You Can Foster Relationships While Working from Home
When a team that typically works together physically must move to work in a distributed manner, the team dynamic can take a hit. As our teams at Bit-Wizards have moved to work from home, we have chosen to use technology to help us continue to cultivate and grow our relationships.
Inspired by WordPress CEO Matt Mullenweg, the Bit-Wizards digital marketing department has started referring to our team as distributed, rather than remote. Even though we are physically distanced, we remain highly connected throughout the day as we share ideas and collaborate on projects.
The shift to a distanced team may not feel natural. It takes extra thought and care to find ways to engage your team, to help them feel included, and to feel cared for during this time. Below is a quick list of ways you can continue to cultivate healthy relationships over distance.
Increase Team Meeting Frequency
More meetings may sound counterproductive—more meetings equal less work, right? Not necessarily. According to a recent study on remote working, "…remote employees work 1.4 more days per month than their office-based counterparts, resulting in more than three additional weeks of work per year." So, an additional meeting during the week to catch up on a project or take a few minutes to have some watercooler talk will help foster stronger connections while keeping everyone on the same page.
Our team has added a second, and less formal, meeting at the end of the week to catch-up and get on the same page for the coming week and projects. We tend to grab a beer and have a little fun while we are at it! During this meeting, we have everyone answer a "get to know you" question. You can find some great ones here: https://icebreaker.range.co/.
Create a Monthly Team Goal or Focus
Our team has a Modus Operandi. This "MO" is a list of team values. For example, this month, our MO focus is “Don't Fear Failure.” During our weekly team meetings, we allow team members to share ways they have lived out the monthly focus. Sharing these experiences benefits everyone and brings the team closer, helping everyone remember that they are working towards shared goals every day.
Turn Your Webcam On
Since the rise of the use of video in marketing, we all understand the power of seeing a human face. Researcher Dr. Fiona Kerr reports that "eye contact and physical connection with another human increases dopamine and decreases the stress hormone cortisol.” Kerr's research also shows that you can physically relax someone simply by looking at them in the eye. What is a better reason to use your webcam if not for the health of your team members?
As a bonus, requiring your team to turn on their webcams means they all need to look professional. Encouraging your team to dress-to-impress will help their morale at home as well, giving them a sense of normalcy and routine.
Unmute (if possible)
We recently enjoyed the podcast, Making Sense with Sam Harris. In the episode The New Future of Work, he interviews WordPress CEO Matt Mullenweg, who explains that when you mute your microphone, you create a break in the conversation to take time to unmute. Keeping your mic on can be a challenge with so many parents working from home with kids in the background, but staying unmuted helps the conversation remain fluid and more spontaneous.
Start a "Random" Teams or Slack Channel
This channel is exactly what it sounds like—random! It is for posts of funny work from home pics of pets being cool, kids being crazy, memes, or inspiring quotes to keep your team connected on a more human level. Our current favorites are daily pet pics.
The random channel does not completely replace the daily coworker banter that we are used to in our close-knit team, but it allows us to feel less isolated until we return to the office.
Set Office Hours
If you are a manager or supervisor, set up a standing meeting that your entire team has an invitation to join at the same time each day. This way, anyone can join during this time to catch-up on work-related tasks, ask questions to help move the ball forward on their projects, or get feedback. While not every question requires an email or side conversation, this quick check-in allows your team to fill you in on their to-do list and keep you in the loop.
Ask for Input
It is easy to fade into the background during large team meetings, so it is essential to actively ask team members for their input. The act of asking is inclusive and gives everyone a chance to share their ideas.
Create a Daily Check-In Update Feed
When you have multiple types of teams working on a single project, taking time to do a quick check-in to make sure that everyone has what they need and is on track for the day is essential to project transparency. A shared Teams or Slack channel where each member sends their quick update keeps everyone on the same page and builds a timeline of what is happening across the project. To keep the message concise and easy to scan, provide a set format for the update. It can look something like:
- What I did yesterday.
- What I am doing today.
- List any roadblocks.
Implement Online Collaboration Tools
Tools like Microsoft Office 365 with Teams, or Slack are invaluable to enable more seamless communication and collaboration. Whatever tool you choose, be sure your IT department configures necessary security controls so your meetings are safe and credentials are protected. Check out our blog on securely working from home for details.
Online Lunch & Learn
Everyone loves a good lunch & learn, right? Well, you don't have to give them up just because you now have a distributed team. Set a monthly lunch & learn and have one person on the team choose an industry-related topic they can share information about before the meeting. Everyone can read and learn about the subject and share their takeaways during the online lunch & learn.
If your team is new to working in a distributed manner, you can agree that it is a new kind of challenge, and that is ok. Many teams are tight-knit, and working away from each other can be a difficult adjustment for more extroverted coworkers. The most important thing to remember is to take a human approach. Be empathetic to your coworkers. Everyone has a different load to bear during this unique time. Take care of each other, and you won't miss a step.