Working from home is great, isn’t it? No commute (or a train delay, or traffic jam) to spoil your mood before you’ve got to your desk; no worry over missing the Amazon delivery; and you can even wear your slippers for that video conference.
But when you work closely with a team, working from home can be problematic. Even harder is trying to manage a team who could be spread across around the country or even globally. With the enforced lockdown and social distancing, we find yourselves doing just that.
So how can you make sure your team still pulls together when they’re not in the same room?
First off, we need to look at what makes a successful team distinguishable from a thrown-together group of colleagues. The latter are likely to lack the productive and supportive mindset engendered by successful team leadership. It is an attitude characterised by trust, support and mutual respect, as much as the desire to over-deliver. While such a mindset might not make a difference in performing everyday tasks, it really shows when your team is called upon to excel.
That supportive atmosphere is, admittedly, easiest to cultivate face-to-face. When you only talk by email, it’s harder to build a rapport, and you’re more likely to fall into the habit of only approaching people when you’re about to offload a heap of tasks onto them.
Moreover, the sense of shared purpose and communal effort is likely to be reduced when one or more team members – including the leader – are absent. On a rational level, you know that everyone else is still working – but when you can’t see them, it can feel a lot like you’re attempting the task all on your own.
But there is a way around this.
You can still put your personal skills to use when working remotely, in the same way as you apply your professional skills. But it is a change – so, to help you adjust, we’ve put together this mini cheat-sheet.
- Tip #1: Make the extra effort to communicate. You don’t have to do this by blocking out everyone’s time in online conference calls. It might be through regular group emails that summarise what everyone is doing or even a shared online forum that everyone can update. Keeping your colleagues in the loop automatically boosts team spirit.
- Tip #2: Find a new way to show the ‘open door policy’. In the office, you might just be a few feet away from your colleagues. It’s easy for them to approach you with any issues or questions. Make sure you find a way to replicate that situation remotely. Small gestures like having different contact details in your email sign off, or making employees aware of your schedule so that they know when they can contact you, are great places to start.
- Tip #3: Shared Space can be Digital Space. The use of communal digital spaces like forums isn’t limited to letting people know what’s been accomplished to prove that, yes, everyone has still be working. It can be a place where you build rapport and show support for team members – just as you would in the office.
- Tip #4: When possible, make sure you talk face-to-face. Typed communication doesn’t have a patch on face-to-face conversations – whether you look at rapport building or time efficiency, it’s often best to speak. There are a plethora of video calling applications available now, such as Zoom and Teams – take your pick. For team meetings, consider using one that encourages participation and interactivity. You might even find that technology can make your meetings better than they were before.