We are all facing uncertain and challenging times. For many of our staff and employees, the new focus on remote working can add to their feelings of stress and anxiety.
At Lumin Digital, we have employed a distributed workforce since the first day we opened our doors. We have not only witnessed how it can help bring diversity and inclusion to our teams, but we’ve also picked up a trick or two as to how to manage remote teams more successfully.
A huge part of what has kept our teams healthy has been a focus on their emotional health, and their feelings of inclusion and camaraderie. While it is a constant process, and we all still have things to learn, here are some of the tools and techniques we’ve used to help keep our employees strong and connected in these uncertain times:
Utilize Tools That Promote Collaboration and Communication
Humans are social beings, and they need to be able to engage in interactions that feel as natural and comfortable as possible. Try to imagine that you are reconstructing your in-person office environment online. What does that mean? Find ways to allow employees to check in on each other and regularly ask quick questions. Instant messaging systems like Slack are great tools to allow employees to replicate stopping at someone’s desk for a quick question through text or video communication.
For meetings, utilize systems that allow your employees to see each other and their body language. A commonly referred to statistic highlights that over 80% of communication is nonverbal (either body language or voice and tone). This means that relying on phone calls alone will leave your teams missing a great deal of the nuances of the conversation, as well as feel even more alone and isolated. Turning on those laptop cameras and using systems like Zoom to host your meetings can make a big difference.
Vocalize The Possibility People May Feel Isolated and Anxious
For many people, the social interactions they experience at work are extremely important to their mental health and their feelings of connectivity. When we take away these daily routines and person to person contact, it can leave many people feeling isolated and disconnected. These feelings are not only challenging for the individual but can harm productivity and harm their ability to think creatively.
This is where the leadership of your organization can step in and help by sharing that these feelings are normal and common, and reminding your team of the resources that are available to help them during these times. If you have virtual counseling available, or other related resources, share these with the team so they know they have help available.
It’s also important for teams and individuals to check in on each other. One of our credit union clients recently noted that one of her staff was a known connector, and recognized that this time may be harder for her than most, and made a concerted effort to keep her included. These small acts of kindness make a huge difference for those feeling isolated and can be a way to increase the general morale and ongoing positive culture of the team.
Remind People About the Importance of Breaks and Walks. etc.
For those staff members who are new to the remote workstyle, some tips are important to share. One of the first – make sure to take breaks and occasionally step away from your desk. In a typical office day – staff visit each other – walk from conference room to conference room. But in an at-home setting, it can be tempting to sit at your desk the entire day.
Reminding staff that it is important to take breaks and leave their workspaces occasionally is an important first step. But leaders can also lead by example. Letting your team know that you are going for a quick walk in your neighborhood is a great way to let them know it’s an ok practice, all while offering a gentle reminder to do the same.
Release Some of the Pressure of Managing Things Perfectly
Many of us remember the famous video of a father being delightfully interrupted by his two children during a video call on live television. It was a strong reminder of the need to prepare and be diligent about your workspace if you are hosting an important call or meeting.
However, it was also an important reminder that these things happen to everyone. As such, you can let your teams know that for internal calls, they can let their guard down a bit. This can relax your team immensely. If your wife walks by during one of the team standups, that’s completely ok. This acknowledgment will help your teams be more productive and relaxed when they are managing their less public tasks so they can be buttoned up and on point when that big member conversation takes place.
The best upside is these little interludes can be a great way to build camaraderie and relationships among your teams, as they get to see more of each other’s day to day lives and experiences.
Encourage Social Interaction
Last, but definitely not least, encourage and orchestrate social interactions. Get creative as you look for ways to get your teams to interact with each other in ways that encourage social connectivity and ways to relax.
On a recent chat with some of our credit union clients, one mentioned they virtually mimic the water cooler and schedule short standups that are only based on social and non-business topics. At Lumin, we also utilize our Slack channels to find ways to allow colleagues to interact – with things such as our music channel (for those audiophiles needing a place to talk music), or our entertainment channels (where our staff shares recommendations on movies, books, or other fun activities).
It’s important to find ways to mimic many of your typical celebrations as well. A new contract signed? Host a virtual happy hour (after 5 of course). Celebrating a birthday or an anniversary? Have your teams meet on Zoom to share 15 minutes while they enjoy their favorite desserts.
Above all – find time to connect with your teams individually and as groups. We are all in this together and at Lumin, we’re always ready and willing to help in any way we can – so don’t be afraid to reach out if you need recommendations or support on managing this new style of remote work.