Maintaining the morale and efficient collaboration of remote teammates requires its own strategy

Depending on when you read this, the Coronavirus pandemic is either still raging, or – hopefully! – has finally been brought under control. Either way, a huge work culture shift is upon us, as remote working is prioritised, given the infection risks associated with being co-located in the same office.

But, despite the conveniences, e.g. no longer needing to fight traffic to and from an external workplace, or the flexibility to oversee important family responsibilities when needed, it’s still a challenge to keep up the morale and foster person-to-person connections of teams who work remotely.

As solo operators, introverts are the best suited to being productive without the in-person feedback and interaction with colleagues.

Ambiverts (halfway between introverts and the people-oriented extroverts) are also able to adjust to working geographically apart from colleagues – as long as they get opportunities for ‘social’ moments.

Extroverts suffer the most from the remote working set-up, as they really thrive on the banter and in-person synergies with colleagues.

So, how do we ensure that the motivation and alignment with team goals and overall mission are kept healthy while working together remotely? The following six suggestions will get you on the right track.

  1. Be attentive in video interactions: we’ll be hearing a lot about the ins and outs of video-conferencing software like Zoom and GoToMeeting over this period. And until we fully enter the era of Virtual Reality work spaces, video will be the closest we’ll have to viewing and responding to our colleagues’ gestures, body language, tone of voice and individual mode of expression, in real time. When holding video group meetings, bring all of your attention to your team mates – not just regarding what they say, but – just as you would if they were with you – read their body language, facial expression, engagement, comfort and preparedness in participating in the discussion.
  2. Use tech to make team meetings more dynamic: people learn and absorb and engage material much more deeply when it is offered to them in diverse forms. So make the most of your conferencing software’s capacity to share links, images, videos, slides and audio with your team during meetings. Engagement leads to positive meetings, which then leads to motivated and connected teams. However, to avoid drifting off topic by over-use of external elements, prepare for such meetings as you would for an in-person meeting, and share only what ADDS, but doesn’t DEVIATE from the main agenda of the meeting.
  3. Adopt a communication strategy or a work-life strategy that plays to your teammates’ personality traits: If they’re more introverted, they’re going to need more time alone to process tasks and ideas alone – and you’ll need to be aware of their boundaries and extra need for solo, uninterrupted work. Ambiverts and extroverts will require check-ins where they can invite feedback on their workflow or share important discoveries – or simply soothe themselves after a difficult work phase.
  4. Allow non-work-related interactions: These are opportunities to get to know your teammates in their ‘natural’ environments, to bond and build trust. Of course, these have to boundaries so that they do not catch teammates off guard, or interrupt their workflow. A live-streamed tour of a co-worker’s home, for example, will likely be an unwelcome interruption, but a simple ‘hello’ from a coworker’s partner or child, or, depending on time constraints, a few minutes ‘warming up’ to a meeting by sharing thoughts on a hobby or a TV show, is fine. Obviously, the work you do together is the priority, but appropriate moments of non-work-related interactions will go a long way to keeping collaborations human.
  5. Schedule social ‘check-ins’: These serve as a substitute to the banter of chatting in the office kitchen or knocking on a colleague’s door or stopping by their desk for a friendly encounter during the lunch break. Schedule get-togethers – e.g. weekly or monthly – and invite teammates to share where they are at, both in terms of immediate work targets, but also more generally in terms of their personal well-being, family and life.
  6. Strategically match tasks and form of communication: Keep your free-form, brain-storming for video calls. Use instant chats for questions that can yield a brief, practical answer. Discussions of complicated issues that require a lot of links, slides, images, etc. should be handled over an email – preferably using bullets to clearly organise the data you’re sharing. People management interactions that touch on sensitive issues, are best tackled via a phone-call, where privacy and individualised attention can be maximised. One of the perks of working from home is you can agree, as a team, the hierarchy and task-fit for all possible ways of communicating. Respecting and helping preserve your teammates’ workflow and focus, goes a long way to preserving morale, trust and performance.

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