Whether the coronavirus pandemic ushers in a new era of telecommuting as the norm or not, most businesses are still dealing with the challenges of reinventing workflows and collaboration styles to accommodate the current situation. Like many others, our team has tackled this question in the last few months: How can we stick together and continue to collaborate and network while staying apart? Each team is different, and there is definitely no one-size-fits-all approach to remote work, but here are a few things that we recommend to infuse collaboration and teamwork into the “new normal” of telecommuting.
The Remote Work Report found that the #1 challenge individuals face when it comes to telecommuting is communication. Without in-person interaction we lose most of the cues we get from body language, hearing the side discussions in the hallway, or catching up with colleagues on a coffee break. But even beyond these deficits, our ability to communicate digitally is also impacted by technical factors. The biggest reason for disruptions in both video and audio meetings has to do with poor internet and phone connection, so, while it may seem simple, the first step to clear communication is strong and secure internet connectivity. From there, we suggest communicating often and with extra attention to clarity so that nothing gets lost in communication.
Feel like you and your team are missing out on the “watercooler chatter”? There is no denying that some of the best ideas are sparked from the random interactions that occur in office kitchens, across desks, in hallways, and for us, during book club or team lunches. We suggest creating virtual time with your team to help foster that purposeful socialization. Our team has a recurring “office hours” open video conference for a certain amount of time each week. While this is definitely not mandatory and not meant to add stress or “Zoom fatigue,” it provides us an opportunity to pop in if we are free, talk about the highs and lows of our days, share what we are working on, and provide feedback and ideas for other projects. We have been able to push our “ugly babies” forward (a term we loved and incorporated into our vocabulary from our book club book, Creativity, Inc.). We feel as connected as ever because of this!
Working remotely creates unique challenges for team communication that cannot be solved by many of the traditional communication channels teams rely on when they are at the same location. We suggest adding to your digital toolkit to provide more channels for team communication and collaboration.
While it may seem like an unconventional communication method in the digital age, we absolutely love sending something physical that lets someone know we are thinking about them. Whether it’s for a teammate’s birthday, the birth of a client’s new baby, or just for fun, we are all about door-drops and sending a little something “real.” We find that even a nice, handwritten card or postcard helps to create a meaningful connection from afar and will never go out of fashion.
Without question, the current environment poses unprecedented challenges for every segment of the population. As children go back to school and employees try to navigate their new normal, accommodating flexible work schedules and leading with empathy will lead to higher employee retention over the long term. The more remote workers can be empowered, and the more flexibility can be encouraged, the better positioned your company will be to not only survive the present situation, but to thrive in the new environment that emerges.
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