Gary Bury is co-founder and CEO of Timetastic, an independent and profitable web app for managing time off work, used by thousands of companies around the world.
COVID-19 forced the mass adoption of a remote working culture and, for a large swath of the population. It’ll remain that way once things get back to normal (whatever ‘normal’ may mean in the future).
Of course, those who already had a remote working culture in place didn’t have much adapting to do. But what about those people to whom remote working is a new way of working? I can assure you sending your team home to work remotely is not as simple as giving them a laptop and letting them get on with it.
Many people relish the idea of working from home and welcomed the opportunity to be left to work in solitude. On the other hand, some will miss the camaraderie of a buzzing office and seeing their colleagues face to face. However your individual team members like to work, keeping up the team spirit is key to a happy, motivated and productive team.
Below are some team building tips for remote workers that will help alleviate the isolation and loneliness working from home can bring, along with some suggestions for making your team feel they’re part of a close-knit team.
1. Ensure they have frustration-free technology
First of all, in order to enable that close-knit team feeling, everyone’s going to need technology that allows them to be online smoothly and seamlessly. Use collaboration software such as Slack, Twist and Bandcamp. And when it comes to video calls, no one wants to be looking up someone’s nose, so make sure everyone’s got decent webcams at eye-level on their screens.
All this technology needs decent wi-fi and, as most standard home broadband providers aren’t always up to the demands of remote working, give your team a decent signal booster to ensure their wi-fi is fast and constant.
2. Check-in regularly for feedback
If remote working is new to everyone, from the team to the management, there’s naturally going to be a period of adjustment on both sides. As a manager, you’re used to your team being where you can see them and can simply walk over to them if you need to.
Managing a remote team requires a whole new way of working when you’re not in the same room or even building.
- Check-in regularly with your team to ask them how they’re getting on, not only with their work but how they’re getting on with working remotely. Ask them if they feel part of the team and, if not, if there’s anything you can do to help them feel less isolated.
- Be careful not to check-in too often though – no one likes to be micromanaged.
- Trust your team to do their job but don’t let them feel they’ve been forgotten about and have been left to work in a vacuum.
3. Take virtual coffee breaks
Lifelong friendships are formed at work. When you work full-time in an office, you spend more time with your colleagues than you do with your friends and family, so it’s no wonder you feel close to your workmates.
This closeness is whipped away when your role shifts from office-based to home working, so let your team take some time out to chat and catch up with their colleagues on a daily virtual coffee break on Zoom or other video software.
This coffee break is especially important for new recruits who haven’t yet met the rest of the team face-to-face and made that bond that comes with working day-in-day-out with others. People work together better if they feel they know each other, and although video can’t replace a face to face meeting, it’ll do until they can meet in person.
4. Create a virtual water-cooler
As well as the virtual coffee breaks, create space for small-talk. Set up a Slack channel for your team to chat on about non-work related stuff. This chat channel can be especially handy for those team members who have been away on holiday or on a sabbatical. It gives them the ideal opportunity to catch up with their colleagues and find out what they’ve missed while they’ve been away.
Please don’t think a virtual water-cooler will distract them from their work and destroy productivity. You wouldn’t expect anyone to sit in silence in an office never talking to each other. Focus on the output – as long as the work gets done, that’s what matters.
5. Encourage after-hours socializing
It’s Friday afternoon, 5 o’clock comes around and everyone downs tools and heads for the pub. At least, that’s what happened in workplaces around the world until COVID-19 struck. Recreate that Friday feeling by encouraging your team to socialise remotely after work.
Maybe they could arrange to have a virtual happy hour to meet up online and chat with drinks and snacks, or set up a book club or, if they wanted to watch a film together, there’s a Chrome extension that allows people to hang out together to watch the same Netflix film or programme at the same time and chat about it.
6. Encourage virtual meet-ups but don’t force anyone into it
While virtual meet-ups, whether for a few minutes or a few hours, can be great for team-building. However, keep in mind that zoom fatigue is real and your team may have had enough of video calls for work purposes. The last thing you want to do is toadd any more video calls to their day.
Also be mindful that the more introverted of your team may well relish the isolation remote working brings, so don’t force them to socialise when they really don’t want to.
Another thing to take into consideration is, if you’ve really embraced the remote work culture, your team may be in different time-zones. If this is the case, try not to let anyone feel left out by everyone socialising virtually, when others in the team are asleep.
Keeping everyone feeling they’re part of a team when you all work remotely isn’t as difficult as it might seem. Team spirit is of vital importance though and key to keeping your team motivated, productive and loyal.