Three Tools for Staying Connected While Working Remotely
While some office buildings have reopened their doors after closing due to COVID-19, more workers than ever are continuing to work from home for the foreseeable future. Maybe that’s YOU.
So how do we stay connected to our teams while we continue to work apart?
We know there are some benefits to remote work. Research tells us that remote workers often achieve higher levels of productivity because they have greater schedule flexibility and can work in comfortable settings. Workers who have given up their daily commute have enjoyed that extra time and have been able to keep their children home when childcare isn’t available.
But as we settle in for an extended period of remote work, we should also pay attention to the potential downsides for how we work with our teammates. Some individuals report feeling less engaged, less comfortable having challenging conversations or simply missing the casual interactions with their coworkers. Again, perhaps this is YOU.
As I have worked with clients during this time, I have found three tools to be especially helpful in addressing these concerns.
1. Be thoughtful in how you communicate.
When we’re not all in the office together, we must rely more on remote communication tools: video, IMs, email and texts. Compared to a face-to-face conversation, these remote methods can distort the normal pace of communication. Just ask anyone on a video call who found their audio became muted while another colleague spoke over them or someone who misinterpreted a delayed email response as a negative reaction from a colleague.
Remote communications certainly have their limitations.
Because of the challenges in these remote methods, it is more important than ever to be intentional in our communications. Turn on your video cameras so you can see each other, check in on team members who seem disengaged and re-read your emails before you send them. These efforts will limit miscommunications and keep teams aligned.
One of my clients decided to start sending a link to his team for “open office hours” on the video platform they use. He keeps his camera on while he does work during those hours and finds that a number of his colleagues tune in to join him. Sometimes they hash out critical issues, and sometimes they just work together in companionable silence. Other times, they casually check in on projects or listen to the same Spotify playlist.
2. Consider how you work together
For many teams who shift to remote work, the ways in which they work together need to change. You may need to address some of the team norms or ways in which your team operates together.
Ask yourself: How connected is the team to a shared purpose and meaning? Are expectations clear? Is recognition taking place? How is feedback being provided; is it adequate? Are the necessary challenging conversations taking place? Does the team receive critical updates on projects or other initiatives? How might meeting cadences need to change and what new touchpoints could be necessary?
Being proactive in asking these questions will give you an opportunity to shape your new normal.
3. Have some fun
At a time when we’re taking fewer vacation days and having fewer casual interactions with each other, people are describing work as less “fun” than it used to be. Finding ways to bring fun back into work is a masterful way to help a team stay connected to each other now and will build a strong foundation for collaborating in the future.
So how can you have some fun together? Now is the time for creativity!
I have been working with several clients on different approaches that their teams would enjoy. We have tried virtual “coffee clubs,” distanced birthday celebrations, and remote “field days.” I have seen trivia contests, scavenger hunts, funny pet photo contests and a lot of other creative ways to get people together virtually to have some fun. These approaches help to build strong social connections and relationships.
It appears that remote work will continue to be a trend for some time. Proactively addressing how your team can best work together in this format is critical. Consider how you connect, how you work together and how you can have some fun. These three tools will help you work together most effectively even while you’re apart.
- Dhawan, E., & Chamorro-Premuzic, T. (2018). How to Collaborate Effectively if your Team is Remote. Harvard Business Review.
- Petriglieri, G., Ashford, S. J., & Wrzesniewski, A. (2019) Agony and Ecstasy in the Gig Economy: Cultivating Holding Environments for Managing Precarious and Personalized Work Identities. Administrative Science Quarterly, 64, 1, pg 124-170.
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