Collaborating in Times of Social Distancing

When employees work from home, the physical boundary between work and home disappears. They can no longer walk to another desk for assistance or to talk through a problem, and this can be quite uncomfortable for first time remote workers. Plus, tech challenges (such as remote logins or data security) can seem daunting and breed a sense of insecurity. Layer on the loss of face-to-face time with friends and colleagues can exacerbate the feelings of physical isolation. These are just some of the reasons why many organizations, in the midst of the Coronavirus crisis, are finding it increasingly difficult to achieve a collaborative mindset. The challenge is avoiding miscommunication and maintaining transparency. To ensure your cross-team collaboration is set up for success, prepare your team with some simple virtual collaboration steps.

Make the most of virtual collaboration platforms

People thrive in a work environment that empowers them to communicate and collaborate. In the times when teams are forced to go remote, it is essential to centralize communications. Thanks to technology, our ability to stay connected with each other has improved remarkably over the years. Many project management tools enable everyone on the team to post messages, ask questions and share updates on a collaboration platform. Cloud resources, video chats, and voice mail applications can help us work cohesively and keep everyone on the same page, even if they aren’t in the same office.

Over-schedule virtual meetings

We understand that meetings, if overdone, can be a waste of time and resources. But in times of social distancing, it becomes a necessity to over-schedule virtual meetings to maintain fluid lines of communication between you and your team. Without the face-to-face energy that transpires when people are in close proximity, scheduling more frequent video meetings will help.  And remember, keep that video ON!

Make virtual collaboration meetings more inclusive

Clearly, the biggest challenge of virtual meetings is keeping people engaged and interested. Some team members will pretend to be present in passive meetings but work on their email instead. What is needed in virtual meetings is a focus on engagement. To do that, you must give them things to do. Roles such as facilitator and scribe can be rotated around the team. It can be helpful to assign one individual to guide the conversation, allowing the other participants to focus on the content. Having a facilitator can help ensure that all voices are heard and collaborative efforts are in place. When a team knows they will be actively involved in the conversation, they are more likely to set aside distractions and focus on participating.

Connect on the interpersonal level

Video meetings are more effective when people can see each other’s facial expressions and body language. Ask your team to sit close to their webcam to help to recreate the intimacy of a team meeting.

Also, use the first few minutes of the meeting to check in on everyone. Ask how the team is doing, and be thoughtful about it. In these unprecedented times, loneliness is clearly the biggest struggle of working remotely, so making time for small talk will help the team feel engaged as well as valued.

Do some math

Finally, become more observant. Many team collaborative applications provide you with analytics on your team’s technology usage. Look at the hours the team has logged in and worked together. This data will provide you deep insights into your team and their virtual collaboration efforts. It is this autonomy to evaluate your team’s collaborative performance using data that will be of immense value when the normal returns.

Final Thought:

In these unprecedented times, your newly remote team can be at risk of suffering from poor communication, lack of trust, and low engagement – all of which erode the chances of teamwork and collaboration. With little planning and a mindset to quickly adapt, you can not only maintain but improve team collaboration even in these times of social distancing.