Maintaining teams during isolation

One of the big developments for workplaces in the COVID-19 crisis is remote working. Whether people are forced apart through self-isolation, cancelled travel plans or workplace closures, businesses large and small have been planning for staff to work remotely where they can.

Our Shine team regularly work remotely: we work across two regional offices (in Rotorua and Tauranga) and travel to work with clients across the country. Many of us also have children, which regularly requires working from home during school holidays and teacher only days. So we’ve had some practice!

Here are some of our tips to maintain team unity and productivity when you’re not all in the same place:

  1. Daily check-ins.

When everyone’s together, your team might not bother with a daily update, but when you’re not all in one place it’s a useful way to maintain team unity.

We find a quick daily ‘9 at 9’ (nine minutes at 9am) by phone or Skype/Facetime is genuinely valuable for keeping everyone informed and track.

For longer periods of isolation, it’s also worth considering checking in at the other end of the day too. Of course, regular check-ins shouldn’t be scheduled, but for some people, it’s a reassurance to have that extra quick meeting in their diary each day.

2. Professionalism isn’t everything.

One of the reasons people enjoy coming to work is the chance to chat with team-mates. Office banter contributes to team culture, morale and engagement but when you’re working remotely it can be harder to maintain.

When we’re apart, we call each other just to say ‘hi’ and use Facebook Messenger to chat about non-work matters to help stay connected. Other useful (and fun) ‘social’ tools include Facebook Groups, Whatsapp and Snapchat. 

Don’t forget the human aspect when you’re working from home!

3. Share the load.

The ebbs and flow of weekly (and daily) workloads are easier to divide up among a team when you’re all in the same place. When we are working apart it’s tougher to see who is overloaded and who wants more work.

At Shine, we’re not embarrassed to say, “I’m light” or “I’m swamped”, and that makes a big difference in keeping the team culture healthy and meeting our deadlines.

For managers, workflow management tools are useful, and just checking in.

4. Honesty is vital.

When you’re face-to-face with your team, it’s easy to pick up who’s feeling tired, down or stressed. It’s harder to pick up the cues when you’re emailing, or even by phone or Skype.

At Shine, when we’re worried, distracted or struggling, we let each other know what’s happening, and make the necessary accommodations. It’s better for the team – and the business – to have an accurate idea of what’s going on with everyone. And it means we can keep delivering top-notch work for our fabulous clients!

5. Ensure employees have access to mental health support.

Despite all the support you have available to your teams, some may feel isolated, struggling with being absent from a normal routine or even just concerned about themselves or their families.

Many employers have confidential employee assistance programmes available. Make sure your teams are aware of the services available and remind them that someone is there to listen should they want to reach out.