Keeping your team connected and engaged while working from home

Posted — Wednesday 19.11.2020

Face to face team meetings and office-based working has all but disappeared in 2020 and it probably feels like it’s been a long time since your team has been together in the same room.

With almost no real chance to wave the office – and our teams – goodbye back in March, it’s been very easy to allow teams to become a little more disconnected than they were eight months ago.

Hopefully, most of your staff have adjusted to working from home by now and are better equipped to working at home, with all the necessary resources they need and a more settled routine. However, a new desk, chair or second screen for the home office will have done little to overcome the distance between you and your team members.

Back in the spring, there was a hope that COVID-19 would be fleeting and we’d all be back to normal by summer – and that included being back in the office. Now, summer has been and gone and we’re all still at home and it’s likely to stay that way for many more months. As a result, working from home fatigue may have set in, especially as the initial novelty has worn off and a long winter looms ahead. 

As we face working from home for at least another six months, department heads and team leaders need to be able to keep everyone feeling like they’re still part of a team, working together towards common goals and a sense that a workplace culture still exists. 

While the pandemic has completely reshaped how our teams work together, there are still ways that you can keep your people connected and engaged while working from home remains the new normal for the months ahead.

Help people feel like they belong

Morning catch ups, coffee runs and after work get togethers are a thing of the past – and it’s these everyday routines that glued us together and created a sense of camaraderie.  

Now, team socialising is much more planned and structured around virtual meetings rather than spontaneous chat about what’s on TV or in the news. A tea round is for one at home, and catch ups over Zoom have probably slipped, causing people to drift away from their colleagues. Ultimately, your staff will feel like they don’t belong to a team in the traditional sense, so it’s important to help them feel that they are even while they’re apart.

Maintaining a sense of culture and socialising, whether it be a cup of tea together every morning over Zoom, a Friday evening quiz or sending out care packages to each member of the team will maintain strong relationships and connectedness to each other and the business. As work-life balance blurs, creating firm boundaries to prevent late-night email exchanges or to create space for socialising will give your team a much needed breather and chance to catch up with one another. 

Empower your people

If everyone feels like they have a voice and will be heard in an organisation, they’ll feel more engaged. Your staff should feel like they’re leaders in their own right – it might not be hierarchical or include additional responsibilities, but instead it means that they feel like they can innovate and help play a part in pushing the business forward.

Bring people together for remote brainstorming sessions for new client work or business plans, inviting them to share ideas to the table or asking them to organise a virtual get together will help them feel like they’re driving things forward in the workplace.

Set realistic goals and targets so that everyone has something to work towards, whether it be professional development targets or in line with business goals. 

Empowering everyone to take control of their working day while contributing to the businesses’ wider purpose will ensure nobody is left behind or feels disconnected from their role. 

Bolster your internal communication

Internal communication channels are essential for businesses of all sizes, particularly for those with multiple teams or departments. Everyone needs to be on the same page about everything from new policy and best practice to exciting new updates. 

Perhaps you haven’t given much thought to internal communications in the past, but now that we’re not all in one work space, now might be the time. 

Consider how you communicate with your people – is it via your internal communications team through social media updates, newsletters or the intranet? Have you shared a company-wide update recently? What are the main things that people need to know right now and how can you best share this message? Work with marketeers or keep it simple. As long as you’re updating your staff with clear, consistent communication, they will feel more unified and engaged. 

As the year draws to a close, consider sharing a warm Christmas message with your people, or a rejuvenating New Year’s message in January. People now, more than ever, need support and words of encouragement as we push forward.

Finally, ask the team for their ideas

If you’re still wondering how your team can become better connected and engaged, the best approach is to ask them. One to one meetings can be invaluable ways to get updates from your staff, giving them the opportunity to speak openly about any challenges they’re facing or ways the work environment can be improved for them. 

A lot has changed since March, so don’t assume that everyone still has the same outlook now as they did then. Maybe people want more virtual get togethers or feel that communication could be improved between teams – you’ve hired your people because they’re creative and innovative, so make the most of that! 

Ask people individually, send a group email round or even ask for anonymous submissions from people about ways that they think they can grow together as a team. Choose the best ideas and begin to implement them, and notice just how quickly attitudes shift and people become more involved and ready for the challenges ahead.

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