Virtual Teams

New to working from home full time?

Many of us are used to working from home from time to time but, with a number of our clients closing their office and reducing travel, suddenly people may be working from home five days a week for period of weeks for the first time. That requires some changes to our ways of working.

I’ve been working mainly from home for over 30 years ago since I developed the world’s first virtual teams training program. We have trained over 100,000 people in how to work remotely and there are some fairly consistent tends.

I’m sure you will see some major advantages to working at home, people working from home tend to be more productive, it gives us more flexibility and we cut out unproductive travel time.

However, there are some new challenges and I’d like to talk about the importance of maintaining community. In a face-to-face office, community is a free by-product of being in the same location, we have coffees and lunch together and socialize in the early minutes of meetings and at the end of the day. When we work remotely we have to put more thought into maintaining our community or it tends not to happen, and this can reduce engagement and job satisfaction.

Here are four very practical things you can do to maintain your community when working remotely

  1. Schedule some virtual coffee breaks. When you take a break, why not connect via video to one of your colleagues and just have a chat. It might be about work, or it could just be social. If you are working from home all day, it’s nice to have these kind of interactions and you often find useful information gets shared.
  2. Understand the homeworking context of your colleagues. When you call in to another person’s home you are a guest, so understand and be tolerant of their reality which might include pets, kids and other distractions.

A past client of mine John Crawford, shared a nice LinkedIn post on how his Company got their Chinese colleagues, currently working from home, to share pictures of their workspaces as a way to build fun and community You can see his post and photos

  1. Make your virtual meetings more engaging. Do allow a little social time at the beginning and take this period of remote working as an opportunity to learn how to use technologies like WebEx, MS teams etc. in an interactive way to create a more lively and engaging communication. Basically, you need to give everyone an active role through chat, annotation, breakout rooms, Q&A and other interactions approximately every 5 minutes.

Writing this reminded me of when we weren’t able to get together for a Christmas party and we decided to run the party through WebEx instead. We ran a worst Christmas jumper competition by video, used breakout rooms to design and vote on the best Christmas tree and a had a singalong to a karaoke website. It wasn’t as good as getting face to face but way better than doing nothing.

  1. Revisit your communication heartbeat. Research shows that successful remote teams have a rhythm or heartbeat of communication that meets both the needs of the task and the needs of the people. Take the opportunity to revise your team heartbeat, Do you have the right mix of collective and 1 to 1 touch points you need? Is communication frequent enough to keep the people engaged as well as get the job done.

I am certainly a big fan of remote working and it’s been a way of life for most of my career, but it does need some adjustments to remain satisfying and engaging – my top tip for today – don’t forget your community.

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