Over the last few years, virtual teaming has grown, and technology has continually evolved to make it easier than ever to connect digitally. While some companies and leaders have adapted quite quickly, others have resisted.
Something that was previously seen as a luxury is now a necessity.
Remote teaming is no longer a matter of choice made to appease the Millennial or Gen Z desire to work from home. No. Virtual teaming is no longer an option, it’s a necessity to ensure success and safety in light of the current challenges we face with COVID-19.
But what now? Most companies don’t even have remote policies or systems in place, and many lack a culture of remote engagement and communication. As a remote worker myself, working with global leaders in the areas of employee engagement, corporate culture, and leadership, I would like to share some tips with you to help smooth the quick transition over to a remote team.
Regular meetings and check-ins
Use video conferencing. When in meetings of more than 4, have people raise their hand or write their name in the chat box if and when they want to add anything to the conversation. As a leader, facilitate the discussion by saying “let’s go around the room starting with so and so, to kick things off”. Establish these norms of communication by having a discussion about it in your first virtual meeting so everyone is on the same page. This will help avoid people talking over one another by accident. Haven’t established these norms yet? No problem! Start now.
Schedule regular check-ins with your team. Depending on team size, weekly 1-1.5 hour meetings in addition to holding shorter, smaller meetings more often.
Provide space for social interactions. Start the meeting with an informal check in such as a 1 word check in, a 30 second funny story each, or share something that went well this week.
In addition to having regular meetings, it’s also important to make a conscious effort to check in with your team members on multiple levels, covering topics both related to work and personal life.
2. Communication tools and watercooler chit chat.
Use a communication tool to quickly share updates, inspiration and partake in "watercooler talk". When switching to a virtual environment, these opportunities can be lost so build in that informal chat time.
Just like in a physical office, you should encourage a similar ambience virtually. If you are already using a company-wide messaging tool for this, great. If not, check out Microsoft teams, Slack, or other similar products.
Encourage content sharing among team members. Create some sensible ground rules, similar to office policies. Examples could be shows on Netflix, funny stories, insightful articles or memes.
Depending on the size of your team, the more casual and laid-back you are with team communication channels, the better they typically become at being used in an open and transparent way.
3. Create new rituals.
Maintain a morning routine and encourage your team to do the same. If your routine was a pit stop at your favourite coffee shop on your drive to work or a check in with your best friend, recreate it. Brew a pot of your favourite coffee as you facetime your bestie or check in with a parent or other loved one. Before you open your email, spend 10 minutes setting an intention for the day and journaling your goals.
Have weekly theme days, or weekly checkin opportunities that involve your kids and pets in conversations with your teams. Carve out time to hear about something funny that’s happened, or something frustrating; humanize the virtual workplace.
Is there someone you work closely with in the office? Have working sessions online. Grab a coffee and hammer out some work with your coworkers on a conference call.
Grab lunch and hop on video. No work talk here, just catch up over a bite to eat!
4. Build healthy habits.
Dress the part. Try to avoid staying in PJs all day, or working from bed. Get energized and don't fall into the all so tempting bad habits.
Schedule in movement breaks, time to get distracted, time for deep work with no interruptions, and self-care time.
Take a walk. Set up workout challenges with your coworkers and friends.
Sign up for a live virtual yoga session.
Eat healthfully, and on a regular schedule.
There are children at home, family to take care of and people need to take care of themselves. Trust that each individual can take responsibility for these things as well as their work obligations, and then let them build a schedule that works.
Remember that autonomy is just as important in the office as it is remotely.
Know when you work best, and what works for your productivity. Work better at night? Don’t have meetings scheduled during the day? You know yourself best, manage your energy accordingly and allow and encourage the same for your team.
6. Create psychological safety
Give everyone a voice. Encourage people to raise their hand or write their name in the chat box to speak in order to ensure an inclusive environment. Ask for input from your team and involve them in decision making.
Remember that tone of voice gets lost in email – always assume positive intent.
Engagement stems from trust so create open and judgement-free communication.
Be vulnerable and transparent. Don't act as if you have all the answers. We are all human, and people respect and appreciate the vulnerability. Remember that vulnerability and leadership go hand in hand. It's about sharing what’s appropriate in the workplace and having some boundaries around what is helpful and about and what isn’t.
Always discuss, adjust, and improve. If something isn’t working for your team, create the space and safety for them to communicate and share their feedback. Ask for suggestions, work together to make this work.
A study by The Science of Creating High-Performing Teams shows that employees who feel their teams are safe are 76% more engaged and 50% more productive.
What we will learn in the coming months will help shape the future of work. Want to be successful in running a virtual team? Hosting a virtual meeting or switching to a remote workforce practically overnight? Reach out directly and stay tuned for more to come.
Don’t have the infrastructure to allow employees to successfully work from home? Here are some ways to start:
Zoom: Remote conferencing services that provide video conferencing, online meetings and chat.
Monday.com: Platform for project management to organize, track and manage work. Provides tools to create timelines, track tasks, share lists, take notes, and assign tasks for projects.
Slack: Online communication platform that integrates with a wide variety of apps such as Google Drive, MailChimp and Dropbox.
Times are changing. The way we work is changing, the way we operate and run businesses are changing. As Darwin said “In some ways, business mirrors biology” - those who survive ‘are not the strongest or the most intelligent, but the most adaptable to change.”