One of the things that I have been asked about recently has been how to keep in touch with your team and colleagues whilst you’re working from home/ working remotely for extended periods of time. As it currently stands, in the Netherlands we are looking at another 4 weeks of lockdown at a minimum and that means that we would have been physically disconnected from most of our team for nearly 10 months. I have seen that during this most recent lockdown that more people are struggling with the isolation, stress and general requirements and obligations needed from them. I wanted to create a list of things that might help you if you are struggling with this issue.
Make an effort to connect
I try to make sure that I reach out and speak to my team indidually to check that they’re doing OK and also if they need support from me in a professional capacity on a weekly basis. I schedule this in our calendars as otherwise, work just takes over. This does not need to an hour… I normally schedule a ’15min coffee catch up’ and sometimes we use it as an excuse to call each other and take a walk outside. Don’t leave it to chance – make an effort to connect.
Understand what is needed:
When you are working with different teams, in different locations, the key to success is understanding what might be most appreciated by the team but more importantly; what will make their lives easier rather than more difficult. What are the external stress that they are currently dealing with? Are they trying to homeschool their children as well as work? Or do they have family that are currently sick? Be aware of each person’s individual situation and needs and manage your reaction accordingly.
Ask for Feedback:
This is really important. You need to verify if your contact moments are the best way for your team to stay connected or if they’d prefer something else/ a different way to touch base. With one of my team we take a walk, another we do it towards the end of the day when they’ve got more time/ chance to think about their day. It’s all about working out what’s best for you and your team. We recently did a group teams call and everyone was on video and we played with different ways of interacting. Wearing different hats/ showing different cards etc.
Ask for help when you need it:
During a recent townhall meeting, the message from my management said: Do not be afraid to ask for help if you need it, if you’re struggling or if you just need someone to talk to. I have found this to be so refreshing to see that a company is willing to prioritise their employees mental health and needs during this strange time. I repeat this message to my teams that I’m here if they need anything or if I can help in any way. This has manifested itself in many different ways. From sending a letterbox gift of brownies to being a listening ear at the end of the phone. I am the Manager and colleague that they need at that moment in time.
These times can be quite bleak! One thing that I try to encourage in our team meetings is sharing any of the successes that we might have from the recent past. This could be: getting approval from the client regarding a document, great feedback from the team about a training or simply: I didnt lose my patience when I could have. Share your wins, share your success and share that with your teams.
Mini Report cards:
This is one that I’m currently experimenting with myself. I want to try and recognise how much I’m developing at the moment and the skills that I am learning so I’ve been creating a mini report card per month detailing: what I want to learn/develop, how I’m getting on and what I need to work on in the next period. I’m still working out the specifics but it’s been a nice way to see my development and progress over a short time period.
Within our projects, we have a few sprint goals/stretch objectives that we need to achieve for project success but I am also incorporating this into our team mindset. What can we aim for as a team that would help or support each other in the coming period.
I am fully aware that I am just a single Project Manager and leader. I cannot change government policy, nor can I change what is happening during this pandemic but I will work on changing the things that are within my control for the better. What I am able to achieve, what I’m able to support and how I can support my teams in achieving our objectives as well as keeping sane at the same time.
My challenge to you is: work out how you can keep in touch with your teams and what works and share it with me on Twitter.