How to Connect With Your Team During The Pandemic
Jason Bacaj | 4 min read
It’s an understatement to say that we’re living in unprecedented times. This novel coronavirus pandemic has caused businesses across industries and the around the world to temporarily close in the interest of public health.
And yet we all have to keep working. We know the learning and development professionals we work with regularly are giving their best efforts to keep their organizational engines running. One 20-year learning industry veteran we caught up with had worked for a solid six hours within 10 feet of his refrigerator and, somehow, hadn’t eaten yet.
So, we didn’t want to just toss you another list of tips and tricks for working remotely. Instead, we waded through the deluge of remote work thinkpieces and emerged with a curated handful of the most sound and actionable tips so you can do your part to keep that engine turning over.
In keeping with the spirit of the information-deluge, here’s the TL;DR version: most of the advice seems to fall into three buckets — over-communicate, transparency, and work rituals. If you find a way to balance these three elements, there just might be a way to sustain working remotely once the metaphorical adrenaline wears off.
Communication becomes extra important when you’re a step removed from the people with whom you’re talking. Normally facial expressions, hand gestures, and tone of voice do a lot of work when you make a point. Text-based communication leaves much to the imagination. It’s best to err on the side of caution and over-communicate.
Things you can do
- Regularly share your priorities and projects.
- When you make an ask of someone, be clear about why and when you need it.
- Assume whoever you talk with has positive intent, kindness goes a long way.
- Be proactive about sharing your home situation — our private lives are overlapping with our work lives in unexpected ways with this unanticipated remote work experiment.
- Always acknowledge the receipt of a time-sensitive or important message, even if you can’t act on it immediately.
- Use emojis and GIFs to add tone or levity to your messages.
Keeping everyone in the loop in these times won’t be as easy as walking around the office and letting people know what’s what. It can help to create a “source of truth” guideline to communication while remote. GitLab has perhaps the world’s largest remote workforce, and the company has made its communication guidelines public. It’s worth a look, maybe your organization could benefit from formalizing communications while we all weather this unprecedented event.
Transparency is a big bucket, but a major piece of being transparent while remote is narrowing your tech stack. Information gets siloed easily enough when everyone’s in the same office. When a team goes remote, it’s even easier.
Darren Murph, head of remote at GitLab, told LinkedIn, “Working well remotely requires writing things down… aim to funnel communication into as few places as possible to reduce silos and fragmentation.”
For the marketing team here at Wisetail, that means Slack for chats and quick messaging, Google Docs for collaborating, Asana to manage projects, and RingCentral for video conferencing… and for virtual happy hours.
Things you can do:
- Narrow your tech stack — company-wide chat, video conferencing, project management platform, a VPN to access internal systems, and a collaboration tool.
- Block time on Google Calendar so your team knows if you’re available to chat, doing deep work, or out walking the dog.
- Provide a clear agenda for every meeting, keep notes, and make the notes available to everyone afterward.
As with most unexpectedly challenging situations, your mindset can make all the difference. One way to frame the current situation is that this is a grand experiment in remote work. Be ready to think on your feet and adjust if an approach proves ineffective. It could be a good time to revisit design thinking as you adjust.
This bucket contains both your personal and your workplace routines. If you’ve never worked remotely, or haven’t in a while, it can be a stressful adjustment. Doubling down on your typical weekday rituals can help ease the transition, and set yourself up for success.
Resist the urge to work all day and night just because the usual cues for when to open or close the laptop are gone. Maybe you can replace your commute with a walk around the block — while keeping proper distance from others, of course. Maybe you replace the weekly lunch break with coworkers with a video chat.
Things you can do
- Set a time to start and finish the workday.
- Replace your morning commute with meditation time.
- Check in with coworkers on Slack like you would during a day in the office.
- Don’t freak out if you aren’t immediately productive — manage your expectations.
Basically, you want to stick to your regular work schedule as much as possible because much of your success or failure as a remote employee happens inside your head. Vice offers some advice on the personal hygiene front: “Figure out what makes you feel like you’re Working, and do that.” Vice also recommends taking these basic steps to not feel like a garbage person: wash your face, brush your teeth, and put on clean underwear.
For several industries, the Coronavirus pandemic is nothing short of an unprecedented crisis. People are getting laid off. Those who remain face radically different challenges from even a month ago. We all have to be extraordinarily conscientious — about judging productivity, documenting progress on projects, separating work from personal time, to name just a few.
Trust your people, and we’ll all get through this.
BY JASON BACAJ
Jason is a content creator with Wisetail. Through research and interviews, he works to help L&D pros grow the breadth of their knowledge. He’s a recovering journalist fascinated with learning.