April 10, 2020

How to Build a Culture of Connectedness while Working-From-Home

Contributed by AIM Consulting, an Addison Group Company

We are all learning our new normal – juggling working from home, kids running around, virtual communication, leading groups, all while keeping our nerves at ease. The idea of maintaining balance may seem overwhelming, but there are many tools and helpful tips that make working-from-home rewarding and productive.  

Our team of consulting leaders have collectively created our proven list of best practices that have been impactful for our teams. As industry leaders, our consultants have tried a plethora of processes and now are sharing the ones that stood up to our extensive reviews 

You can have a strong culture of connectedness while remote, here are our core requirements to make this transition a success.  

ENCOURAGE FACE TIME / CONNECTEDNESS

Humans express a lot of emotion as they are talking and engaging. Use technology to add context to what people are saying and leverage this to engage with people in their natural surroundings. Introduce family, hobbies, etc. to build a personal connection.  Remote group activities like engaging in a walking step challenge or other remote pursuits outside of daily tasks can add a lot of value. Keep the culture intact while apart to strengthen your team’s community.   

CREATE ENGAGING DAILY STAND-UP MEETINGS

We are still having our daily remote stand-up meetings with the full team, which provides outlets for people to voice challenges they’re facing. Ultimately, we aim to ensure that no one is left struggling or stewing for more than 24 hours without an outlet. This is not a tedious management meeting, it is truly a place for the group to request support, point out roadblocks, and move forward the rest of the day more effectively.   

COLLABORATIVE PLANNING TO BUILD A JOINT MISSION

Take time to plan as a team and identify effective tools that support your project goals.  It’s important that people understand the broader implications of the work they are doing so they stay energized with the overall mission that they are contributing to. 

There are many project management tools that can support your team to stay on track. With so many options on the market, our team leans towards Asana and JiraAsana is great for dependency management, spotting potential bottlenecks and avoiding situations where others are waiting to complete a project. On the other hand, we recommend Jira when the team really needs to be focused on specific tasks and utilizing a Kanban board system. It is most effective if you set up the tasks and workflows with output and cycle times. Don’t forget to use the sprint reports feature, burn-down/up charts and real-time visibility to keep your project on track.  

For developers, the word collaboration is everything. We are constantly working through new codes, ideas, and prototypes. For our team, SkitchCodePen, and GitHub help bring ideas to life. These are particularly useful for annotations, markups, and HTML/CSS or JavaScript sharing on the fly. They can also help provide real-time feedback and online hosting of new code programs. GitHub can also be great for company wikis.  

COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE

There is no such thing as over-communication during this time. We have lost the ability to meet in-person so making sure your team stays connected is important for productivity and unity. The communication that happens between teams at the office can be brought to their desktops with programs like SlackHipChat, and Teams. Communicate with teammates, share ideas, content, even a GIF or two. It is important to use a tool that works in real-time and on mobile devices. But don’t just stop with one-on-one chat messages, create a structure of community and project groups, or a full company board for important news and updates. 

As we mentioned above, we highly encourage the use of face-time tools for communicating. Web conferencing programs like Teams and Zoom are top of our list on ways to stay connected virtually. Teams is a great option when using the full slew of Microsoft Suite products, especially SharePoint for sharing and collaborating documents.  

Teams also has a feature that allows your team to blur the background during video meetings. Why is this important? Have you ever been on a conference call and a dog, child, spouse, walks behind the individual talking? The conversation is immediately pulled away. In an environment where all meetings are remote, having a blurred background keeps the conversation focused and professional. Great for interviews and client calls. 

Another web conferencing tool becoming increasingly popular is Zoom,  popular for its easy setup and usability, plus flexible cost options. The company was also praised for its generosity when CEO Eric Yuan gifted K-12 Schools with Zoom video conferencing tools to help with remote education programs. We use Zoom for organizing large groups, events, collaborative calls, and screen sharing. The dashboard is very user-friendly, great for calls outside of your organizations, and perfect for client meetings and interviews.  

No matter the video conference program you choose, keep these helpful tips in mind:  

  • If your communication tool has closed captions, turn it on.  It’s surprisingly good at capturing people far away from a microphone in group meetings. 
  • Start the call a few minutes early if you are the organizer to respect others calling in. 
  • Ask everyone that is not speaking to kindly put themselves on mute to avoid background noise. 
  • Make sure you have sent the agenda prior to the call and stick to it. 
  • Use blur background option if available.  
  • With the inability to host in-person meetings, it is important to protect yourself from eye strain and headaches. Take breaks away from your screen and avoid going from call to call. A five-minute break can do wonders for focusing your attention, process, and health.  
  • Don’t hesitate to send meeting recaps as a method of over-communication. 
  • As meetings are often back-to-back, be considerate of everyone’s time and when possible allow for a break by ending meetings five minutes early. While working in an office, breaks naturally occur. Conversely, at home, you need to walk around, build in breaks, and refocus throughout the day.  

MEASURE OUTPUTS NOT HOURS

People feeling trapped at their desks in a remote location (or your home) is almost worse than feeling trapped at your desk in an office building. Make sure that people understand expectations on productivity and allow them the freedom to contribute. Understand that circumstances are different when working remotely with families at home. Some specific hours are required to ensure people collaborate during the day, but flexibility and work/life balance should be celebrated. This will put your team at ease and create more accountability and productivity long-term.  

Encourage the team to use productivity tools that help keep everyone on task and allow for balanced schedule, a few to check out are Todoist and iDoneThisProductivity tools not only provide clarity to project deadlines but are known to create calmness for getting tasks out of your head and written down. There’s nothing better than checking each item off your to-do list…

Continue reading blog post on AIM Consulting’s website.

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