The pandemic has drastically changed the day-to-day operations for basically every organization. Prior to the pandemic, our team worked largely in office with part-time remote work. Like most office-based organizations new safety concerns and protocols forced us to move to fully remote operations. Working fully remotely presented new challenges for maintaining a positive, team-oriented culture that ensured everyone was heard and could continue to communicate with each other as effectively as they could pre-COVID.
While the pandemic will eventually end, more remote work seems like it might be here to stay. Here are just a few methods of team building and team-organization that we learned during the pandemic that might help out you in changing work environments.
Keep the Lines of Communication Flowing
Communication is a big factor when it comes to any line of work. With remote working, establishing efficient and cooperative lines of communication is a primary goal, especially when juggling multiple clients and service areas as we do. Here are a few methods we used to keep the lines of communication open and flowing:
- Weekly planning meetings via Zoom: We set up a weekly planning meeting on Monday mornings, to go through our clients’ immediate and long-term needs and to discuss priorities and goals for each week. We also review our Zoho analytics to see where everyone is at in achieving their hourly goals and how the business is doing in relation to the previous week and the same week or month from the previous year. These planning meetings also provide an opportunity for colleagues to suggest additional internal meetings to address more specific client needs and projects.
- Instant messaging: Cliq is our instant messanger of choice. It’s a communication tool where you have the ability to create channels organized by client, topic area, and other categorizations that fit your business needs. The channels allow colleagues to send links to articles they found helpful or interesting to rest of the team. You can also use it to arrange quick one-on-one video/audio calls to touch base.
- Monthly one-on-ones: Managing workloads, providing feedback, and checking on each other’s mental wellness is essential during these difficult times. We implemented regular monthly one-on-one meetings with each colleague and an executive member to address these issues. They also provide an opportunity for colleagues to brainstorm areas of opportunity for business, set goals they’d like to achieve, establish training plans, and express any pain points they currently have at work. These function as an open space for every colleague to ensure they feel heard.
- Phone and video chats: As a leader, it’s important to know which channels to use when communicating with team members. Tone can often be misread when it comes to written words, even when you have the team member’s best interest in mind. Knowing when to put the messaging tools aside and jump on a quick call, video chat, or team regroup can help to eliminate any unnecessary stress or animosity in the workplace.
Maintain a Positive and Fun Team-Culture
The last year has seen drastic changes that are different from anything we’ve experienced in our lifetimes. This can be overwhelming, an experience now referred to as COVID fatigue. We noticed team members getting burnt out, not from work but the overall environment. With the changing work environment, these burnouts can get accentuated, particularly when the moments of respite that come through water cooler chats and the usual experiences of stepping back from work and getting to know one another better.
To help address this and offer something like normal work conditions, we implemented what we call “Spill the Tea.” Every Thursday, we start with a fun ice breaker to get the team to relax and have fun for a few minutes. Here are a few we’ve used from HubSpot. Next, we do a round table talking about each of our work wins, lessons learned for the week, and shoutout team members for their good work during the week. It’s something fun the team can look forward to and we all learn something new each week about one another.
Beyond Spill the Tea, we’ve also been organizing virtual team events, where we can have some fun together remotely. Whether this is doing a virtual escape room together, playing a few rounds of Uno, or letting everyone know lunch is on us and to buy something from their favorite delivery service, it helps to create a fun atmosphere that alleviates some of the stresses of working at home.
Finally, we mentioned utilizing Cliq for work purposes. But it can also be used to build and maintain a team culture and lets us interact on a more personal level. We have a special “shout out channel” where team members can shout out one another and start a GIF party. It’s always fun to see the different GIFs people choose and to start to see their personalities shine through. We also have a wellness channel for sharing tips, tricks, and events focusing on health and wellness.
Keeping Some Things the Same
While things have changed, it was best for our team to keep some things the same. We’ve always been attuned to the struggle for work-life balance and, under the current conditions, being attuned to this struggle is more important than ever before. Here are some of the pre-pandemic policies our office has kept intact to help everyone get through the work week:
- Flexible hours: The team has the ability to make their own hours throughout the week. That means they can start early or later in the day or even do a split to go to an appointment or get out for an hour. No individual is the same when it comes to what time of day they are most productive, so we leave it up to team members to decide.
- No-questions-asked personal days: We allot our team 5 personal days to use each year. We are all human and sometimes we need to take a day to come back fresh. We get it and we aren’t going to judge anyone for needing a day to step back and refresh.
- Work Wednesday: Wednesday is our no meeting day. This allows the team to put their head down and work uninterrupted, so that come Thursday they feel like they got through a chunk of tasks on their list.
Getting Through the Pandemic and Beyond
While the pandemic will hopefully be coming to an end soon, continuing to maintain a healthy and positive team culture is important, whether you maintain elements of remote work or return to a fully in-office work arrangement. While these are just some of the approaches we’ve taken to the maintaining our work culture, give us a follow on LinkedIn where we share other tips on maintaining a fun and healthy team-oriented work culture.