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Hack your team: Stay connected during COVID (and beyond)

Apr 08, 2021 - 6 min read
Joshua Ahn
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In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, managers have faced unprecedented challenges in navigating a 40% increase of work from home and developing practices for leading teams through the new “normal” we live in now. With flexible remote-work policies, many managers are left wondering, “What can I do to help my team stay connected.”

As circumstances rapidly change, innovative tools and strategies for effective management and team connectivity should walk hand in hand with the changing times.

To help you navigate managing your remote team, here are 5 strategies to successfully build your team and stay connected during COVID (and beyond).

Our five tips:



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Increase Access to Information

A recent qualitative study with remote workers across several businesses identified one of the biggest challenges of remote teamwork: inefficient methods of obtaining information. Lacking access to information can frustrate remote workers when seeking information becomes time-consuming or if delays slow down workflow.

Simple questions can turn into significant obstacles if the mode for information access is not correctly set up. Understanding how different categories of information can be readily accessible for your team can help increase productivity and independence.

Some managers have seen great success by migrating to cloud-based systems and databases that are accessible for all team members. Accessible and equitable resources help to prevent teammates from becoming silos, making it easier to share information quickly. During cases where teams need new information, some managers have also fostered connectivity and trust with their team by providing accessible ongoing learning opportunities.

By incorporating cloud-based systems and remote learning opportunities, teams feel connected through accessible salient information and convenient access to new information.

Giving your teammates access to readily available information helps you stay connected and equips your business for success.


Establish Rules of Engagement

Over the past decade, there has been a robust development of Information & Communication Technology (ICT), which changed how virtual team-based communication looks for every profession. Various tools under the category of ICTs, coupled with a movement away from face-to-face interactions, present managers with a new challenge in establishing formal rules of engagement.

Without solid rules in place, employees are far less likely to interact, both socially and professionally. These guidelines can greatly improve team connectivity.

The goal here is to create predictable communication practices to fill the void left by the absence of physical interactions. As a manager, establishing communication rules for frequency, medium, urgency, and time as early as possible helps to set clear expectations for all teammates.

For example:

“We’ll use zoom (medium) for daily (frequency) meetings. For emergency (urgency) situations earlier in the day (time), you can reach me via text (medium).”

By setting clear “rules of engagement,” team members will be able to collaborate more efficiently, and managers will have useful parameters to improve on effective communication methods.


Create Spaces for Team Bonding

Social isolation is not a new concept. In fact, studies with more than 300,000 working participants show a strong correlation between social isolation and health complications. Creating spaces for team bonding reflects a manager’s care for the team’s well-being. On top of that, it can also serve to reduce turnover, develop team trust, and improve overall team communication.

Before COVID-19, a study polling several thousand remote workers revealed that remote workers with once-a-week in-person workdays were happiest and felt that their role served their larger learning and growth goals.

Other surveys for remote workers revealed that 10% of the participants noted that informal settings helped relieve stress and motivated them to perform well in their work.

With the absence of convenient physical spaces for in-person work, managers can still create regular virtual opportunities for team bonding.

Here are some creative ideas to get you started:

  • Virtual team lunches
  • Virtual happy hours
  • Virtual cooking classes
  • Outdoor gatherings
  • Virtual scavenger hunts
  • Virtual board games

Managers who create team bonding spaces set a foundation for peer accountability, team trust, and increased productivity.


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Set Structured Check-ins

With work from home, managers face the challenge of striking a healthy balance between control and flexibility. Traditional studies show a strong relationship between having increased job autonomy with higher individual well-being.

Meanwhile, the permeability between work and home boundaries in today’s day and age may affect work productivity.

As a manager, structured check-ins should serve three purposes: establishing healthy work boundaries for employees, demonstrating availability for consultation, and creating times to gauge productivity.

The cadence and size of structured check-ins will vary between teams and businesses but should always be regular and predictable.

Let’s walk through an example structure together:

Weekly team sync

Who:

  • Entire team

Cadence:

  • Every Monday at 10 AM

Medium:

  • Synchronous face-to-face

Purpose:

  • Team-level updates
  • Sharing high-level strategy and direction

Daily stand-up

Who:

  • Entire team

Cadence:

  • Every Day at 11 AM

Medium:

  • Asynchronous DM

Purpose:

  • Acknowledge recent accomplishments
  • Understand and mitigate blockers
  • Understand dependencies

Provide Individualized Support

Successful managers provide individualized support to help each team member reach their goals and grow. Individualized support requires an intentional approach to understanding each team member’s individuality, skills, and emotional well-being.

Within the context of work from home, managers should be well attuned to employees’ stresses or concerns while offering encouragement or confidence in the team.

Individualized support can take so many different forms, but here is a list of examples to help you get started:

  • Provide opportunities for remote learning

  • Encourage team members’ growth

  • Signal flexible availability

  • Show awareness of team member circumstances

  • Ask about work preferences

Online courses can provide a tangible solution to the different forms of support listed above. Showcase your commitment to providing growth opportunities for your team and help them feel connected through a shared learning platform. As team members progress together, they will feel more connected and feel supported to succeed in their work.


Wrapping up

Managing teams remotely is no easy task, and we are still adjusting to the change. With the right tools and strategies staying connected doesn’t have to be as challenging. You’ve been placed in your position because people trust your resourcefulness and ability to lead others. Lean into your giftings and hack your team with the following strategies:

  • Increase Access to Information
  • Establish Rules of Engagement
  • Create Spaces for Team Bonding
  • Set Structured Check-ins
  • Provide Individualized Support

These five strategies will help you and your team stay connected and equipped during these weird times.

If you are interested in learning more about what Educative can do to support your team, please contact Educative for Business. Our best-in-class technical courses can equip you and your team with the knowledge needed to meet your goals and stay connected.


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WRITTEN BYJoshua Ahn

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