The sudden transition to remote work has been a complicated exercise in management, teamwork, communication, responsibility, trust and many other things. While all of those things were important in the office as well, they now occupy an even larger part of our minds.
Does my boss know how hard I’m working? Will my coworker finish their part of the project on time? Questions like these loom large in the minds of public servants working at home, who are trying to squeeze as much information as possible out of limited virtual face time with their colleagues.
Right now, understanding how to be an effective team player can be the key to feeling engaged, productive and happy with your job.
During the recent GovLoop online training, Peer Management During COVID-19, strategist, change leader and educator Dr. Deborah Smith Cook shared insights into how teams can stay strong during these difficult times. Check out her four key points below.
Trust is the foundation of a team, and it’s important for a work environment to function well.
“We’re more satisfied and engaged when working in an organization with high trust,” said Dr. Smith, adding that trust affects our productivity and professional happiness.
Obviously, a telework environment can create unique issues around trust, so it’s helpful to have strategies to deal with them should they arise.
Dr. Smith recommended asking team members to share personal stories during meetings or check-ins to create shared connections that will bolster connection.
Dependability is a major key to workplace trust, and you can practice it yourself and encourage it in others. Simply doing what you say you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it will allow your coworkers to rely on you without hesitation.
Also important is the willingness to be honest with your peers.
“It’s okay to ask your team for help,” said Dr. Smith. Try doing a regular capacity check to see how team members are doing and whether there is a way in which you can help each other out.
Finally, Dr. Smith emphasized the importance of giving others the benefit of the doubt, saying we should “assume that people are doing the best they can under the current conditions.”
“Communication can’t be an afterthought; it has to be intentional,” said Dr. Smith. Decide what information should be shared in what way—what goes on Slack, what is emailed, what requires a meeting, and so on.
Also important is considering differences in communication styles. Taking the time to find out how a colleague would like to receive information can really make a difference in your working relationship with them.
Furthermore, with the realities of remote work, communication timing is more important than ever. Let people know when you’re available or not, and consider setting up defined times like office hours when you’re available for engagement.
As people’s home and office lives blend together, you don’t want to catch them when they’re assisting a child or relative or preparing a meal, and you want to be respectful of the fact that not everyone’s remote work routine and availability will be the same. Clear communication about schedules and availability should be a priority.
Many people are currently having their first experience with remote work, and the transition may not be an easy one. One way in which you can help yourself and others is by being vocal and forthcoming about issues and snags as they arise.
Letting things progress in a way that is less than ideal will only make them harder to untangle in the end — as Dr. Smith put it, “Feedback needs to be frequent, routine and ongoing.”
This should not be a negative thing. Feedback, Dr. Smith was careful to point out, is simply a natural part of the process of moving forward and gaining more experience with this new way of working.
As a team, you can shape the behavior that you want the whole team to exhibit, and the best way to do this is through constructive feedback on the processes and expectations that govern your remote work experience.
Finally, of course, accountability is a vital part of remote work relationships. Whether that relationship is between you and your team, you and a coworker, or your office as a whole, it’s important to understand how one person’s work impacts another.
This is not about shaming people, or berating them, or even pestering them. It’s about making sure that everyone understands that teams work best together when they’re working in sync. Not being dependable is going to have an impact on the whole team, so take responsibility for your work, offer to help out when you can, and expect others to do the same.
It’s really not too different from regular, old in-an-office-work, except that sometimes your coworker’s dog wanders into the background of their video call. Appreciate those moments, appreciate each other, and you’re bound to be a cohesive, supportive and effective team.