Tips for keeping team collaboration and connection alive in a virtual world

This week’s blog will focus on providing leaders with helpful tips and activities to help keep collaboration and connection alive within a team working from multi-locations.

Earlier this week in one of our social media posts we commented on the changing workplace and how a change to flexible working conditions including locations, hours, etc. has changed the way we communicate, or in some cases how we have lost the communication rhythms that were much easier to maintain in an office environment.

The Monday morning chats between colleagues about the weekend past, a walk to the local café to grab a coffee, regular face-to-face meetings, a quick team catch up when important corporate news drops or the famous Friday after-work drink is a thing of the past for some workplaces. It hasn’t been deliberate, but it’s certainly one of the downsides to the new ‘flexible workplace’.

Where your team may have once had a fortnightly or monthly team meeting, that is no longer enough to keep the team aligned, focused, and motivated – especially for team members who aren’t physically in the workplace and privy to more information and connection. We recommend at least touching base twice as a team each week, and where possible always using virtual meeting technology such as Zoom, Skype, MS Team. Whilst not many people like to see themselves on camera, visual interaction is critical to building engagement and rapport, as well as picking up on body language and the overall wellbeing of your employees.

Here are some tips to kick off the week and keep your team connected when working in different locations.

  1. Activity: Monday Morning – ‘set for success’ team catch up
  2. Time: the best time is mid-morning to allow everyone to get organised so that they are switched on and ready when you meet.
  3. Meeting purpose: to set the team up for success for the week ahead.
  4. Actions/Agenda:
    • Start with a quick social discussion about the weekend, motivation/energy levels, wellbeing (but keep to a time limit) etc.
    • Communicate and discuss with the team the priority work for the week ahead, deliverables, targets, key meetings, reports, etc. Tip – if possible, get the team to provide updates before the meeting in writing so the meeting can just be used to ask any questions or ask for help.
    • Share your plans and schedule for the week, highlighting key activities that will support information flow to your teams. This could include meetings where decisions will be made, direction or feedback provided, or new contracts or projects identified that will have a direct impact on your team and the work they are delivering. This will most likely come from meetings you will have with stakeholders, your line manager, a senior/executive team meeting, etc.
    • Remind the team you are available for support. Encourage team members to connect with one another outside of the meeting where work aligns or flows between them, identify peer coaching and support opportunities, etc.

Make sure you schedule individual team member catch-ups to keep one-on-one communication flowing effectively. If you are setting clear direction and providing regular support and communication to your employees, this doesn’t need to be too often. Setting the right balance is so important. You want your employees to still feel connected to you as their leader and informed about what is happening across the organisation especially things that directly impact the work they are delivering, but not feel as though you are micromanaging them or that you don’t trust them to work without direct supervision.

At the end of the week, try scheduling a ‘weekly wrap-up’ informal catch-up. You can run with a less formal structure and focus on recognising achievements and wins for the week, demonstrate your appreciation and thanks for the contributions of team members, share any notable corporate or team-based information and bring some social banter and fun into the team interaction. If this doesn’t work mixing it into your standard end-of-week wrap-up – think about a separate monthly activity to build connection and have some fun.

No matter what you choose to implement, make sure it provides you with the connection and alignment to your team that you need to provide the right level of leadership and support to your remote workers. This also very much applies to part-time staff or people doing a mix of work from the office and from home. You’ll find that your employees will be more motivated and engaged in their work and the organisation, the quality of the work they produce will be better aligned to your expectations, and the team will increase the much needed social and work connection, collaboration and camaraderie that we know translates directly to increased performance and wellbeing.

PS Despite the above – remember this month’s focus of checking in to see the value of meetings. If they are not adding value, find another way to build connections and provide updates that work for your team.