How to build trust among virtual team

As remote work continues its exponential growth and fewer employees are now located alongside their colleagues, trust issues are often the workplace’s first discussions. 

Why is trust so important? 

Trust is key to employee participation. One of the most important qualities of a leader is trust: when employees do not trust the organization’s leadership, their chances of participating are very low. But when that trust is established, the chances of compromise are quite high.

Also, trust improves work effectiveness, group dynamics, and productivity.

Promote Communication 

We cannot stress this enough. Communication is undoubtedly the most important factor in team collaboration. This means sharing goals, objectives, and projects on a professional level and a personal level.

Maintaining channels for continued, transparent communication is the most effective way to keep a team collaborating effectively and building trust. This is where remote teams actually have an advantage, unlike in-office teams that tend to get caught up in unnecessary meetings.

A mix of synchronous and asynchronous options ensures team members have a way to stay in touch regardless of their communication style. 

Set Clear Goals

A clear way to build trust is to commit to specific objectives. That is why it is extremely important to be realistic and not take on tasks that we cannot cover. Once a commitment has been made, and expectations are created, it can create a feeling and mistrust within the team if the objective is not met.

However, at this point too, communication and transparency are important. The team leaders must establish how the objectives will be monitored –weekly by videoconference, daily through an excel table, monthly through a report, etc.– so that there are no doubts.

Appreciation and Recognition

 Giving regular feedback and appreciating your employees greatly contributes to their motivation, especially when they work remotely. Once you see how your employees flourish in your company thanks to positive feedback, appreciation, and even public recognition, you will always try to apply this strategy.

It’s easy for remote workers to feel out of the loop and undervalued unless you let them know that you recognize and appreciate their talents. 

Build trust starting at the hiring stage by building on what you learned about the employee through the interview process and help them develop the strengths they have.

Effective leadership during pandemic times

Almost overnight, many organizations had to adapt to the current context. In many cases, they even had to implement a home office policy, which was not established before. Employees had to incorporate new habits, and their leaders’ role was key in this process, accompanying and guiding them in the use of new platforms and tools.

Clear, frequent, and empathetic communication

Leaders should implement feedback as standard practice: constructive criticism is essential to correct mistakes and improve work quality. Effective leadership involves learning to give feedback to the team clearly and assertively. Finding the right moment, putting yourself in the other person’s shoes, and listening carefully to the answers is key.

In addition to reviews, a good leader must learn to communicate tasks simply to the team. The more clarity there is, the better the results will be. It is important to specify from the beginning what needs to be done, in what time frames, who will participate, and what are the objectives and roles of each person, for example.

A leader must be empathetic and think about her team’s well-being. It is essential to keep in mind that some personal situations can interfere with work in this context of uncertainty. To demand greater productivity, it is necessary to provide the tools and practices necessary to achieve this and to accompany people closely.

Set achievable goals

It is useless to set goals for the team that are difficult to achieve: this will cause discomfort and a feeling of demotivation for not achieving the objectives set. So what can an effective leader do? In the first place, it is essential to hold daily huddles with employees to find out what specific projects or tasks they are working on during the week and to know if they had difficulties. In this way, it will be much easier to offer them support and guide them to overcome the challenges.

Second, a good leader needs to promote the team’s productivity. Proposing training and new work methodologies can be a great option to achieve it. 

Organizations have the important task of fostering leadership within their teams to adapt more easily to remote work and enhance their productivity. 

Show flexibility

Now is a good time to be flexible and let your employees work wherever and whenever they can. Sometimes leaders and managers think that flexible work arrangements lead to performance problems. Research shows that this is not the case. Employees with flexible work arrangements are significantly more motivated and engaged than colleagues with rigid schedules. 

Work/life Balance While Working From Home

Traditionally, it has been seen as positive to separate personal life from professional life. It forces us to live as if we had two personalities: one who goes to work and the other who stays at home.

 

However, the scale usually leans towards work, so individual and personal activities go to the waiting list or are no longer desired or disappear over time.

 

It is possible to really merge work and personal life and reorganize activities, seeing them as a whole, without any division, attending to each one with the same importance.

Working from Home and Being a Parent

 

When schools closed, working remotely with the little ones at home became a real challenge for all parties involved. Younger children especially don’t understand why their home suddenly becomes a workspace and mom or dad aren’t always available. To avoid stressful situations, it is important to introduce clear structures into the work and care routine, as well as to set limits beforehand. 

 

Taking care of children and remote working at the same time is always a double burden. Both tasks require a lot of attention, which can be exhausting in the long run. For this reason, taking deliberate breaks is very important, because this way you can rest and continue working. If possible, plan breaks in a space other than the one used for working.

 

Household Chores

Simple tasks such as walking the dog, cleaning the house, making lunch for the whole family, and running errands make this work-at-home promise no easy task. 

 

Yet, talking with your family and dividing household chores is the first step to an organized routine. 

 

Of course, the distribution of tasks must be equitable for all family members, and it is necessary to consider each person’s abilities. A good way to do this is by making a list of the main tasks that need to be done at home each day.

 

Working totally or partially from home allows us to manage our lives as a whole, and if automation and teleworking are the future, then it requires that we develop new skills or adopt ways of life that were not so normal before.

 

Everything flows much better when instead of fighting, we blend our work with our personal life; when we do our job correctly and feel motivated to do it better and better. In parallel, we also feel the satisfaction or tranquility of having done our personal activities.

Socially Distanced Company Gatherings

By now, we all know the drill: six feet apart, and don’t leave the house if you don’t have to. If you aren’t going crazy, it’s probably because you’ve kept in touch with your friends, family, and coworkers during this time of social distancing. Unfortunately, however, the beloved company gatherings are not conducive to maintaining six feet between each other. Luckily, we have the technology required to host creative, fun, mask-free gatherings that can also be team-building experiences.

Pajama Party

Plan a virtual game night for your team members and make it casual by asking everyone to wear comfortable pajamas! You can always ask for game suggestions prior to the event; this will help make the night more enjoyable. Here are a couple of fun ideas to help you brainstorm:

  • Emoji guessing – everyone screenshots their recent emoji list. The pictures are saved by the game host and everyone guesses which screenshot belongs to which coworker. Mark a point for each correct guess, and see who knows their coworkers best!
  • Voice-only drawing challenge – one person is selected to describe a photo or simple image. This person can only describe the picture with geometric shapes and descriptions of distance. Think of this game as “descriptive pictionary” – everyone will draw their own rendition of what their coworker describes; whoever gets the closest to the original picture wins!

Escape Room

There are online facilitators who can help you set up a night of team-building via an escape room or something similar. One nerdy and extremely fun version of this concept is called “War of the Wizards” – a twist on the classic escape room. This event is 90 minutes long and will require that teammates work together to solve the story’s conflict.

Online Talent Show

The ultimate platform for bragging rights, a company talent show really could be the best thing to happen since COVID-19 hit. Ask team members to show off in this online event – who wouldn’t want to do that! If you’d like to make things even more fun, ask everyone to also dress up and make it a fun costume party. Reserve a special prize for the employee with the most ridiculous costume.

Apples vs. Oranges

What might seem like a silly question will lead to some of the most interesting, deep conversations your team has ever had. The premise of this activity is to start with something simple – ask your team members which they would choose if the other were to be eliminated from the world entirely. Require that they discuss the question before answering, then proceed to a new set of variables, including the previous winner. For example, if apples win the first round, pose “apples vs. scooters” as the next.

Virtual Pub Crawl

Gather everyone in a video conference for the online version of your favorite college adventure! Ask everyone to bring their beverage of choice (non-alcoholic if they prefer) and start everyone on a decided webpage or short video. At the end of a set time period, discuss the content. The webpages and videos can be as serious or light-hearted as you want; the goal is to get everyone looking at the same thing and talking about it over a pint of brew or a glass of chardonnay.

In our current social distancing climate, it’s important that we remember to take time to engage with others. Most companies realize that workers who spend time outside of work together work better as a team. In addition to this, socialization is extremely important to everyone’s mental health; whether we socialize with family or coworkers, it’s important to stay in touch in one way or another. Company gatherings can be a great benefit to the morale of your workers, so keep it light and keep it fun!

How to Encourage Workplace Interaction Online

The current workplace climate has left us feeling extremely separated, both as individuals and as coworkers. Due to COVID-19, we must be more intentional with our interactions with those around us; we may be miles apart as we work our normal jobs, but we still function as a team. When it comes to socialization, scheduling is key; come up with some loose events that can be low-key and non-threatening to the introverts!

Morning Coffee

This is a great way to start the week; have groups of team members scheduled into a voice and video meeting where they can share a hot beverage or breakfast item of their choice and chit chat for ten to fifteen minutes. This exercise will mimic the first few moments at the office when everyone catches up and mills about before starting the workday.

Lunch Dates

While it might be a bit abnormal to eat while someone is watching, the conversations we have over lunch in the breakroom are gone. Encourage work friends to keep up the interactions they had prior to work-at-home changes. During this time, we’ll have the tendency to drift apart – this may cause us to feel like less of a team.

Break Time Game Time

Perhaps best as a mid-week mood booster, games can bring people together and help them work better as a team. Feel free to choose whatever games you like, but they will need to be video-chat friendly, of course. Games like trivia, charades, and jeopardy might be good options for a video conference. Perhaps your team can even hold a competition with a prize for the winner!

“No-Agenda” Meetings

A fun take on the informal conversations that spark in the office, no-agenda meetings can be the perfect way to allow coworkers a place to commune. Schedule a time frame as often as you like for an opt-in meeting that has no agenda. You can use any platform you like for this, but people may be more willing to join if it’s a simple discord channel that your team can connect to. It would be best not to ask employees to use their break time for this, that way they are more inclined to participate!

 

At the beginning of this pandemic, we weren’t quite sure how long we would all be out of the office; however, as the weeks drag on, it seems like this is a new way of life for many businesses. It may be a struggle to keep in touch, but socialization is extremely important and will help everyone feel valued and important to the team. Take some time this week to remind your employees and coworkers of this fact – maybe even schedule a virtual coffee date.

Managing Back to School While Working Remotely

Even though COVID-19 is still making its way through the United States population, it’s extremely important that our next generation continues to get an education. While a good percentage of us have been able to work from home, schooling from home isn’t quite as simple. Some education systems have the resources and knowledge already available to put a plan in place; however, others simply can’t.

 

Regardless of what your children’s local school has decided to do, the 20-21 school year is going to look much different from previous years. With most parents working from home, we’ll all have to change things up at home to adapt to a new normal. We have some tips and tricks to help you and your family make this strange transition as easy as possible.

Know What is Expected

The first thing your family will want to do is ask questions about how the school year will start. Make sure communication is clear about when your child is supposed to be present for classes and when he or she should be staying home – some schools have opted for a hybrid model to keep fewer bodies in the school building. To avoid unnecessary absences or penalties, gather the knowledge everyone will need to stay organized and able to meet expectations.

Make a Schedule

If you aren’t usually a planner, you may want to take a shot at it for at least the beginning of the school year. Once everyone gets into the swing of things, it might not remain necessary. Having a locally visible schedule will help everyone get an idea for how the days will go; if each day of the week is different, make a schedule that runs Monday through Friday. Any extracurricular activities and parents’ working hours can be placed on this schedule as well. Keep the kids in the loop and they’ll feel more responsible for following the schedule!

Plan Your Workdays

It can be hard enough to stay on track while working from home, but it’ll be even more challenging if you also have to manage your kids as they try to get their school work done. Try to plan your workday so that you’re moderately available during study hall hours or homework time. If possible, talk to your supervisor about your children’s school situation so that an understanding can be reached.

 

Plan Meals

With the kids at home some, or all, days of the week, that’s more meals for you to prepare for them! Start each week with either a rigid or loose plan for what mealtime will look like in your household; if you don’t have time to meal plan, consider meal kits or a meal plan service that generates a grocery list to shop for the week. The key to success this school year will be preparation!

 

The 20-21 academic year is going to be one for the history books. Life has changed drastically since we finished plugging through the 19-20 school year, and thousands of children across the country will likely be homeschooled this year. With unprecedented demands on both public and private school systems, it’s important that we stay humble and appreciative, regardless of what is being asked of our kids; this is an impossible decision for anyone to make, but make it they must. One thing is for sure: this is going to be new and different for everyone, so let’s try to make the transition as easy for everyone as possible!

Keeping the Kids Entertained While Working from Home

Although we’ve been working from home for a few months now, summer break has finally come around as well! While this likely means an upcoming vacation for your family, it also means that the kids are around all day long. Depending on how old and independent your children are, you may be struggling to keep them busy so that they stay out of your hair while you are working. We’ve got some tips and tricks for you to help manage this period of school-break limbo.

Young Kids

For toddlers and young children, attention spans can range from 15 minutes up to an hour or more. If your children are younger and have a harder time staying busy without direction, it may be best to work close by so that you can direct their playtime. Set up several stations for activities and show them how to use each; this might buy you some more time to get that conference call completed!

Window Clings

We’re not sure exactly what the magic secret is behind these inexpensive stickers, but they will captivate children for an inordinate amount of time! Buy several packs, since they rip easily, and bust them out when you need some quiet time for getting work done.

Sticker Fun

Much like window clings, stickers are a beloved pastime of young children everywhere. You can either buy sticker workbooks or simply grab a large pack of garage sale dots. Grab some sheets of white paper, markers, and maybe some stencils and let your kids have fun!

Dry Erase

There’s something special about being able to wipe up your drawing immediately after finishing it. This activity will keep toddlers and infants engaged for a long time; pick up a pack of colorful dry erase markers and let them doodle all over a handheld mirror, or purchase a dry erase board that can be laid onto the floor. Provide different objects to wipe the board so that they can experiment with different textures.

Felt Boards

Though this might take a little bit more preparation, the end result will be hours of fun, we guarantee it. Felt has a unique texture and pliability that young hands love – and it sticks together without flying around. Prepare a felt board by wrapping cardboard or plywood in a large swatch of neutral felt. You can cut out any number of shapes, foods, animals, people, and clothes for your kids to mix up and match! Ask them to tell a story with the objects you’ve provided!

Older Kids

When you’re stuck at home with older children, they can often entertain themselves; however, there will likely be an odd day or two when it’s raining or their friends aren’t home. When these days roll around, it can be extremely helpful to have a few tricks up your sleeve. Here are some ideas to help you create a secret stash of fun activities to keep your kids busy during that all-important meeting.

Boxes and Craft Supplies

If there’s one thing in life that can become nearly anything, it has to be the infamous cardboard box. The larger the better, cardboard boxes can be crafted into spaceships, castles, boats, astronaut helmets, and many more items from your kids’ imaginations. The possibilities are endless, as long as you’ve got a good base. Plus, if you’re like the millions of Americans right now, you’ve probably spent your pocket change on online orders galore – don’t throw away those boxes! Break them down and save them for a literal rainy day.

Air-Dry Clay

Older kids will love planning and putting together something that they can keep to show to you and their friends. Ask them to decide what they will make and perhaps even draw it on paper before introducing them to the materials. Once they are finished making their creations, set them aside to dry and they can present a show and tell to the whole family!

Science Experiment

Looking for a way to explain to the older kids why everyone is at home? This creative experiment can show the incredible spread of viruses and the importance of washing our hands.

Flour on a Balloon

First, air-blow up a balloon. This activity is best done outside, as it will make a considerable mess. Coat the dry balloon in a bowl of flour or powdered sugar. Have your kids bounce the balloon to each other, making note of all the particles that are flying off the balloon. Feel free to explain that this is how some diseases are spread (through the air and from surfaces), and let your kids continue to dunk the balloon and bounce it around the yard!

Glitter Wash

Also best done outside, gather your supply of glitter and some cooking spray. Spray the kids’ hands with cooking oil, then ask them to dip their hands into the glitter. If you are outside, turn on the spigot and ask them to try to clean all of the glitter particles off with just water. They’ll find that it is extremely difficult to do so, after which point you can offer them soap – this, of course, will clean their hands much more easily. You can make an analogy to viral particles and bacteria if you’d like, or you can simply let them have fun with glitter; it’s entirely up to you!

The New “Normal”: Will Remote Work be the Future?

Before the coronavirus, the world was a different place; many of us don’t like to think that, as we try to stay optimistic for a full recovery from this pandemic. However, if you stop and think about how much some people’s lives have changed due to social distancing, it’s no wonder the big question right now is: what will be the new “normal”? As we’re sure you’re aware, there are drastic implications for every sector of our daily lives, extending into the next generation through greater economic debt and insecurity (especially if COVID-19 makes a return each year until we’ve reached herd immunity levels).

Impact on the Workforce

When it comes to the American workforce, perhaps the most interesting shift has been observed, regardless of company niche. With such extreme social distancing measures having been recommended by government and health agencies, an overwhelming majority of employers rallied work-from-home infrastructure in a few short weeks. The demand was high for low-contact work environments due to a severe lack of testing capacity and personal protection gear inventory; naturally, it was safer to stay home amidst rising positive case numbers.

Physical vs. Virtual Services

What determined a company’s willingness to shift towards work-from-home employment was mainly whether the business services were physical or non-physical. For those who had physical items to sell, perhaps they were able to build an on-the-go order system for delivery or curbside pickup. In a way, American consumers were already starting to ask for more services like these from companies pre-corona. One might argue that this pandemic has simply accelerated the willingness of businesses to consider new and innovative ideas; we’ve stumbled upon a sort of necessary innovation when faced with becoming irrelevant to the times.

The Question: What Will Stick?

It’s irrefutable that online sales for goods and services will continue to rise. As more of us realize how simple it is to search, add to cart, and click to purchase, surely the demand for retail goods will continue to decline – coronavirus simply will have been a catalyst in its demise. On the other hand, there will always be services that require in-person meetings: hair salons, nail salons, fine dining, medical and surgical offices, and so on.

 

The most concrete change seems to be in the realization that a company’s workers can work from home at an efficient and large-scale level. Unfortunately, thought and care must be given to the overall effect on mental health for those who work from home too consistently. At what point should a company be able to enforce in-office work for those employees who are at-risk for depressed mood. Will we only ask employees to work from home if C-19 makes a comeback?

Too Soon to Tell

At this point in time, as federal government restrictions are being lifted and left to the local level, it’s all a matter of how optimistic or pessimistic your local government chooses to be. Furthermore, now that the infrastructure is in place for remote work, the company you work for is ultimately in charge of how the office will be handled. There likely is no one-size-fits-all for this situation, neither will there ever be. It seems that we’ll all be playing it by ear, month by month until some sort of sense of “normalcy” has returned.

Staying Connected & Working Remotely: Tips and Tricks for Keeping in Touch With Your Teammates

By now, the newness and novelty of working from home have probably worn off; if you’re an extrovert, you’re longing for human interaction (if you’re an introvert, your cat is probably serving just fine). You’ve likely discovered that your Keurig can’t possibly keep up with your caffeine needs and that it’s a lot harder to drink sixty-four ounces of water in a day than you thought it would be. Finding it hard to stay on-task? You’re not alone; we’re all feeling the struggle to stay productive.

You’re Still a Part of a Team

One of the most important things to remember during quarantine and isolation is that we are all still a team: you and your coworkers form a team for the business you are employed by, and all of us as citizens are a team, protecting those who are more vulnerable than us by staying home. Though you may not be sitting next to your cubicle buddy at the office, you and your team members are still one unit working towards a common goal. Even though it’s a little more difficult to stay connected, it can still be done.

Form a Group Chat

If your job offers a chat service to employees like Skype or another messaging service, create a group chat that includes each team member. Send daily messages, ask everyone how much coffee they’ve had, what they’re doing this weekend, and remind everyone to take stretch breaks! Perhaps one of your team members can post a daily riddle or meme.

Weekly Meeting

There’s no hard and fast rule that states you can’t have meetings more often, but weekly is sufficient for most teams working remotely. Discuss anything and everything at meetings; part of keeping in touch also involves catching up just like you would at the office. Inquire about everyone’s family, tell funny stories, but also discuss work-related things during your meeting time. Something like video conferencing is best, but expect some co-workers to want to stay off-camera (some of us are slacking in the hair department).

Detailed Notes

Since it’s not as easy to get a hold of a co-worker right now, make sure to leave detailed notes on any cases you work on. Make sure you’re available for questions on any difficult call you fielded or procedure you followed; this will make it easy for issues to be resolved within a timely fashion.

Use Your Tools

While group and individual messaging are easy and quick, it can be nice to receive a phone call from your co-workers instead. If you have a question, call them through your VOIP and ask your question directly; this is usually much quicker than text messaging back and forth with a co-worker. If you’re both feeling brave, video chat is a great option, too; make sure to check with the person before asking for a face-to-face, though!

Luckily for employees around the world, we live in an age of advanced communications technology. The same technology that allows us all to maintain our jobs at home can also be used to stay connected with our co-workers so that we still feel like part of a team. Human connection is more important than ever right now (for you, too, introverts!) and we just have to be a little bit more creative in how we approach teamwork.

How to Lead a Dynamite Remote Meeting

During this unprecedented demand for workers and consumers to stay home, it has become more and more necessary for meetings to move online and towards reliable video platforms. There has been an increasing demand for services like Skype, Zoom, and Google Hangouts, especially for workplace environments. Since we can’t all meet face-to-face for business meetings, it’s important that your meeting time is managed properly and facilitated by the proper tools.

Choose the Right Tools

Before scheduling your first meeting, consider what platform will suit your needs best. How many employees or team members will need to be present? Does everyone need to be able to send video to the live feed? Will you need to share slides, notes, or mirror your screen for everyone to see? If necessary, reach out to your IT department for their opinion on what platform you should ask everyone to use; otherwise, do a little digging to see what will best serve you and your team.

Have an Agenda

One of the biggest tips that can make or break your online meeting is whether or not everyone is aware of the meeting’s topic. Everyone should be briefed ahead of time on what will be discussed; this way they can prepare their segments or questions prior to the start of the meeting. There’s nothing more confusing than logging into a private video space and wondering who is supposed to be doing what; give everyone a job for the meeting (taking notes, coming up with questions, etc.) to help your employees stay engaged.

Allow Time for Chit-Chat

Carving out time for ice-breaking is the perfect way to start a remote meeting. Ask everyone to get warmed up by running through a test sequence; have everyone state their name, talk about what they were working on prior to the meeting, and ask everyone if they can hear and see the feed properly. As the meeting leader, let everyone know what time you’ll regroup and begin discussing the agenda.

Decide on Meeting Etiquette

Depending on the type of meeting you will be hosting, you may want to ask members to hold their questions until the end of your presentation. If your style is more loose and informal, let them know in advance; most people will assume that they are receiving a lecture-type meeting unless otherwise specified. If you want interaction, say so!

Keep an Eye on the Introverts

Everyone on the team is valuable – they were hired or promoted for a reason, and their shyness shouldn’t hold them back from contributing. While you don’t want to call out the introverts specifically, try to think of a way to encourage everyone to contribute. Perhaps you may wish to ask team members to take turns providing input (or building upon previous information); this will push the less talkative members out of their shells and encourage them to share what they are thinking.

Be Prepared

Above all, be prepared for everyone to connect and work together; if you bring the right tools, the conversation will follow. Right now, the biggest hurdle for offices seems to be getting the technology right. Ask your team members to test call you in advance, or set up a mock meeting with your employees so that things go smoothly on the day of the big meeting. Upload any documents necessary ahead of time and run through your slides to make sure they will be legible through screen sharing. Take the time to plan now so that your meeting will run like a well-oiled machine!