Reticence regarding worker productivity and fears about data security long kept businesses from fully embracing the concept of teleworking. But over the last few years, remote work has been changed from a novelty to the norm, and suddenly business managers were unprepared for the shift.
Workplace dynamics appear forever changed, employers now seek the best practices possible to manage remote teams and retool for the dispersed workforces of the future.
The challenges are complex, but a deft touch and ample attention to strategy and psychology can sustain your organizational structure and strengthen team performance.
Below are some tips to keep in mind as you optimize tech logistics and employee expectations to thrive in a new environment while embracing the benefits of working remotely.
Communication strategies for team bonding
Communication channels are crucial to any organization, both for team bonding and to ensure that team members keep each other properly informed on the progress of different tasks. They carry exaggerated importance, and not only professionally, but also personally.
This shift is daunting to business managers and workers alike; they’re worried about job security, concerned about health, dealing with school-closings, and trapped with all of these anxieties in the same space from which they’re now expected to work. Show them that you understand.
Where possible, leverage new workflow flexibility to alleviate personal hardships (such as letting workers schedule around personal obligations), but also remember you don’t need to “solve” every problem. Merely listening empathetically can make a very positive difference.
As a manager, hear out concerns, and confirm each employee’s value, role, and future with the company. As a worker, be honest and optimistic as you bring up problems and issues to your manager.These approaches can diffuse stress, meaning you refocus productivity and lessen the chance of careless errors committed under duress or distraction.
Another crucial tip when it comes to remote team communication is relying on the right tools that enable your workers to easily collaborate with one another. The idea is that team communication and managing projects can be handled with a single tool for the sake of organization and simplicity.
To accomplish this, you will need tools that come with several important capabilities, including the ability for team members to message one another directly or in groups, a centralized file storage location, and a team permissions feature so you can invite specific staff members or clients to certain projects.
Beyond being compassionate, your communication also needs to be consistent. Establishing new parameters with a one-off reset meeting, then checking in-daily with staff and occasionally with individuals is a solid framework from which to build solid communication practices.
Here are a few additional communication tips to keep in mind to help remote teams become more successful and bond more closely together. Take note that these can apply to you regardless of whether you are a team leader or a team member:
Switching from traditional office dynamics to working remotely can feel like launching a new project, or on-boarding a whole new team. As such, it’s appropriate to hold a kick-off meeting that defines expectations and frankly discusses potential challenges.
When working remotely with amorphous hours and no proximity, it’s key to instill some form of structure to work days. Checking-in as a group each day supplies an important anchor for individuals and a nexus where all parts of the team can meet.
Seeing friendly faces, maintaining community, defining priorities, reinforcing accountability, and staying engaged can all be accomplished through brief daily meetings where everyone is encouraged to contribute.
This is a time to encourage openness, cover new procedures, identify sanctioned tools, and remind your team that you will all learn together through mistakes and gradually perfect the process together.
Team bonding is essential for productivity and ensuring that everybody works well together. IRemote working may preclude grabbing a cup of coffee together or swinging by someone’s office for an impromptu chat, but as a team member you can still message your fellow colleagues directly and ask them questions such as where they’re from or what they enjoy doing in their spare time.
As a team leader, conferencing platforms can provide some face time whenever a pep talk might feel necessary. Don’t overdo it or make your team fear you’ll pop on their screen at any time, but some individual attention and listening sessions held away from the group can really let each team member feel valued and heard.
Whenever possible, make all of these communications personal by using live video connections rather than text or phone. Being physically separated already causes isolation, as 21% of remote workers report struggling with loneliness. Do all you can to make team members feel you’re all in this together.
Additionally, your interactions needn’t be limited to meetings, nor deal exclusively with corporate concerns. Establishing a casual chat channel dedicated to non-work topics is an excellent way to replicate the water cooler experience, while organizing online activities can substitute for hanging-out after hours.
Digital escape rooms can also build team problem-solving skills, virtual campfires encourage storytelling to further foster bonds, and trivia contests or cocktail hours reinforce notions that screen time needn’t always be a chore.
Working remotely keeps us apart, but the same tools that make it possible can also be used to foster and monitor group camaraderie.
As corporate directives and IT departments scrambled to bolster server-side operations, the fitness of remote employee workstations has often been overlooked. To keep workers productive, it’s imperative to ensure they are connected, comfortable, and secure.
Whether employees take home company devices or are permitted to use their own devices (BYOD), it’s important that they’re equipped with sufficient Internet speeds, ample processing power, and possess all local client software required to access online company portals.
The optimal approach to minimize device requirements and synchronize capabilities across your team is shifting all possible operations to cloud-based applications. Accessing company data via cloud services is also generally more secure, although it’s important to be careful about which specific cloud services you choose to use.
According to Toronto-based software developer Gary Stevens of Hosting Canada, not all cloud services are equal when it comes to security: “For maximum security, make sure your unlimited cloud storage provider has “zero-knowledge encryption” assistance, which is a complex algorithm to encode your information provides high levels of reliability and safety.”
Without the need to send or download sensitive files, there are far fewer points for interceptions, corruption, or back-door exploits of personal devices. If files do need to be shared among team members or clients, be certain to employ secure Managed File Transfer (FTM) services, especially when logging on in a public place.
Keep in mind that optimizing workspaces involves more than security and connectivity; comfort is also critical. Granting tech allowances to subsidize the purchase of additional monitors, ergonomic chairs, broadband upgrades, and other equipment for the home office are investments that pay back handsomely in greater productivity, morale, and loyalty.
Now that your staff is comfortably situated with secure online access, it’s time to consider how to best handle the personal stresses and challenges presented by the new remote dynamic.
Having gone to great lengths to rally your team, it would be a disservice to neglect yourself. Be sure to set guidelines to monitor your behavior, and ensure you’re living up to the standards you’ve set.
- Personally commit to honoring policies established for employee well-being – it’s one thing to offer flexibility/availability/understanding, but it can be another to deliver.
- Infuse all activities with DNA from your organization’s culture – the bigger picture and brand responsibilities must always remain in sight.
- Adjust your metrics and targets – as a team leader, the goals of your remote workforce should be based on output rather than hours. Or as a worker yourself, impressing your team leader should focus on fulfilling your responsibilities in a time efficient manner.
- Learn to trust your staff – managers often assume that unsupervised workers will slack off, but studies repeatedly demonstrate that remote workers actually put in longer hours and maintain (or exceed) office-bound productivity.
- Set boundaries regarding oversight – it’s tempting to blur the lines between office time and personal space, but it’s important to respect such a separation, lest you add to inflated anxiety levels.
Most importantly, take care of yourself. Handling corporate pressure from above and team concerns from below can be stressful even to the hardiest souls. Be sure that you have healthy releases, someone to talk to, and grant yourself the same tolerance that your team is going to need under these trying circumstances. A meltdown at the top could tear apart the whole unit.
Management has struggled to keep teams connected as meetings moved from boardrooms to Zoom panels, and pandemic-driven chaos wrought havoc in employees’ lives. Yet many companies have survived, and even thrived, within the new paradigm.
By boldly addressing technological needs, compassionately handling worker concerns, and deploying tools-and-tactics that fuse the best parts of office life with the benefits of working from home, effective managers have forged teams that are even stronger when working remotely.
Adhering to these principles can similarly get you through the current crisis, while leaving you better prepared for future challenges with an organization ready to tackle the new normal of the remote workforce.