Connecting a Remote Team in Custom and Creative Ways
Like many companies, our coworkers, colleagues, customers, and vendors we are currently forced to work remotely. Even when interacting with friends and family, social distancing has become the new norm. As we slowly come into a new way of evaluating that terrain, things probably will not go back to the “norm” that we knew before. However, whether you choose to continue to work on a remote team or slowly slide back into the office (wearing your mask, armed with hand sanitizer and physically distancing yourself with an invisible hula hoop) there are some things that may make it feel a little more human while we’re all still apart.
Remote Team Communication
Let’s start with the basics. It is no new concept that communication is key, especially while working in different locations, time zones and situations. It is important to keep in mind that although we are all in this COVID storm together, we are all in different situations each day. Try to be patient, compassionate, and supportive towards each other. Here are a few communicate tips that can make the difference.
- Small Talk – Communicate clearly and let your team know where you’re at, how you are doing, what’s going on, etc. It is nice to start a meeting or call with a little friendly conversation before jumping right into business.
- They are Just Words – Remember that typing something to someone loses its context (inflection, emotion, tone, etc.). If you’re the receiver, read the message for what it is, nothing more or less. If you are the sender, re-read your statements before sending to make sure that your message is clear and think about it as the receiver.
- Ring Ring – If it’s important or you feel the message is getting lost in an email, chat or text — pick up the phone. Sometimes talking through something is much faster than the back-and-forth email thread and the sound of someone else’s voice just may lift your mood.
- Check In – Send an email or chat to a colleague, just to check in and see how they’re doing. Think of it as virtual water cooler talk. What are they watching? What home projects are they working on? What did they have for dinner? Being apart physically doesn’t mean we have to stop engaging in the people that we work with on human level.
Bring the Fun Back
In an office environment, there is a lot of collaboration: office chats and side conversations. There are still ways to connect this way with your remote team – you just have to think outside the box or add some new things into the box.
- Chats – The chat can seem a little more personalized and friendly by adding in an emoji, fun meme or a quirky gif. The personalized choice of an emoji, meme or gif sends a more relaxed message and can help lighten the mood.
- Emoji – Our team has a set of new emojis that are added to our catalog each week. They are easy to make and implement. We have had Star Wars, Easter and Cinco de Mayo themed emojis. Combine a few emojis and create pictogram puzzles.
- Happy Hours – Ah yes, who doesn’t love winding down, sitting in your pajama bottoms and clinking screens with coworkers? These simple events help shed the day-to-day work and loosen the team up a bit. It could be a lunch meet up, a Friday @5 call, or a Thirsty Thursday remote team meeting. It is a chance to engage with your team, not talk shop, feel like a modern-day version of a Hollywood Squares celebrity and transport your background to a new world.
Break That Ice
Whether you have been working with your remote team for years or you’re new to a team that’s had to go virtual, an easy way to learn something new and engage with your team is with an icebreaker. It’s also a great way to get your creative juices flowing with some original content. Some of our favorites are below.
- Get to Know You – Each team member answers three “About Me” questions. The moderator chooses one team member and others have to try to pair up the answers with a teammate.
- This or That Poll – Come up with 2 crazy things, like… dustpan hands or sweating grape jelly and take a poll. It’s great for a laugh and usually the reasoning is even funnier.
- Your Third Favorite – Everyone has their #1 favorite, but if you had to rank your third favorite color, animal, movie, etc., what would it be? It’s harder than you think, but fun nonetheless. People also end up sharing their first and second favorites along with their third.
Think Outside of the Box
Many of us have realized that the highlight of our day is just getting outside and walking away from our screens. The vitamin D, fresh air and stretching of legs gives you a chance to reboot. Below are some get-you-moving ideas to interact with your remote team.
- Picture to Prove It – We have a team group chat, and almost everyday someone shares a photo of something going on at their house, in their neighborhood or with their kids or pets. We’ve had baby squirrel discoveries, invasions of local farm animals and cute kids with bubble machines. It is a nice way to see what your team has going on and show a little light into each other’s worlds.
- Fitness Challenges – Many companies have health programs and initiatives for employees. Flex your competitive muscles in a different way with a fun fitness challenge. These are easy to set up via devices like FitBit and can also be inclusive beyond the office team.
- Playlists – Before we went into quarantine, we had office music. Within my first week of working from home, I realized that I missed that collaborative background music. We created a playlist on Spotify that people could add to and opened it up to people in other departments as well. It is a personal and engaging way to connect with the team no matter where you are working. Nothing like a little home office solo dance party to get creative juices flowing.
- Show & Tell – We’re living a very Groundhog’s Day state of mind right now and are surrounded by the same environment daily. A Show & Tell to engage coworkers and clients may just make your day feel completely different. A virtual tour of your home office, a fancy gadget you ordered, a fresh new t-shirt or a killer pair of socks could inspire someone’s day!
- Going Postal – We all feel a little crazy right? The high points of our days are becoming lunch breaks and waiting for the mail to arrive. As our days continue to be filled with screen time, try to connect on a non-digital, real life level. You could send a hand-written note, greeting card or postcard to let a teammate know that you’re thinking about them. We’ve even taken it as far as to send small fun gifts to clients to stay connected and engaged. All of which have been well received.
As our new virtual office frontier continues to be on the horizon, we take each day step-by-step. It may feel like your life is a skipping record but try taking a few moments out of a meeting to have real human-centered conversation. Go ahead, use that custom emoji way too much. Snap a photo and share it with the team and dare them to do the same. You can continue to create a strong remote team dynamic and conjure up collaboration in ways you didn’t think of and hopefully some creative responses as well. And if none of these ideas work, a punny dad joke never fails, unless your team forgets to unmute.