Working remotely will be a new challenge for many people. How can we support them?
Social connection is incredibly important to cohesive work practices and focusing on social connection while physical distancing is important. For leaders who aren’t used to managing remote teams, it’s important to develop the skills to engage, and strategies to stay connected. Psychological safety at work requires; trust, connection, and open communication. The following ideas aren’t designed to be used all at once! Rather, these are for you to consider which might meet your teams needs and support them at present. It is a good idea to engage your team in the design of how they wish to be connected, bearing in mind that not everyone will have the same needs or preferences, so stay flexible.
If your team/ team member is new to working remotely…
Recognise the individual needs for connection and the varied life circumstances which may make it hard for some people to work from home. Be respectful and compassionate about these differences. Have a discussion with each team member about how they are finding working remotely and listen to their responses. Be mindful that if they express a negative experience, or a different one to yours, to still listen carefully, without dismissing their experience or jumping in with solutions. Some useful questions may be what’s been:
- The biggest CHALLENGE about working remotely for you?
- The BEST thing for you?
- The biggest SURPRISE?
Talk these questions through and if they feel that their experience is different to others, maintain confidentiality and explore the similarities and the differences. Work together to consider solutions for the challenges and to identify what can be done to maintain the positive outcomes.
Techniques to engage your team.
GOAL: Maintain social connection and motivation.
- Work against the clock – log onto to your video conferencing with a colleague and set an agenda for what tasks you each wish to complete and then focus on your own tasks, working against the clock. Check in at the end to ensure you’ve both achieved what you set out to do.
- Phone check-in beginning & end of day – go for a walk, put your headphones in and have a general phone check in to start or end the day.
- Lunch together online – set a lunch hour and invite everyone on your team and other teams to pop on for a casual drop-in lunch hour via your video conferencing system.
GOAL: Maintain everyone’s focus during online meetings.
- Start with a few minutes check in & catch up before getting into the agenda.
- Start & finish on time.
- Don’t overdo it – not every conversation has to be a video meeting.
- Make sure everyone is clear about the focus for the meeting.
GOAL: an ‘ice-breaker’ to give team members an opportunity to bring something of themselves to the meeting to build relationships.
Either before the meeting send a message asking team members to come prepared with the following, or during the meeting put up a slide which gives instructions to:
- Bring the oldest thing in your house
- Bring the cutest thing in your house
- Bring your most prized possession that you’d run back in and grab if there was a fire
- Bring something that will surprise us about you (keep it G Rated and legal!)
- Bring us three red things from your house
GOAL: Fun ways to engage team members and to keep energy and creativity high during a meeting:
- Bring your pet to work day – if team members don’t have a pet they could bring a stuffed animal, a photo of a previous pet, or an image of an aspirational pet.
- Frock up Friday – instead of free-dress Friday at the office, invite all team members to don their finest gear.
- Scavenger Hunt – give staff a riddle to solve which directs them to a household item.
- Bingo – as well as generic items that are likely to occur in a video meeting, you can also customise Bingo cards for your team.
Some basics to get right when working with remote teams:
- Talk with your employees about what work hours they are able to work. Often working remotely allows for flexible work hours, but as when working in the office, it’s important to communicate work hours to ensure that we are able to manage expectations & workflow. Agree on check-in times during the day and week.
- For those employees who are new to working remotely liaise with them about whatever technological support they may need to reduce their stress levels.
- Trial different ways to stay connected & be flexible with what works for different people.
A word of caution!
Be aware that if your meeting is with your work team, your organisation’s values and code of conduct will still apply. Ensure all team members understand this and respect these boundaries in what they share of themselves.