Remote or hybrid teams have become a new reality for many organizations. Monika Sowa, Consultant at Sii’s Business Advisory and BPO Competency Center, advices how to improve the efficiency and quality of teamwork, at the same time taking care of relations between employees.
In these unpredictable times, when it is difficult for us to determine what will happen tomorrow, and our assumptions are constantly challenged, we must accept the fact that the world has been changing. The professional one, too. No one expects an employee to spend 8 hours in the office, or to sit in front of a computer at home from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. More and more often, it’s the effect of our work that matters. The key is to work smart, not hard.
The challenges of remote work
Now that we meet with our team mainly remotely, while still pursuing common goals, we should look at our cooperation and start making changes. Therefore, it is worth checking which methods of work in this new system still work, and which should be looked at and remodeled.
When we meet in the office every day, we can discuss a lot of things less formally over coffee or ask about them from behind a monitor. In the virtual world, we need to create a space for this. It will bring us tangible benefits in the form of:
- achieved objectives,
- improved quality of work,
- work done in a smarter and more efficient way.
So what is worth implementing to make our team’s remote collaboration more effective and productive?
1. Define the place and form of contact
For sure you have a lot of tools at your disposal to make contact easier. Phone, email, Microsoft Teams or other platforms, which are expected to simplify work. But do they really do this? A large amount of information coming from different sources sometimes makes us overwhelmed because of the number of messages we get. When we need to find something important, it gets hard. Therefore, you should decide as a team where and how you will communicate to discuss professional matters, where you will place important information/documents and where you will exchange opinions and views not necessarily related to work. You can also choose the hierarchy of importance: email – very important and urgent, group on Teams – important but not urgent, etc. You will also avoid mixing information and stop wasting time searching for it, especially when you do not have that time.
2. Share your work – status is important!
Make sure that the team can keep track of their goals/activities, and the stages of their project are visible. Create a space where you as a team have constant access to results and can monitor how work is progressing. It does not only increase motivation. It also gives you the opportunity to see where your teammates are and how you can help each other. Last but not least, it allows you to realize that even though you don’t see each other every day, you are working jointly on projects – you are not the only one doing something important.
3. Create a “backstage” space
Some things at work happen spontaneously – developing relationships, supporting your colleagues or helping each other are the elements of teamwork that we usually do not plan. All of this is the aftermath of relationships built over coffee, during lunch breaks, in the elevator, spending time with people and getting to know them. It lets us know what we’re doing and what we’re working on. When we need support or help – we know who to turn to. So take care of this space – find time for virtual coffee, start each meeting talking for 5 minutes about the “weather”. Arrange a cyclical meeting where you can just talk to each other. Support, closeness and attention to the other person’s needs are invaluable in these times and help develop an attachment to the organization much more than Fruit Thursdays.
4. Let the team know when you’re working
This is obvious, right? The fact that you have kids and your daughter starts classes at 2 p.m. and you have to drive her there is obvious to you, but it isn’t obvious to everyone. In order for cooperation to be effective, it is good to know what hours the team works, when who is available and when they have a break. Are you an owl or a lark? Do you prefer to discuss something in the morning, or maybe you put out the fires in the morning and you have time to talk about strategy after lunch? Establish it with the team and inform them about your availability. You’ll see how much time you’ll save together.
5. Create a space to meet new people
When a new person joins our team in the office, we need time to get to know them. This happens naturally, in the kitchen, over coffee, having lunch together or celebrating a friend’s birthday. It is then that joint projects, during the implementation of which we also build relationships, are created. When the same situation happens online, when we do not take part in the same projects or have common responsibilities, we do not have the space to get to know each other better. We do not share experiences and despite being part of the same team, after six months of working together, we may still know absolutely nothing about each other. Think about it when someone joins your team – even if you are not working on the same tasks, meet, share your responsibilities, talk about what you are doing and what your work looks like. Also, open up to a new colleague, get to know his or her goals, tasks and work style. Another good practice is the buddy program, i.e. assigning a helpful “kind soul” to each new person in the team – maybe it’s worth introducing it?
6. Know your strengths and … the greatest strengths
It is worth realizing that within the team we have different personalities, talents and skills. What comes to us with ease, for some is very difficult and time-consuming, and vice versa. We can spend several long days on research, and the effect is not satisfactory. And yet there are people who love to do it and achieve good results. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses allows you to build a team based on strong foundations and support each other. This way we don’t have to do everything ourselves and if someone can do something faster and is more effective, then as a team we obtain much better results. Diversity is the key – it opens many doors, so use it.
7. Don’t try hard to like everyone
Good relationships are the basis of our teamwork. But the bigger the teams, the higher chance we have of working with someone we wouldn’t necessarily consider a friend. Do you feel that you don’t have much in common with someone, but you are trying to like them at all costs? Or maybe instead of supporting each other, you’re constantly clashing over different issues, while losing energy and trying to build something that can’t be built. We don’t have to be friends with everyone. There are people whom you understand without any words and those with whom you will never be friends. It is worth acknowledging and accepting it. You can also talk about it, tell what you care about and learn to cooperate. Friendship is not the key. The most crucial thing is respect and open, honest communication that allows us to reach our goals together.
Let’s remember that there’s strength in teamwork. And that together we achieve much more than each of us individually. So let’s not be afraid to argue, to talk, to disagree – but remember to do it wisely and respect diversity. We have common goals – so let’s take the same direction and we will not have to wait long to see the expected results.