With most businesses in the UK now having a good portion of employees working from home, and with the likelihood of an increase in remote working going forward, we asked author Andy Salkeld to share his tips on how teams can stay connected when based at different locations.
I live a life of two halves. Part professional. Part not.
One aspect of my double-life is that I am both extroverted and introverted. Not in the loud and brash but also quiet and gentle kind of way. I’m referring to the Myers-Briggs definition; where extroversion is about resting and recouping your energy whilst you’re with many people and introversion is the same for when you’re with fewer people or in solitude.
I need both in my life. When lockdown started, my extrovert was on fire! I was losing connection to people. I missed the subtlety and nuance of face to face discussions. Body language, pupil dilation, micro expressions; all gone and sorely missed!
Whilst I am not part of a large team in a big office, I am part of several small teams across multiple offices. I took it upon myself to try to keep connected to those around me. Here’s everything I have learned whilst working remotely:
1. Be respectful & mindful of others
Firstly, and above all else, be respectful and mindful of others! Not everyone wants or needs the same level of connection as others. Some may prefer not interacting too much or limiting how and when they choose to interact.
You cannot force ‘fun’ and similarly you cannot force connection. Always invite people and leave the door open for them, but the choice is theirs to walk through and you must respect that.
2. Accept the situation
Equally with the first, comes acceptance. Everyone needs to accept that this is a fairly big change in circumstance and that ‘it’s okay to not be okay’ during these times. It’s okay to be struggling. we’re all struggling.
Be mindful and considerate of other’s lives. No one should be embarrassed about kids running in on a call or having ‘bad hair’. We all are doing our best, even if it’s not 100%, and that’s good enough.
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3. Use communication tools
For many, working remotely is something new, as such it is best to start simple and try to replicate where you can as much as possible. By that I mean using video calling and open-mic communication tools where you can.
All meetings can, and probably should, be moved to video call to allow people to still see one another, let them know that people are still alive and well.
Open-mic communication is something that I brought with me from gaming. Teams can sit in a voice channel with their microphones open and can just talk and ask questions openly as if you were sat in an office together. This can create the background ‘chit-chat’ we’re so used to.
Don’t want to be a part of it, don’t join the channel, or simply lower the volume of others so as to not distract.
4. Stay social
But these communication tools don’t just have to be for work. Just because we are working remotely doesn’t mean we can’t socialise.
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I have had so many more ‘coffee breaks’ or ‘after work drinks’ with people than I ever had whilst working in an office. Invite the team at the end of a day to a video call for a drink and just chat. No work talk; leave that at ‘the office’.
5. Segregate work and play
I find segregating work calls and social calls to be very important so use a different device for each – I appreciate this may not be possible for everyone. I take all work video calls on my computer and use my phone for all social calls.
Alternatively, you can segregate these calls by resting your phone whilst on the social calls to keep your hands free. People value seeing body language and having one arm locked to your phone to keep it at a flattering angle makes us look stale and robotic.
To bring life and connection back into the conversation, allow for movement and freedom from your technology.
6. Do things together
One area I’m finding very rewarding at present is in ‘doing things’ together; those social activities that are often circumstantial and unplanned. Yes, you must plan them a bit now, but the pay off is worth it.
I’ve had several ‘fakeaway’ meals where a friend and I have chosen a cuisine style, and each tried to cook something we’d order if we were eating out. Not only are we sharing a meal together, we’re learning new skills together!
Similarly, the amount of quizzes that my family, friends, colleagues and I do have sky rocketed. We do some together as a team – often those organised by another place online – and have even taken to writing our own for others.
Likewise, there are many virtual events, tours, board games and more that you can all take part in together. You can still share experiences and create memories even now. Just because we’re living in lockdown doesn’t mean we need to be locked in to our homes.
You’ll notice that nothing here is revolutionary; nothing here is mind-blowing. That’s the point. Working remotely and working together aren’t really that different at all.
It’s up to us to cherish and nurture our connections.
This article has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Andy Salkeld. He is a finance director, mental health advocate and author of Life is a Four-Letter Word: A Mental Health Survival Guide for Professionals – available on Amazon.co.uk.