal".
How does remote-work inherently support that cause?
Self-management is the ability to operate effectively, even at a large scale, without the need for either hierarchy or consensus.
There are many processes involved in truly being self-managed. Autonomy and easier access to information are at the top of the list.
When there is no office for people to gather and no desks for people to sit at, it becomes virtually impossible to mindlessly micro-manage. As a manager, you can no longer walk through a department and scold those who have been on break too long, those who you see on Facebook, and those who aren't wording or designing things the way you like.
While micro-management is still absolutely possible with remote work, it becomes more of a conscious effort and some degree of trust becomes mandatory. Managers can't literally look over your shoulder and watch you work in real time. Instead, they have to message team members directly, ask what they're doing, schedule time to chat with them, etc.
My boss can't know if my TV is on, if I have Facebook open in another tab, or if I am multi-tasking work duties and life responsibilities. More importantly, my boss shouldn't know.
It doesn't matter. As long as my work gets done, that is all they need to know.
To self-manage, clear expectations are necessary. When your employees are entirely remote, clear expectations are even more of a requirement. Thus, by working remotely, you are more inclined to create clear expectations, give employees more autonomy, and trust their individual decision-making ... even if none of it is intentional.
Wholeness is the idea that each employee can be their whole selves at work. It means that who you are in the office should be the exact same as who you are outside the office.
When you work remotely, this is far more likely to be the case, though it still requires effort on the organization's part to create a truly welcoming space. If your home and office are the same space, you have to make a conscious effort to appear more "work-friendly".
When your work doesn't require being on a video call, you can truly be yourself. You can accomplish your work duties while wearing whatever you want, having your hair completely unkempt, listening to the type of music you like, and surrounded by any decorations on your desk and walls that bring you joy.
You don't need to worry about what others think or what is deemed "professional". When working from home, you automatically maximize your level of wholeness.
The Challenge of Video Calls
Video calls is another matter and where some of the challenge comes in. No matter how comfortable I am in my home working environment, I may feel the need to change some things before hopping on a call. Some will dress nicely, do their hair, and design their workspace to look good on camera to maintain a "professional" appearance. Sometimes, we do that because it makes us feel better about ourselves, and sometimes we do that because we feel shamed and pressured by our coworkers or bosses to present ourselves in a certain way.
This is where company effort comes in.
If you truly want wholeness to exist in your company, you need to make it okay for people to be themselves and for their personal situation to not taint the quality of their work.
I have wholeness in my team because I can roll out of bed and directly onto a call while dogs run around in the background.
Fancying things up to create an image of a more professional work setting won't improve the quality of my work. Rather, the opposite is likely to be true. Instead of focusing on the meeting ahead, I would be focusing on making sure I look the part.
Instead of making sure I'm prepared, I'd be trying to round up my animals in another room so the distractions I can't help don't make me look unreliable.
3. Evolutionary Purpose
An evolutionary purpose means focusing on more than money - to have a vision of something bigger and more meaningful and being flexible enough to change how things are done if it means accomplishing that goal. For organizational purpose to truly thrive, you need people whose personal purposes align with the organization's. Again, this is often a benefit by default when shifting to a remote-working environment.
While some jobs are willing to help people relocate, many companies hire based on who lives near one of their office locations or who is willing and able to move. When working and hiring remotely, you expand your reach of potential candidates from nearby cities to the entire globe.
Rather than hiring someone who lives close enough to drive to the office, or the person who is capable of uprooting their lives for a new job, you can instead hire the person who is deeply passionate about what your company does and how it does it.
Working remotely means everyone can live in the way that best embodies their personal purpose while still being able to dedicate their time to the organization's purpose.
Grander purposes provide flexibility
Another example of the benefit of remote work with evolutionary purpose has been highlighted by the Covid-19 pandemic. When it hit, how the entire world operated drastically changed nearly overnight. If your purpose was to maximize profits, that likely became impossible when foot traffic stopped. If your purpose was to build a single product, that may have become difficult when social distancing and lockdowns became mandatory. However, grander purposes often provide room for flexibility.
A purpose typically isn't specific to a location or process - it's an idea of how to do something better. Whether all hands are on deck or a handful of employees are working fewer hours to keep everyone safe, they are still there for the same reason. They want to help the company mission come to life because it's meaningful and beneficial for the world.
As you can see, going Teal while working remotely is not only possible, it's more likely. Embrace remote work as a benefit. While there can be technical difficulties and learning curves, these moments are opportunities for growth rather than hurdles to be overcome. Lean into how things are now and make benefits out of them rather than hoping for it to be over and go back to normal. Your company and employees will both thrive.