As a leader, one of the most important things you need to do inside the office or out is to keep your team strong and healthy. During unexpected situations like the recent pandemic, that can seem like a more difficult challenge than usual. Even though video chat technology keeps us wired together, we’re still physically distant from each other, and it’s crucial to make sure that everyone on your team is doing ok. Here are a few ways to make sure you are regularly engaging your team and helping to keep them connected to you and their peers.
Sure, there is no water cooler, coffee station, or break room for people to gather in and catch up. Set up a time for short 5-10 minute video coffee chats to check in with individual team members. You can talk about work, but make sure that you check in to see how they are emotionally and mentally.
One of the great things about the office is the ability to grab a quick bite or sit down and share lunch with one or more coworkers. Although different, sharing a meal with your team is still an option in the era of working remotely. Make sure to send an invite, so people don’t forget and make it one-on-one or a small group. Want to add a little more value? Lunch-and-learns are also a productive use of time if there are areas of interest for a group. If budget allows, order meals for those in attendance.
If it’s too busy during the day, make it a virtual happy hour. These can be for a specific reason like birthdays or work anniversaries or no reason at all. It may be worth gently reminding the team that even though the meeting is virtual, virtual happy hour is still a work function, and company policies still apply.
Non-mandatory stand-up meetings
As most companies do, you probably have regularly scheduled team meetings, but creating a more relaxed environment for coworkers to talk and share what they are doing, how they are holding up, home workout tips, homeschooling tips, and the list goes on. This helps to foster an open dialogue. It also allows the beginning of your regular meetings to focus on professional matters rather than personal items.
Add a little fun into the mix with some easy games and competitions. If you have regular team meetings via a platform like Zoom, you can encourage people to bring a fun prop or create a Zoom background each week (work-appropriate, of course). Let them choose or give them a theme. There’s also a handy polling feature you can use to have the group vote for a winner each week.
Want something a little more interactive? Try a virtual scavenger hunt. Create a list of regular, but typically hard to find, household items (things like tape measures, batteries, a can of beans, staples/paper clips, rubbing alcohol, anything you can think of) that team members must find within their homes to return to their computer with. The first to return to their computer with the item wins the round.
If you’re looking to keep it spontaneous and use Slack, set up a separate channel and sporadically post trivia questions and see who is the first to get the right answer. You can also set up a group text message chain for something like this.
Just keep the games short, fun, and straightforward.
Engage with and learn from your peers
Social media has many uses, and activity has increased with the push to working remotely. If you need more ideas or want to share some of the things that have (or haven’t,) worked for your team, follow hashtags like #virtualleadership, #remoteteams or #workingfromhome. There are plenty of conversations and ideas coming from experienced remote managers and people virtually managing for the first time. Great leaders know that learning never stops, and we can help each other improve by sharing tips, tricks, and learnings.
Even though we’re apart, it doesn’t mean that we can’t be or don’t need to be together in some ways. There are endless options to use standard communication channels to retain some level of normalcy and ensure that your teams are doing well both personally and professionally.