The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the ways that teams relate. Even if many return to their offices in the post-pandemic era work will look differently. Many offices may extend working remotely for staff as many jobs will be proven to be ably done that way. Many people may also find they have more flexibility for choosing how they work to degrees and mix and match their working remote/working in the office ratio. If nothing else the days of coming into the office if one suspects they have been exposed to a virus will be gone and we will see people being encouraged to work from home in those circumstances.
For many people sitting most of the day in online meetings is not the most energy-giving experience. Although it can be effective in several ways we do lose something when we can’t be in physical contact with each other. Distractions are more of a factor, it’s harder to read body language, and ultimately we just don’t relate as deeply as we can in the office setting. While it can’t be fully replicated there are some proactive steps you can take to keep the feeling of team alive while working in remote situations.
- Bring some fun: Don’t be afraid to take some agenda time to mix in some fun or quirky aspects. Have a couple of ice-breaker questions ready to throw out. See who has on the rattiest pair of shoes. Make time to ask specific team members about specific people in their lives. Have everyone wear apparel from their favorite sports team in a meeting. It doesn’t have to be highly creative, it just needs to bring attention to the individuals once in a while over the work. A few small things like this will help the team more look forward to the time.
- Stay connected beyond work: Ask for or put aside some funds for some ways to help people feel connected and cared for as remote team members. Send everyone a gift card for a coffee or ice cream shop. Have some t-shirts or something similar made up and sent. Ship some of their favorite candies to them. If possible even look for a way for at least quarterly to get as many as you can together in some form. Any ways you can think of that add some type of personal touch to the antiseptic feel of perpetual remote meetings can be helpful.
- Virtual recognition boards: Find a way to set up a virtual recognition online opportunity for your team to go on and leave notes of appreciation and encouragement for each other. It might be through your company intranet or through a private social media page. Having a place where all team members can drop in and give shout outs to other team members is important and a way to help to draw a team together.
- Handwritten notes: Texts and emails never mean as much as a handwritten note. It doesn’t have to be long, even a handwritten note to thank someone for some contributions in a particular meeting are uplifting. Taking the time to write a note to let someone know that you notice their work and appreciate them is a tremendous boost to that person.
As with everything in life change brings some things we like and a few things we don’t. The “new normal” of post-pandemic officing will have some new wrinkles. With new situations bring new opportunities for those who desire to grow their influence to step up. Being a team leader who brings teamship to a group of people who are connecting remotely will be a desirable trait to possess. It only take a few extra steps and proactive thinking to do so. Those who do will have the chance to lead their teams toward more meaningful and effective work in their organizations.