The global spread of COVID-19 has put us all in uncharted territory. In societies where the majority of businesses revolve around face-to-face communication, it’s time to make necessary adjustments to our daily work lives.
The good news? Technological advances are making it possible for many teams to conduct business from the comfort of their own homes. If your team has switched to a largely work-from-home scenario, it’s time to think about ways to use technology to not only get work done but to keep organizational culture strong and intact as well.
Before the following adjustments can be made, expectations must be set. Your organization – and the teams within it – need to be on the same page in terms of the processes and guidelines surrounding your new channels of communication.
Ensure all team members have tested the hardware and software they’ll be using from home. Your organization’s senior leaders should be open, honest and candid about what they expect from team members now that they’re no longer under one roof. Eliminating these potential barriers from the beginning will help your organization get as close to “business as usual” as you can get.
Conduct internal meetings via video
Before you pick up the phone for that 3 p.m. call with your direct report, consider switching it to a videoconference. Seeing your colleagues is a great way to keep face-to-face interactions going from afar. Zoom Video, Google Hangouts, Skype, GoToMeeting and BlueJeans are some of the more popular videoconferencing options with both free and premium versions.
Once you’ve decided to conduct meetings via video, find an area in your home with direct ethernet or a strong WiFi connection, good lighting and limited background noise. Avoid areas used by other members of your household throughout the day; these can often cause distractions for you and the person(s) on the other end of the line.
After your video area is set up, make the most of it! Videoconferencing isn’t everyone’s favorite form of communication, but it’s a strong, relatively easy alternative to the in-person communication you’re used to. Your organization’s performance and culture will thank you for it.
Chat for quick touch points
Normally, when we have a quick question about a task or need clarification on a project, we tend to pop over to a colleague's desk or office to address that immediately. The same should be replicated remotely.
Instead of solely relying on emails, try other chat tools such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, your organization’s instant-messaging platform – you name it. Or send a text to your teammate’s mobile phone. Using these chat features can release the stress of crafting the perfect message while enabling colleagues to respond faster, which makes your team and their efforts more efficient.
Check in with your group
Even – or especially – while working remotely, it’s important to stay connected with your immediate team. If you’re used to seeing the same three to five people every day in the office, replicate this as much as possible online.
Communicate with your team to create and manage expectations around the work you’re completing together. Collaborate with one another to ensure that reports, presentations and crucial deliverables are being completed on time and well. Ensure that your teammates have the resources and information they need to complete tasks.
Be sure to check in often; in a digital environment, you can’t afford to allow the frequency to fall. Team meetings are a great opportunity to boost morale and exemplify organizational culture. Team check-ins also develop necessary spaces for you and your team to talk with one another in much the same way you would in the workplace.
Fun virtual check-ins
When you’re in an office for 40 or more hours a week, you can easily communicate and spend time with your colleagues. Once you're fully remote, however, that element of friendly fun can disappear if you’re not intentional about it.
Try some of these ways to keep your team members communicating about things that revolve around more than simply the work on their desks:
- Hold a virtual happy hour
- Encourage everyone to send in a picture of their at-home workstation
- Host a virtual trivia game
- Lunch with your team via video
- Encourage colleagues to send in pictures of their WFH pals (i.e., kids, pets, roommates)
- Gather as a virtual book club over lunch
No matter which choices you make, be sure to provide team members the chance to interact through some lighthearted activities each month.