As England enters a second national lockdown, we offer our advice for staying connected to your colleagues while working remotely.
According to our recent working from home survey, 32% of our audience agree that not seeing colleagues in the office is the biggest challenge of remote working. With the county now heading into a second lockdown, it’s looking increasingly likely that many of us will not be returning to the office any time soon.
So, how will we ensure we’re staying connected, collaborating and socialising virtually with colleagues during the pandemic? GAAPweb has come up with 7 tips to help you stay connected when working from home.
Tip 1: Use project management tools
It’s difficult to know who’s working on what when all team members are working remotely. Chatting to a colleague about a particular project was once as simple as turning to the person next to you, but a remote environment doesn’t facilitate quick conversations across the desk, so we’re now having to take matters into our own hands to ensure efficient project management and general workload visibility.
A virtual project management tool is a great way to maintain visibility of what the whole team is working on. You can assign individual tasks to team members, set deadlines, prioritise tasks and more. There are loads of tools out there to choose from but for those looking for more guidance, GAAPweb has hand picked some great project management tools in addition to other handy tools to facilitate virtual collaboration in our recent article about the 9 best online tools for remote working.
Tip 2: Have weekly team meetings
Hosting a weekly team meeting is a more informal way to get an insight into what each member of the team is working on. They’re not only useful for staying connected with team members, but can be a useful way to brainstorm ideas and get help from other colleagues. We suggest starting off with a general update from the team leader and then giving each team member a couple of minutes to present their weekly priorities. Allow people to chip in with comments or suggestions that will aid teamwork and collaboration.
You can even hold meetings on a larger scale to ensure you’re staying connected with the whole office. Company meetings are a great way to maintain connections with other teams such as Sales, Marketing or any others you may not interact with on a daily basis. We suggest holding a company bi-weekly meeting and encouraging one member of each team to speak for a couple of minutes about what the team has been up to, including any highlights or success stories.
As with any meeting, it’s essential that these team gatherings remain productive, so make sure you’ve done the necessary preparations beforehand; write an agenda and set expectations, think about updates. Remember to send a link to the video conferencing tool beforehand!
Tip 3: Turn your video camera on
Turning your camera on is such a simple tip but makes a huge impact on the quality of your team meetings or one-to-ones. Since lockdown began and everyone started working from home, a large majority of meetings have been hosted through a video conferencing tool such as Zoom or Google Hangouts. Switching your camera on instead of speaking to a blank computer screen makes the interaction instantly more realistic and almost replicates a normal meeting as each team member can address who they’re speaking to, maintain eye contact and view their colleagues expressions.
Tip 4: Create different messaging channels
Encourage the team to communicate more frequently by setting up different channels or groups in your instant messenger tool, such as Microsoft Teams or Slack.
Having different groups for specific topics will encourage colleagues to not just message a colleague when they need help, but to chat about a whole range of topics, almost replicating general office chit chat. Slack is a great tool for this as it allows you to create different channels dedicated to particular topics.
For example, setting up a ‘knowledge’ channel will allow teams to share learnings, thoughts or things they’ve read with their team. We also suggest setting up a general channel for everyday conversations, a news channel for sharing industry insights or current stories and a social channel for sharing weekend plans.
Tip 5: Continue social traditions
Did you used to finish early on a Friday? Book a big table at a nearby bar for post-work drinks? Just because you’re working remotely it doesn’t mean these social traditions need to end. Maintaining social interactions within your team is important for mental health, maintaining morale and improving productivity. So how can you have fun with your colleagues whilst working remotely?
There is a virtual solution for almost everything now. Take after work drinks, for example - a virtual happy hour on a Friday is a great way to finish off the week and this can easily be hosted on Zoom or any other video conferencing platform.
However, unlike normal after-work drinks, the virtual version may require more planning and structure. Sometimes video calls with multiple people can be a little intimidating and perhaps even a bit awkward when there is no one leading the conversation. So it’s advisable to have a loose structure to your virtual drinks event. Recapping weekly highlights with the team, recognising specific team members for their hard work or achievements that week, asking colleagues to share their highlights or discussing weekend plans are all great discussion points. The important thing here is to choose something that will allow everyone to participate.
Games or quizzes are a great alternative to virtual drinks if you find that some team members are shy to speak up on camera. Take turns to host a game or assign a quiz round to individual members to ensure everyone gets the chance to participate, whether that’s answering questions or hosting.
Tip 6: Host lunch and learns
If you’re looking for a social activity with a little more structure then lunch and learns are fun yet informative and a great way to socialise virtually. They are typically less formal than a training session or workshop but have a focal point designed to expand knowledge or build new skills.
Lunch and learns can take on almost any form, from employee-led workshops to masterclasses run by local experts. You could arrange a skills-based session that is productive and gives your team the opportunity to improve useful skills, such as time or stress management, or you could offer something that is not directly work related, giving your team the opportunity to switch off for an hour and learn something completely new. The key to a great lunch and learn is to make sure they’re informative, yet fun.
If you have any suggestions for staying connected, collaborating and socialising virtually with colleagues during the pandemic then please get in touch on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter to share your ideas with us.