The right team rituals to keep remote teams connected
I work in a team that has worked remotely for many years. In fact, it has been a running joke that we would always have an office but it has never quite happened. As a result, we have adapted to life as a remote team. We still do meet regularly but I have colleagues I will often only see virtually for months at a time. The question for us has always been, how do we keep our team connected?
The current situation has forced us all to consider this question with very little warning. I wanted to share my thoughts and experience over the years from working in a remote team and I hope you may find some of this useful for your team through the current situation.
Firstly, keeping remote teams connected takes time
It takes time for team members to embed remote working into their ways of working. Even for an established remote team a small change can take more time to absorb than for a team co-located as conversations take more time to filter through to everyone. The key here is to give yourself and your team that time. Making time to talk about the change that has happened, individually and as a group will help employees to feel connected.
In my experience the key to the cohesive team I work in has been the lead from our boss building a strong company culture. He has taught us that team meetings, gatherings and one to one’s, both face to face and digital, are important to keep a team moving forward as one unit. It is easy to diverge especially when working on different projects, so it is key to get the right team rituals in place to be able to best support your team and ensure your employees engage.
Managing a remote team isn’t easy and you should always try to listen to what your team want. Some will want more and some less. Find a balance between these and tailor it to what your team would prefer. There are some key elements to make sure your team get value from these meetings:
Keep it productive
One of the biggest challenges is to always keep things productive. No one enjoys a meeting for the sake of a meeting. Make sure your team understand why they are there and what you need from them. Ensure they get the value from the meeting and help your team keep it on topic.
Team buy in
Explain the reasons you are setting up a particular meeting or set of meetings and tell your team what you want to achieve. The more the team understand what the meeting is for the more your team will buy in and participate in the discussion.
One to one follow ups
Often you can use team rituals as lighter touch check-ins. This is great and allows your team to quickly touch base as they may have done when getting a drink in the office. But it is key not to get pulled into a detailed conversation. It may not be valuable for everyone on the call and you should encourage your team to pick these one to one conversations up separately. The key is to identify when a conversation is needed but it doesn’t need to happen there and then.
Mix up your meetings, you don’t need to have the same call every day. For example, you can have a 15-minute stand-up style meet on some days and a longer team meeting once or twice a week. You may need a specific call with members of your team, managers or leaders in the business and of course, if you are a manager, you will also need to meet regularly with the people who report to you.
Encourage your team to set up informal meetings to help relationships and give your team some downtime. This is of course even more important at this time. As a guide here’s an outline of what your team rituals could look like:
There is a fine line between just the right amount of communication and too much. It is easy to fill your team’s diaries with meetings and check-in calls but do they really find the value in it? Is it making them less productive as less time can be spent on the day to day tasks?
Only you will know what is best for your team. Speak to them and find out how they prefer to ‘meet’. Some may prefer mornings vs afternoons; some will be happy with a call once a week whilst others will need more regularly check-ins. The key here is to tailor it for your team and for the individuals in your team. Check out this article on maintaining relationships when working remotely.
The right tools to keep remote teams connected
There is certainly a need for the right tools. Your team will need to have the correct equipment to work from home, laptops, screens etc. With the power of mobile phones today many people don’t have a home workspace or home computer that is suitable for 9-5 working.
Take a look at this article on the correct way to set up your workstation.
Video conferencing solutions are also key, the basis of most are the same but each has its own features that may make it more useful for your team. Check out this article on some great video conferencing tools.
I would add that above the tools is the ethos of a team. Even without the new and exciting technology in the world today a remote team can still be a highly productive team with the right communication, team rituals and leadership in place.
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