As you’ve probably discovered after more than 3 months of quarantine, it’s really hard managing a team when you’re scattered to the wind. But hey, despite the odds, your team is learning how to work together, albeit remotely.
More and more businesses are eliminating employee gatherings for 2020, and that’s shaking up business as we know it.
Ahh, 2019 was an innocent time. Back then, we were able to gather in large conference rooms for client meetings. Teams gathered in small, closet-like spaces for collaboration, and managers held one-on-ones in their offices. Heck, we were even able to do working lunches and engage in watercooler chat.
But today? There’s no chance your team is shooting the breeze and saying, “How ‘bout those Cowboys?” These casual encounters are so important for teaming, but they’re probably not happening during quarantine.
Remote work is awesome, but leaders have to find a way to keep their employees connected during this uncertain season of life.
3 big changes to virtual team building in 2020
Regardless of where you are, collaboration takes work. But if you’re spread across time zones or municipalities, collaboration takes on a new meaning. Virtual teams don’t get the added benefit of face-to-face communication, which you have to substitute, brave leader.
That means a lot more:
- Zoom meetings. Not only can you gather for fun coffee chats with coworkers over Zoom, but you can even record important meetings and share them on-demand with employees across the globe.
- Slack messages. These are replacing the, “Hey, do you have a minute?” cubicle interruptions that we all know and love.
- Collaboration software, like G-Suite and Kroma.ai. You can’t sit side-by-side to work on a slide deck anymore. Collaboration tools are the future.
3 tips for remote teaming
The future feels big and scary because it is. We just don’t know what the future holds right now. But for most of 2020, your butt will be planted on your couch, managing a remote team.
Having a hard time with the transition? Here are 3 ways to make teaming and collaboration easier in a virtual environment.
1. Co-create your norms
Teaming requires a shared team culture. If you want a collaborative remote environment, create norms to create that environment.
It’s tempting to grab your diamond scepter and declare your remote work norms, but that’s not very collaborative, is it?
Work with your employees to co-create team rules and norms. It’s super important for team members to understand and agree to behavioral standards, communication protocols, decision making, conflict resolution, and meeting protocol.
Collaboration is much easier when everyone gets a say in the rules, after all.
Make sure you outline a concrete team mission and priorities. If you’re leading the customer service team, maybe that mission is, “We are supporting our customers in every way we can during COVID-19.”
Work with your team to write clear job descriptions (if you haven’t already) to clarify everyone’s role, denote who is responsible for what, and how you’ll stay accountable.
2. Align your goals and make a roadmap
While separate teams work on different pieces of the jigsaw that is your business, they still need to see how their job contributes to the overall tapestry of the business’s goals.
So create a roadmap and individual goals for each employee.
Plus, as a manager, you need metrics and goals to measure employee output—these roadmaps will help you do just that. Use roadmap documents, goals, reports, and work outcomes to evaluate performance, see what’s on your team’s plate, and generally be a savvier remote manager.
3. Invest in non-sucky virtual team building
Okay, so team-building exercises get a bad rap. And you know why?
Because people keep making TERRIBLE virtual team-building exercises. No grown woman wants to go to a mandatory game of “Go Fish” with her coworkers.
When you team-build in a genuine, fun way, you create a sense of community with your team. That sense of community makes people more comfortable with sharing their knowledge and collaborating.
Now, your team-building options are limited right now because of #SocialDistancing. Fortunately, you can create a few (totally optional) team-building exercises that don’t suck and encourage teaming:
- Start an intra-team coffee talk. This is ideal if you’re managing multiple teams who benefit from interaction. Start a marketing and sales Wednesday coffee chat. Or, if you really want to loosen people up, start a Friday margarita meeting.
- Trivia nights. Encourage your employees and their families to get involved, too. Ship prizes like toilet paper, hand sanitizer, or Amazon gift cards to the lucky winners.
- Hobby message boards. Slack is cheap and it’s a great way to build community. Create groups for folks with different interests, like pets, books, or travel. This encourages collaboration between employees of every team, ensuring you get some much-needed offline conversations that benefit the business in the long term.
- Online roleplaying games: Maybe this is more of a Millennial thing, but you can encourage employees to play World of Warcraft or EverQuest together. It’s a fun virtual team building challenge that blows off steam, too.
The bottom line
It sucks, but we’ll probably see distributed workplaces for the foreseeable future. Even in a future where we solve the COVID problem, many workplaces will probably stay remote.
Now’s the time to perfect virtual team building. Curious how to build trust in a virtual team? Use these 3 suggestions to create a strong team that collaborates, communicates, and gets stuff done.