4 Ways Teams Can Stay Connected in a Socially Distanced World

With the initial shift for many Australians completed, teams are starting to settle in to working from home. And team leaders are starting to ask us, how can teams stay connected when distance is the new normal? In the following article we share 4 ways team Churchill are staying connected in this new socially distanced world.

As humans we are designed to live in community. At its simplest, community is all about sharing; sharing the same environment, sharing interests, sharing beliefs and sharing needs. When we are disconnected from a shared community, we see engagement levels decrease and loneliness increase.

So, for any leader the best approach is to give your team a shared focus and experience.

Here are 4 ways remote teams can stay connected…

  • Focus Matters

Photo by Paul Skorupskas on Unsplash

It is important that you give your team a shared focus, no matter their location. And even more, that you have intentionally designed this focus.

Put simply, your job is to bring the team together. Set the goals, set the theme for this time and give the team something to share.

In challenging times, this is more important than ever.

For Churchill, we have been focused on these key points:

  • Control what we can control. Hold faith for the rest We have developed plans for operating in this unusual time and shared these plans openly with our team. We are controlling what we can control.We include in this that we can control our attitudes and customer service focus.We have set common goals around serving our clients consistently and we are measuring our success as a team.This has given us a positive shared focus rather than letting the uncertainty of COVID-19 dominate our team’s focus.
  • Using common language internally and externallyWe made the decision that our language matters. We have always found that some words are better words to hang out with.For example, the word “uncertain” was not helping us at all. So, we have parted ways in favour of “interesting” and “unusual”. In context, these are interesting and unusual times.And we are not entertaining despairing words like “disastrous” or “catastrophic”. Instead, we are choosing “challenging” because we always rise to a challenge.
  • Choosing to look for the best and be the best We realised quickly if we looked for the worst in people, we would quickly find it.Instead, as a team we have decided that this is the best of times to see the best in people.We have agreed to believe that people are doing the best they can with the resources they have, including us. To help, we are focusing on our own behaviour and attitudes by bringing the best each of us have.And when we do bump into someone in the world whose behaviour makes us shake our heads, we have agreed on a common mantra: “you can’t help stupid.” It helps us laugh and move on fast!
  • Rituals Matter

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Every team has rituals – behaviours that give the whole team certainty about how we operate together and reinforce our identity.

For a Work From Home team, the simplest and most effective ritual to implement is a daily team gathering.

Team Churchill has a morning team gathering that kicks off at 9am each day. We call it “On the Line at Nine”. Everyone is on video and we spend 10 – 20 minutes depending on what we are sharing that day.

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We have other rituals that matter to us – such as a Slack thread each day for morning greetings and banter and celebrating work anniversaries and birthdays.

We are holding firm to those regardless of where we are physically located. Staying true to the things that matter most to your team will give your team certainty in a time where much has been changing.

  • Bridging the Physical Gap Matters

Photo by Álvaro Serrano on Unsplash

Here’s some practical solutions for bridging the physical gap in a virtual world through the power of sharing.

  • Talk MoreThis is not the time to lean on emails or text messages. Pick up the phone or video call your team and do it often. So much of our connection happens incidentally through our working days ordinarily – because we are physically sharing a space. Make time to add in extra communication so your team hear from you personally and regularly. And while you are talking to them, resist the urge to tap out other words. The sound of that tapping tells the listener loud and clear that your focus is on someone or something else, not them. Even if it is a 2 minute chat, make it count by giving your team genuine connection.
  • Share Screens Don’t just speak to the void – speak with purpose to common work by sharing your screen and working live together. Just remember to tidy up for visitors before you let someone else into your virtual home – disable notifications and close off sensitive files.
  • Walk for your One-on-OnesWe were speaking with one of Churchill’s Alumni, Claire Baines (General Manager of Hands Across the Water) last week and she mentioned she has turned her one-on-one meetings into walking One-on-Ones. Sure, the meetings are conducted on the telephone but both Claire and her team member are getting out and about for a stroll. Funny thing was that this was something Churchill has done in our individual sessions – but for some reason, it hadn’t occurred to us to keep it up in the days of social distancing. Great for mental health, great for unlocking good brain chemistry outdoors.
  • Dial Up, Order InIf you would ordinarily do a catered team meeting, then consider dialling up for some home delivery. Pizza anyone?
  • Theme DaysLaughter and lighthearted engagement buoys team spirits. Last week, our team had a Hawaiian day – we all dug something out of the wardrobe for a little Hawaiian fun. Some of the team sat by the family pool or a palm tree in the backyard to give that Hawaiian vibe. Our friends at Pragmatic Thinking did a Hi-Vis theme day. Next on our list is a Mad Hatters Day and then a Below the Desk Day where we dress for work above the waist and Casual Friday below the waist.
  • Send a Personalised Postcard or a CardA picture paints a thousand words so organise a personalised postcard or card with a photo through Touchnote. Even better, it can work from your home. Take a screen grab of a team meeting (especially on a theme day) and then send a personal message in the post to your team across Australia in 2 to 4 days. You buy packs of credits and the postcard/card (including postage) will cost between $2.22 – $3.99 making it a low-cost way to show you care.
  • Light-hearted SurprisesEven adults enjoy a fun surprise, so we have two low cost options to inject a little light heartedness into a colleague’s day:
    • Send a Showbag – yes, you can send a $5 showbag (plus postage) to a team member. Chuppa Chups for all! Or for those who hold a soft spot for a Bertie Beetle, you can order here for $6 (plus postage).
    • • Send a Hooray from one of Australia’s best known clowns – Dagwood (from Peebo & Dagwood) will create a personalised video for $20.
  • Schedule a WorkoutTake a break with a free online exercise session: whether it is yoga or a strength session, there are a range of great options available. You may even have a team member happy to lead the way on this one by setting up a team challenge.
  • Queue Up Start a channel that shares recommendations for programs to watch, books to read and podcasts to listen to and see the chatter follow. Currently, the team at Churchill are watching Ozark, The Outsiders and Limitless. We are reading “Untamed” and the Robert Galbraith series. And we are listening to No Filter and Chat 10 Looks 3.
  • Establish Dedicated Threads for Sharing Things that MatterWe make sure we have different virtual rooms to pop into through our Slack channels. From #getting_social, to #success_stories and #lunch_room, you can have spaces where we can still hear about all of the usual team chatter that would happen in the course of the working day.
  • Social ClubWho said Friday arvo drinks are a thing of the past? Shut down your computer and set up a Zoom call on your phone. Then head outside to a comfy chair with your favourite drink in hand for a few laughs. Who knows, there may even be a trivia comp on the go and you may win a virtual meat tray!
  • Mental Health Matters

Photo by Keegan Houser on Unsplash

Remember, good mental health is vital to navigating challenging times. Sometimes to maintain good mental health, we need a helping hand. Be sure to remind your team that there is help available – both from you backing them up and external services.

Highlight your Employee Assistance Program, and make links to support services such as Beyond Blue easy to find. For parents home schooling their children and supporting their children through COVID-19, Kids Help Line are a great service for parents and kids.

As a team, free mindfulness exercises or meditation sessions can also be helpful.

Finally, whether you are working from home or in an office together, an effective and connected team is always going to be your company’s greatest strength.

As a leader, building a connected team should always be one of our Key Performance Indicators – no matter how unusual and interesting the time we are living through.

Stay Safe,

Tricia Velthuizen

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