As companies around the world are combating the spread of COVID-19 by encouraging their workers to work from home, it can be a challenge for teams who are not accustomed to working remotely to feel connected with each other. Despite the changes, there are ways to ensure that your team remains engaged while out of the office. Here are a few tips:
Invest in employees’ digital skills
Your team members may not be accustomed to using communication software such as Zoom or Skype, or using file sharing tools such as Google Drive and Dropbox. As such, they may have a difficult time adjusting from face-to-face communication to relying on virtual tools. So, offer your team access to resources that improve their digital skills. Beyond tutorials on YouTube, you can them up for more in-depth online courses, or even request a representative from the software company to give an overview of the tool to your team.
Regularly check in
Especially with those who are not accustomed to working independently or remotely, managers should check in regularly to replicate the ease of turning to a coworker to ask for clarification or receive a quick updated. This gives teams the opportunity to track each other’s progress and ask questions that may arise.
Use video conferencing
While it may require less bandwidth and effort to speak over email, text, messaging services, or even phone, video remains the most effective way to replicate the face to face interaction that is an invaluable part of working with a team. Especially during important meetings, emphasize the importance of using the front-facing camera.
Break the ice
Gathering a large team over video conference can be intimidating for those who are no accustomed to seeing their face a screen. Encourage every individual on the team to speak at the beginning of the call by using an icebreaker. This should be a simple, non-work-related question that everyone has to answer, such as what their favorite food is, or where their dream vacation is. The point is for the team to get comfortable speaking on camera, while also getting to know each other more.
Have a moderator
One of the challenges of being a large group on a video conference call is making sure everyone is heard. When there is a moderator, balancing the conversation becomes easier. This person makes sure that people who are taking over the conversation are reined in, while those who are hesitant to speak can have an opportunity to be acknowledged.
Provide virtual team-building experiences
Being physically apart from each other shouldn’t hinder your team from staying connected. When employees are able to engage with each other beyond their day-to-day tasks, they are better able to work as a team. Make sure your employees continue strengthening their bonds by initiating virtual team-building experiences. On Visit.org, you can sign up for activities such as gathering together for a virtual talk and Q&A from an inspiration speaker, or coming together on a video conference call to make cards and write letters for troops and first responders.
Offer remote volunteering activities
Whether they’re in the office or working remotely, employees feel more of a sense of purpose at work, therefore becoming more loyal to their company, when they are able to impact their community and the world at large for good. Provide your employees with volunteering activities that benefit causes they care about. Visit.org offers opportunities for employees to: be mentors to students interested in a particular career path, virtually assist people with blindness or low vision through a phone app, use their language skills to act as a translator for a nonprofit organization, and much more.
Host a virtual coffee chat or happy hour
Take a break in the middle of the day or “meet up” after work for a coffee chat or happy hour. These meetings allow for your team to have a conversation with each other about their lives beyond work. This bonding time can be casual, with no agenda other than everyone bringing their own drink, or it can be more structured, such as pairing this hour with a group volunteering or team-building experience.
Create opportunities for feedback
Because this may be a new way of working for everyone on the team, managers should be open to receiving feedback. This will make it easier to understand what the team needs, and how to improve communication among everyone. Create opportunities for people to give feedback by sending out surveys, providing a site where they can leave anonymous suggestions, or by reminding the team that they can approach you with their concerns at any time.