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Working from home and fostering teamwork

Picture of Faith Chukwuka

Faith Chukwuka

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Last week we discussed the rise in employers asking their staff to work from home in an attempt to reduce the risk of the spread of Covid-19 here in Barbados. We also took a little look at what that meant in terms of ensuring that each team member is engaged. This week we want to take a look at how we can solidify that engagement and bring everyone together even though they are operating somewhat isolated.

Working from home can offer many advantages for both employees and employers, such as greater flexibility, saving time and money on travel and meals, lower cost of day to day expenses and lessening absenteeism. Unlike traditional remote work, working from home still has the structure of the office job.

Despite the many advantages, it also creates new challenges. Not everyone adjusts easily; moving from the traditional office environment to working from home can be difficult for many.  

The longer they work from home, the more necessary it is to keep employees connected. It is one of the biggest challenges facing businesses as they move away from the physical plant. The natural social interactions employees once enjoyed; including carpooling, break and lunchtime chats or out of office social gatherings, created energy of their own which in this case can now become limited or non-existent. 

When you consistently work in an office, you may find it difficult to describe the energy, but it is an integral part of your working life. If you have worked from home for a day or two, you may not miss that energy. However, when your routine changes to working from home continually, you will increasingly miss that workplace energy or connection that once fuelled you. 

Therefore, it is in the best interest of employers to help employees prepare for the changes. Doing so will require a new mind-set and a way of operating on a business level and altering how departments interact; creating more purposeful interaction.

As a business here are nine ways to foster teamwork for employees working remotely. 

Provide adequate resources for workers

A worker may not have the equipment or software needed to work collaboratively from at home, so the business should provide any additional hardware to support such, e.g. webcams, headsets, and computer programs.

Provide technological training

Employers should provide training for software and/or applications that will allow employees to work simultaneously on group projects or simply to connect e.g. Microsoft Teams, G-Suite, Asana etc.

 Utilize video

Seeing each other’s faces as they talk can make everyone feel more connected. Meeting announcements can include, Zoom, Google Meet or Go to Meeting links. 

Sharing Calendars

Scheduled meetings are important with remote work; however, they hardly leave room for casual conversation. Encouraging employees to share calendars allows them to find moments where they can have more causal and spontaneous interactions.

Increase communication between management and staff

To remove any uncertainty of what needs to be completed; management should communicate more frequently with team members.

Communicate the roles of each department and employee and how they fit together.

Having a remote workforce requires more clarity around how all departments and individuals must work to ensure overall goal achievement, and the business runs smoothly. To keep employees focused and assess their performance, managers can set daily and weekly goals. Remember to keep channels open for feedback so that issues can be quickly resolved. 

Continuously adjust and adapt as needed. 

Expect a change in the workforce dynamic as employees’ transition into remote work. Growing pains are to be anticipated, as workers adjust to new communication styles, schedules, expectations, and other variables that come with the transition. 

Set a beginning and end time to the workday

One area of serious concern in remote work is burnout; therefore, it is vital to create a plan that employees can consistently stick to whilst keeping their mental, physical and emotional health intact. Try to utilize the same schedule that employees would adhere to when going to the physical office. Conversely, where flexibility is encouraged and can be facilitated, have ‘overlap’ periods where employees can work on group projects and those who are more productive in the morning or evening can make the choice to use the overlap period as the start or end of their day.

Organize virtual ice-breaking activities 

Team building activities are the best ways to bring your employees together and make them feel more connected. While it may take a bit more creativity to organize virtual activities, there are still many ways to do so. Some trendy examples are:
Virtual scavenger hunts
Team fitness challenges

Finding the right activities for your employees will increase engagement and help them to connect meaningfully. The events should cater to the personalities of your staff and the type of business you operate. 

A connection is integral in keeping employees happy and engaged. According to (Skeete), “the more motivated the employees are, the more empowered the team is…, the greater the contribution made by either the individual and team, then the business would be more profitable and successful.

Whether remote work is new to your business or you previously telecommunicated, look for opportunities to create engagement, teamwork, and good-natured fun among employees.

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