Working remotely, or working from home can be lonely and isolating, especially for those who love the noise and companionship of working in an office. But remote working can be fun and effective.
Whether in the office together, or working remotely, communication is key to team work. We have so many options for ways to communicate remotely, and it's good to use a range to suit the needs of your team:
Email is still the established means of communicating with colleagues, but increasingly, instant messaging (IM) is being used for quick informal chats. One of the great things about Microsoft Teams is that it integrates with so many other Microsoft products and apps, and it includes chat as well as video calls. (It is free for individual use) If you have a quick question to ask a colleague, IM is much better for those quick chats. Alternatives include WhatsApp or Slack, and many task management tools like Bitrix (brilliant free tool for team working, and task management) or Monday.com (not free). There are more listed in this blog. The options for Video calls have also increased, with Zoom emerging as the clear favourite (free for personal use, up to 40 minutes with 3 people) Microsoft Teams has a good video conferencing option, which is far more stable than Skype. This blog rates the best current options, giving pricing information.
'Zoom Fatigue' is a real thing, and spending hours in online calls is exhausting. One of the tricks to using tech is not to replicate the old ways of doing things in a new medium, but rather to find new ways of achieving the same goals. Cutting meetings down to bare essentials is an important way of avoiding exhaustion from long online meetings. Updates and papers can always be circulated ahead of time rather than long presentations in an online meeting. In one of our team meetings, we're planning a competition for the 'most creative background - real or virtual' for a bit of team fun.
Email can also be used creatively and more effectively. I like to send out weekly 'bulletins' that will include a round up of news and information, tools or resources for the team; reminders; achievements by individuals and the team, and include a bit of fun, from quizzes to cartoons to inspirational thoughts and memes. They tend to be well received, and have a good response from the team.
Working in an office, we share a little more of ourselves. People have of course seen into our homes with video calls, but we don't have the pin boards or communal desk spaces or the chance to chat over a cuppa. But there are virtual ways to do a lot of this.
Creating a virtual pinboard: Google Sites is one of the easiest, fastest ways to create an webpage for your team, where they can share pictures of children and pets, or post comments etc. Other options include Padlet, or Scoop.it which are free for individual use. One of the ones that has been around longest is Pinterest - a great tool for saving stuff you find online. Recently, we put together a map of 'where in the world team members come from,' and a baby picture competition, where people had to guess who is the baby in the picture.
- Team building - a new industry has grown around providing virtual team building events, but many of these are not free. This site has some brilliant options, if you have a budget. However, with some creativity, and video conferencing, teams can do a lot together, such as:
- Virtual pub quizzes: Invite the team to bring their favourite tipple to your usual conferencing site, pick teams and a quiz master, and use a site like Random Trivia Generator or Trivia (which integrates with Teams). If each team pays a small fee, the winning team can take the pot.
- Team coffee breaks / book groups etc. Take the coffee break or book group into an online venue, and have chat with your colleagues over a cuppa.
These sites also provide ideas and links to team building exercises. Do check the Terms and Conditions though, as not all of the sites are free
- Virtual Team building exercises (Free from Mind Tools)
- 51 Fun virtual team building activities
- 57 virtual team building activities, games & ideas
Working in isolation can be tough, but including some virtual activities can help. See which of these ideas work for your team.