Bumping into your co-workers in the pantry, chatting about your exciting staycation or bouncing ideas off co-workers for a major campaign — all of these seem like a distant memory. If you’re like a lot of us who have been working remotely, you may have found yourself missing these conversations.
It can be difficult to build a good relationship among your team members when you only have a profile picture to interact with. As a team leader, you are responsible for leading a team in a remote work environment successfully.
Where are we now in the sphere of work?
There’s a common mental image of a team in the 21st century — creatives from a coffee shop, a co-working space, or the comfort of their home are all connected in an online meeting or a virtual space.
You get it.
Not everyone has to be BFFs at the workplace, but team members who get along with each other — and, perhaps even more importantly, respect each other — the better the team will function.
One sure way is connecting with the team in ways they will love. Here's where to start.
Schedule a “Get-to-know-you” session for new joiners
In a physical setting, the first day at a new workplace would involve some nerves, an introduction to the team, and a tour around the office. But, when it comes to remote working, team leaders need to get creative about how to onboard new joiners.
Take some time to clear your schedule for a virtual “Welcome to the team!” session for the new hires. You could even start some ice-breaker activities to get the new joiner to feel comfortable with the rest of the team and for everyone to have a little fun, all while learning something new about the employee. Games like “Two Truths and a Lie” are especially effective.
What's also important is to have a general onboarding deck which you can customise to fit each new employee.
Normalise the “home office” life
Kids appearing in the office’s Zoom meetings? Neighbours hammering away in the morning? Or, a cat hopping in on your Zoom calls? Working from home comes with its own unique challenges.
As we merge work life with home life, help your team members ease into the routine and anticipate moments where home life spills into work life are inevitable.
This speaks understanding to your team members and helps deepen connections.
Schedule regular check-ins
Just because everyone is working from home, that doesn’t mean you should let team social activities fade into a distant memory. While you may not be able to randomly bump into a co-worker at the office, you can recreate a virtual space for micro-interactions using a video conferencing software.
On Zoom or Microsoft Teams or other software, create and schedule short meetings during the week that are meant for informal conversations — a 15- to 30-minute meetings labeled as “Coffee over Breakfast,” or “Lunchtime Chat.”
Another way is to encourage self directed learning hours that are targeted for creatives; inculcate and cultivate the learning experiences that can take place while they work for your team. Not only is this a chance for the team to stay connected, but it also becomes an opportunity to check in on team members.
Meet IRL for Contact Time
With the number of COVID cases rising and falling, it's tough to maintain a strict office-only policy. You'll see hybrid working teams that are WFH and also WFO at any given time.
See if you can arrange some real-life contact time (with SOPs adhered to) where the whole team converges, and don't use this time for 'regular' work or calls with external stakeholders. When you come together collaboratively, use this time to brainstorm, communicate, or get things asked and answered while you're all together physically.
Alternatively, meet somewhere in the middle for coffee or lunch which is non-work related. You can do it once a week or even once a month.
While most team members may feel nervous about interacting with others in person, especially since everyone has spent so much time in isolation, you will immediately discover spending a few hours IRL is a great way to boost team morale and chemistry. It can help you build a strong and lasting professional relationships.
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