What has Working Remotely Taught us About Teamwork?

You don’t have to be in the same room as someone to work well as a team. The pandemic has taught us a lot about remote teamwork and connecting with each other online…

The world of work has changed this year, almost beyond recognition. Thanks to the COVID-19 crisis, remote working has been normalised to an extent we’ve never seen before. Many people are still working remotely. Others have started to transition back to the office, either full time or in a limited capacity.

But every challenge presents a learning opportunity. While COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc with our lives, we need to remain adaptable and flexible in our approach to work. Though many of us are not currently physically sharing space with our teams, teamwork perhaps matters now more than ever.

So what has COVID-19 and remote working taught us about teamwork? Here are a few patterns we’ve noticed.

Communication Matters

We all know by now that communication in the workplace is important. But its importance becomes even more clear when everyone is working from home. You can no longer turn to the person beside you to ask a question, have a chat in the office kitchen or break room, or read people’s body language to get a better idea of how they’re feeling.

All of this means that remote workers need to work on their communication skills, and remote teams need to devise new ways of staying in touch with each other. If you don’t, you’re no longer a remote team, but a disjointed collection of remote workers.

And if you don’t communicate and work together effectively? Morale, productivity, and team cohesion will all suffer.

Getting to Grips with Video Calls

At the end of each year, the team at the Oxford English Dictionary release their word of the year. What will 2020’s word be, do we think? While “furlough” and “unprecedented” are strong contenders, I think the honour this year will go to “Zoom.” The now-ubiquitous video conferencing platform has exploded in popularity during the pandemic, and video calls have now become a daily part of many people’s lives.

For many people, this has meant not just getting to grips with the technology, but also learning all about video conferencing etiquette.

If you’re still unsure, here are our top tips:

  • Test your camera, microphone, and internet connection in advance
  • Mute yourself when you’re not speaking
  • Put on actual clothing (no, pyjamas don’t count!)
  • Don’t multitask while the call is happening. It’s just as rude on a video call as it would be in an in-person meeting.
  • Let your family know you’ll be on a call so they don’t disturb you.
  • Don’t talk over other people. This is even more important on a video call than it would be ordinarily, because the tiny time-lag from the software can create all sorts of problems if everyone talks at once.
  • I always want to see your pet if they interrupt you during the call. (Just me? Okay then.)

What are your top tips for a harmonious Zoom meeting? If you set a few team ground rules, your video meetings will go much more smoothly.

Catch-ups and Check-ins

We’re big proponents of regular check-ins and catch-ups between teams even when everyone is working in the same space. With remote teams, though, it’s more important than ever.

I suggest that managers do one-to-one catch-up calls with each member of their team at least once a week. This gives everyone a dedicated time and space to ask any questions, get any support they need, and raise any concerns. If you’re a manager, this is the best way to show your team that you’re still there for them even if you cannot be together in the office.

Your team should also be doing regular whole-team catch-up calls. Depending on the size of your team, once a week or even every two weeks might be enough, or you might want to check in more often. These regular calls keep everyone feeling connected and help to remind everyone that you’re a team, even if you are scattered across different locations.

The Importance of Accountability

It can be harder to measure your team’s productivity when everyone is working remotely. Some remote workers are struggling to stay motivated and on task, while some managers are unsure how to effectively manage their teams from a distance.

The answer? Trust and accountability. A manager cannot effectively manage a team they don’t trust, and that is especially true when everyone works remotely. It’s also essential to build a team-wide culture of accountability.

What does this look like in practice? Setting clear expectations, measuring success and output, giving and asking for help freely, and the ability to give and receive constructive criticism. If your team can take these core values and ways of working to heart, you’ll have a much more harmonious team spirit – no matter how long we’re all working from home for!

Kindness and Support Make All the Difference

Many people are struggling with the reality of remote working. Whether you’re sharing a small space with your partner or family, juggling remote work with childcare and homeschooling responsibilities, or just stressed out and worried because of the pandemic, many of us are operating in less than optimal circumstances right now.

That means it’s more important than ever for teams to come together and support each other.  If we show each other kindness, patience, and a willingness to pull together and offer help and support, we all stand a much better chance of getting through this crisis in one piece.

What have you learned about teamwork during COVID-19?

Share your insights with us! So many remote teams are coming up with amazing solutions and hacks right now, and we’d love to hear about yours.

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