By now, most of us who are working from home have settled into a new routine of working. The technical issues have been largely solved. We are fluent in Zoom and various work-flow software.
Now what? How do we maintain our team spirit? As important, how do we continue to grow a culture of camaraderie when our co-workers have morphed into a two dimensional image? And, lastly, how do we incorporate the “newbies” into our culture? Below are a few thoughts for your consideration.
Do not assume
You know the old adage of what it means when you “assume”? In the remote environment, we lose the subtle aspects of communication that come with face-to-face interactions. Body language is a thing of the past because we only see everyone’s upper half.
This means we need to be very clear in our intentions. Likely, any meeting should be followed up with an email that outlines expectations and deadlines. Awareness of how other team members are feeling is important and takes more effort during the separation. Is someone just having a bad day or are there more serious underlying issues? If you have been working together for a while, you get to know each other’s tells. Now is a good time to pay closer attention to things like how people are speaking and what their (limited) body language is communicating. Also, do not be afraid to express your own feelings.
Great teams are built on trust. Trust takes time and effort.
This plays off the above point. While meetings can become redundant and boring, spending face time with your team is more important than ever. Phone calls, texts and emails are fine, but nothing replaces having a conversation while looking at someone (or, at least, their image). Remember, the printed word loses all aspects of emotional content and can be easily misinterpreted.
As a manager, be very clear in what you are asking of the team. This may be a good time to use the technique of asking team members to repeat what they heard.
Widen the conversation
It is tempting to “get down to business” on virtual meetings. Yes, time is valuable, but it is currently an elastic concept. Spend some time on small talk. Back in the real world, meetings always started with people sitting around the conference table catching up. That is a small important part of team building as it fosters human relationships. If you care about each other, you will care more about what the team is doing.
Do the little things
Have a meeting with no purpose. Schedule water cooler sessions when the team gets together to just chat. Do a virtual happy hour. These types of interactions occur organically during the normal course of a work week. Now, we have to think about and plan for them. Make it happen.
Go the extra mile
This is especially important when dealing with the newest team members. Adjusting to a new job experience and work environment takes time. Usually, someone will take up to six months to feel comfortable in their new surroundings. They may get the work right away, but assimilating into the culture is much more difficult when working remotely.
Take extra time with these people. Put yourself in their shoes. Find ways to make them feel welcome. Encourage interactions in both large and small group settings. Check in with them frequently. Where appropriate, give them additional reassurances.