ABC news reporter Will Reeve appeared on Good Morning America sans pants – not realizing the audience had a full view. Non-profit department head Lizet Ocampo shared that her boss “turned herself into a potato on our Microsoft teams meeting and can’t figure out how to turn the setting off.”  The UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted the Zoom code to his cabinet meeting to the general public.

It’s safe to say that we’re all adjusting to the full-staff remote work set-up that COVID-19 has forced on us. Remote and freelance workers that were previously able to focus in a quiet house or co-working space are dealing with a full house of young e-learners. Team members who thrived on in-person feedback and spontaneous brainstorming are finding the isolation of remote work paralyzing. And obviously, we’re all a bit thrown by having to conduct our meetings online.

With no concrete end to COVID-19 in sight, leaders need to be proactive about making remote teams as effective, or more effective, than they were in-house. A big part of this is ensuring that your team productivity and company culture remain intact.

Keep Productivity Alive

Remote work isn’t a new concept. Forbes shares that “70% of full-time employees work remotely at least one day per week, according to a 2018 research study from Switzerland-based serviced office provider IWG”. However, evacuating the entire office into a remote work situation is an abrupt transition. Teams accustomed to tightly scheduled workdays may find the move especially frustrating. 

1. Maintain Structure With Clear Expectations

The Marketo blog Remote Working 101/Survival Kit Remote Employees Need To Succeed says, “While you don’t want to seem overbearing and draconian, setting boundaries is essential for ensuring you get the results you want. Your team should have set deliverables, and they should be manageable and in line with what you’d expect from on-site employees.” Uphold some of the traditional structure of your onsite workday while allowing your team the flexibility they need to make their unique work from home situation successful. 

2. Reinforce Good Work

Acknowledging employees who are staying on track and rewarding those who surpass expectations is more important than ever when you have a remote team. The approving nods or mentions made in a team meeting – all these things are lost when we work remotely. Taking the time to send an email or highlight an accomplishment during a video chat will reinforce productivity in a positive way.

3. Keep Creativity Alive

Nothing kills a creative brainstorming session faster than a scheduled meeting with an agenda. Creative thinkers need spontaneous interaction in a safe space in order to bounce ideas back and forth before formal discussion. Utilizing Slack, and apps like it, give your team a way to connect immediately when inspiration strikes.

When larger brainstorming sessions are needed, online whiteboards like Miro recreate the conference room session your team might be accustomed to. It’s a close experience to the in-person experience of riffing on an idea.

Keep Your Company Culture Alive

Chances are you’ve invested a lot of time and thought into your organization’s culture. It will take a deliberate and conscious effort to keep your organization’s culture alive when everyone is working within their own personal home-based culture.

1. Leave space for personal connection

While it’s important to keep online meetings and emails focused and on-task, allow some time for casual conversation. People are lonely and your team is no exception. Taking a minute to ask everyone how they are raises the energy level of meetings and emails by reminding employees that they are part of something larger than the tasks before them.

2. Maintain a sense of humor

Interruptions will happen during online meetings. Hopefully, no one gets a pantsless eyeful – but expect pets to bark, spouses to walk by and kids to interject. Your facial expressions will convey a great deal, and set the tone of the conversation. By reacting without disapproval, and then quickly redirecting your team back to the agenda you’ll foster a healthy remote culture.

3. Ensure your team has the tools and connectivity they need

Laptops, internet connections, and courier service might not seem like they are part of your company culture but they are. Remember your first day on the job and how exciting it was to set up your work space? Got used to that pretty fast. But when it’s gone you realize how much having everything at hand contributed to your outlook. Employees that are unable to complete their work because they don’t have the same resources at home will become frustrated and angry. Especially, if the burden for funding remote supplies lies 

How has your organization been fostering productivity, collaboration, and keeping your culture alive in 2020?

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