As school starts across the country and we find ourselves moving into yet another phase of working during the pandemic, the focus has shifted to acclimating to the current normal and performing at a high level in this environment.
Of course, we can’t talk about performance without talking about team engagement. Let’s face it, for the past several months’ team engagement has been tough. It’s hard to be engaged with so much uncertainty. But these months have shown remarkable resilience. Engaged teams will accomplish great things, even in the most challenging of circumstances.
As companies gear up for extended working from home periods, alternating office schedules, or a complete departure from the traditional setting in favor of a 100% remote work environment we’re sharing our favorite insights on maintaining or deepening team engagement during this current “normal.”
Ease up on video conferencing
When we don’t have the ability to see each other regularly or interact spontaneously, we lean on meetings to help us stay connected so it’s not surprising that the beginning of the pandemic saw a dramatic increase in video meetings. While these types of meetings proved helpful for team meetings, it wasn’t long before calendars were clogged with unnecessary video conference meetings and we began to experience “Zoom fatigue.”
While video conferencing has its place, it is not necessary for all meetings. Too many video calls can be exhausting and they can slow productivity.
The next time you prepare to schedule a Zoom meeting, consider if an email, chat, or regular phone call would work instead.
Even if you and your team are working remotely, it’s still important to connect with each member of your team individually. In fact, the uncertainty of the pandemic has made this type of connection more important than ever before.
Depending on the size of your team, carve out 20-30 minutes once every week or two to touch base. As a Manager or Team Lead, prepare talking points, but let your team members run their 1:1 with you. Let them know that this time is for and about them.
If you’ve never structured 1:1 meetings this way, it may take the team some time to adjust. Some team members may come without anything specific to talk about. That’s ok. Keep those time slots on the calendar and use it as an opportunity to continue to nurture the relationship. Also-keep some talking points handy.
Remember professional development!
Not only are 1:1 meetings important for connection and keeping a pulse on how team members are doing, but they’re also important to the continuation of professional development activities.
Review professional development plans with team members regularly. Even though we’re in the midst of a pandemic, professional development is still vital for growth and engagement. Help team members take advantage of the virtual conferences and courses that are available right now. Many virtual conferences have reduced their pricing; other online offerings are available for a very small investment. Virtual coaching opportunities are also widely available.
Be creative about helping team members connect with others in the organization for mentor opportunities or simply to expand their knowledge about other areas of the company.
Don’t forget about team activities
While we’re all adapting to the current “normal” we’re seeking out normalcy and routine in any place we can find it. Connection with the team is part of that. Pre-pandemic, we were accustomed to team rituals like doughnut Fridays, sales meetings on Tuesdays, or even yearly retreats. Many of those rituals have all been disrupted in some capacity.
To maintain some degree of routine, keep those Tuesday sales meetings, even if they look different than they used to. If you were planning a team retreat, restructure it to a virtual event. For team lunches, have lunch delivered to the homes of those working remotely. Companies are doing virtual game nights to keep their social connection. Not only is it a lot of fun, but it also keeps some sense of the workplace and team community.
Flexibility & Boundaries
This current normal has also seen an uptick in employee productivity. This is in part related to less commuting, fewer lunch and coffee meetings, etc. Increased productivity is also related to the fact that our working and personal lives have become blurred. The workday has become longer. It’s become easier to check messages and get that last email out at 10 pm because the laptop is open and sitting on the dining room table.
To adapt to this environment, employers have become increasingly flexible. It’s easier now to schedule a doctor’s appointment, to pick up a few groceries, or to meet with the kids’ teacher as it is less of a disruption to the workday. To compensate for this, the workday has been extended.
While flexibility is great, it’s important for managers and leaders to set expectations and boundaries around working hours and how the work is getting done so that everyone is on the same page and that team members don’t experience burn out.
Some teams have “team time” every day for a few hours. This is the time where team members are engaged in chats, collaborative projects, and the team is expected to be responsive. There is also a designated time for independent work. Some teams are moving toward a model that focuses on output instead of time. Help your team determine what works best and help create the right blend of flexibility and boundaries around that approach.
If you’d like more information on how to keep your teams engaged, contact our experts at Pathfinder Strategies at email@example.com or by phone at (888) 529-0240.