With many people transitioning from the office to home or from infrequently in the office to permanently in the home, what are some ways to ensure collaborating, connecting, and networking with each other? Here are some ideas to help you.
Why is this important?
It is important that people feel supported and connected with others. We can all do quite a bit by ourselves, but we do even better when we collobrate with others. We are better than the sum of our parts. Technology is important, but it too has its limitations. Feeling in on things and being tied to others helps bring a sense of esprit de corps. This provides a chance to feel pride and honor with being a member of this team.
At first this may not seem like an issue, because this may be thought of as temporary. Do any of us really know? What is the new normal? The longer this goes on, the more some may develop a perspective of isolation. We need to stay involved. We need to be in contact and know what is going on with others. Collaborating with others is important.
This blog site is all about overcoming conflict with collaboration to help people work better together. There are over 75 blog articles on different topics related to collaboration. The Collaboration Effect® is all about connecting relationships, listening actively, and educating judiciously to build bridges and negotiate closure. However, when people become isolated without a concerted effort there is less connecting with one another.
When we are by ourselves, we might multitask with something else when listening to a call-in session with the team. We might not take the time to educate others, or they may not be as interested in listening to what you have to say. We each have our own problems to worry about. So, how do you stay connected?
Set up a specific time periodically (weekly?) for the team to come together. This could be an audio call in session. Check out a service like freeconferencecall.com or use your employer’s system. Consider going to a virtual meeting session with something like Zoom, Web Meeting, GoToMeeting, etc. and many others. This site offers over 150 alternatives with over 60 that are free. Personally, I use Zoom a lot with vendors, and I find it easy to use.
Prepare an agenda ahead of time. Consider asking for input from others for the meeting. Send it out well before the meeting (at least a day). This gives participants time to think about topics before the session. If participants have a given role or assignment make sure that is clear with expectations identified ahead of the meeting. To assist members, develop some ground rules for the meeting. Work with team members to develop the ground rules.
Address Concern Areas
Set up a time to address “dog cases”, obstacles, or various concerns. This type of meeting would likely be less often. Perhaps once every two weeks. Discuss what is working well and best practices as well as what are concerns and share ideas to overcome various barriers. Don’t just let these go. Rather have follow ups with who will do what by when. Have action items and continue to focus on improvements.
Communication Ground Rules
Have ground rules related to communication in general. For example, if after two emails back and forth on a topic, pick up the phone and call the other party. This can help alleviate questions or concerns in real time. Every email needs to be responded to every (you decide… 4 hours, 8 hours, 24 hours). Urgent emails should be responded to within 4 hours. Voice mails must be responded to within (you decide again). When you are on the phone with anyone, give the call your undivided attention. No multitasking. Practice active listening by summarizing, paraphrasing asking open ended questions and empathizing with others. Focus by giving your undivided attention.
Determine how often written updates need to be obtained from others. For example, once a week, twice a week, or daily. Determine what a written update should look like for uniformity and clarity. Make the first ones a test and see what works. Then modify if necessary.
Force yourself to get up and move every two hours or so. Even walking around the house or your apartment. Make yourself get up and go for a walk. Move. The key is to give your body and mind a break. Consider exercising as part of a normal routine at home. Start slow. Here are some great ideas from WebMD. This will help you better focus.
Be Patient Be Kind
As overall commentary, keep in mind that when we are stressed, we tend to be less patient and may even lash out towards others. Remember to be gentle on the people and tough on the problem. With what is going on currently, others may have personal issues, be scared, have loved ones impacted, and could even be panicked. They could have sick family members. Practice compassion, caring kindness and consideration. Be there to help and be a friend. Keep in mind at some point you will be getting back together physically. The bonds you make now by practicing positive support will bring you together closer in the future.
We tend think that whatever we are experiencing won’t go away. We are changing, but there will be times when we can physically come together again. When you do have a physical get together, remember to let the introverts have their space too. You might have a group lunch, but then don’t expect everyone to go out for dinner. Give everyone their proper space.
These are some ideas for you and your team. Every team is different. Hopefully these will provide you enough initial thoughts so that you can individualize ideas here for your own situation. If you have other ideas you want to share with me, I welcome your thoughts too. We all do better when we all do better. Hang in there. Be safe and be well, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.