Many of us are now working remotely from our own homes as we quarantine due to the COVID19 pandemic. If you’re someone who’s used to socialising face to face with your colleagues, you may find it hard to adjust to working in an isolated environment. Also, if you or your company has no experience in remote work, the transition can be pretty tough.
Communication, whether in the office or virtually, is key to achieving your business goals and human connection is so important, especially at a time like this. But, how do you make it work when a pandemic keeps your team at home and you're not used to remote collaboration? Here are a few tips from our team on how to stay connected when you're working remotely.
If you’re not aware, our team (lovingly referred to as the #nerdherd) is spread across three different countries. Our HQ is in Brisbane, Australia but we also have team members in Auckland, New Zealand and Clark, Philippines. With this in mind, it’ll probably be obvious that most of our communication is done remotely anyway. Our organisation runs many facets of the business remotely and our whole team is well-equipped and experienced in virtual collaboration.
However, it wasn’t always like that. It definitely took time to find the right collaboration tools and best practises to reduce the barriers once posed by the distance between our team members. With this experience under our belt, we'd love to share with you how our team effectively communicates and collaborates in a remote work environment - quarantine or no quarantine - and hopefully it helps you over the coming months with these enforced changes in working conditions.
Dedicate Time for a Daily Catchup
As mentioned, our team has been remotely collaborating with the use of Microsoft Teams even before the outbreak. But as everyone has moved into home offices, the #nerdherd has been using our remote collaboration tools now more than ever.
One thing that we do to keep track of everyone’s welfare is conducting a daily 'morning huddle' via video call on Microsoft Teams at 9am every day. Every member of the team has a turn discussing their wins and blockers for the day. These might not all necessarily be work related, but gives each person the opportunity to share what's working and what challenges they might be facing - especially when working from home. We really love our morning call and there are usually lots of laughs along the way. It's a great way to connect on a daily basis.
Have a bit of fun along the way and create some themes. Maybe one day of the week is Bring a Pet Day or Fun Shirt Friday. Perhaps you could even have virtual Happy Hour on a Friday afternoon, or get together for a social trivia, yoga session or virtual dance party. Don't let the fact that you're not physically together stop you from having fun together.
Scheduling a video call is a simple set up on Microsoft Teams. You can schedule via your Outlook calendar, invite the whole team, and then set it to be a recurring appointment so you won't have to go back again to set it up each day. Our daily huddle has helped the #nerdherd in so many ways during this time of community quarantine and we’re sure it would work wonders for your team too.
Regular Video Calls
With the chat function available in Teams (or your chat function of choice), it can be easy to ask questions and connect via typed messages. But don't underestimate the power of having a quick face to face conversation with a member (or multiple members) of your team to thrash out some ideas or check progress on a project, or just see how they are. They don't always have to be scheduled calls for a particular timeslot - just jump on a call straight from your chat window by clicking on the phone or video buttons on the top right.
Social Media for your Business
We're all pretty reliant on social media these days, and another way to stay connected with your team is to have your own internal social media channel. A private Facebook group would be one way to do this, but if you have Office 365, you'll have access to Yammer - which is a more secure and private social media platform for your internal crew.
In Yammer, you can create groups for specific teams (e.g. Marketing), write posts, engage with posts, share files and links, make announcements, follow your favourite workmate and more. You can use Yammer on your desktop or via an app on your mobile device. It can be set up so you receive an email notification every time a new post is added to the site. Discover how you can use Yammer in your own way to connect and collaborate with your team.
Have a Weekly Roundup
While daily catchups with the full team are great, another idea we have embraced is to collate updates from throughout the week and put them into one email to send out at the end of each week - a company newsletter of sorts. It is a valuable way for the leaders of the business to be directly in touch and transparent with the entire team, highlight what THEY see as current issues, priorities and wins, and publicly recognise staff members. In our organisation, Ben and Annie send out a Friday Roundup each week that highlights the main points, achievements, challenges and photos from the week, and the whole team looks forward to the recap.
Create Dedicated Channels for Communication
It is important in communication that you’re reaching out to the right people and not just shouting generic messages to everyone, as that's a sure fire way to have people disengage and then perhaps miss important messages. Before starting a discussion, you should first consider who your audience is.
One way of doing this is to group together specific members of your team who have the same interests or set of goals. For example, our IT Helpdesk team has their own chat room where they can talk about helpdesk related topics. Our Marketing and Finance teams have their own channels too. We can also separate our teams into geographical location, or people who are working on the same projects. The options are endless (although, you don't want the number of channels to get out of control either 😉).
In Microsoft Teams, you can create and customise multiple Teams Channels which will then serve as a medium of communication within certain groups. Once you have your topic channels set up, you can start to collaborate on a specific subject and not worry about confusing the rest of the team that aren’t involved in the conversation. You can also share files and host video calls that are relevant to a certain Teams Channel and not have it accessible outside the group.
Whether working in an office or at home, having great communication across a team is essential to keeping everyone connected, as well as the growth and continuity of a business. We hope the above ideas give you a starting point for ways you can keep your team connected at this time when we aren't able to connect in person.
If you have questions about any of the Microsoft products mentioned in this article or about the best practices for business continuity in a state of emergency, don’t hesitate to reach out. Or if you have some extra time on your hands and want to take a deep dive into Microsoft Teams with us, click on the link below to access our on-demand webinar.
Are you ready to get solutions that drive positive change to your business? Reach out to us to know more about how we can build these solutions together.