If you’re reading this, chances are you and your team are all stuck at home just like I am while we wait out this coronavirus pandemic. Our responsibilities haven’t changed, just our work setting. However, it’s easy for communication to slip to the wayside while your team is separated.
Instead of seeing this as an obstacle to your work, why not use this opportunity to strengthen your team’s communication?
That’s why I’ve put together four simple tips that you can use to boost communication and even team morale while we whittle away at our tasks and projects from the solitude of our homes.
Tip #1: Create communication guidelines for your team
Communication and clarity go hand-in-hand. Establishing a communication plan with your team which establishes guidelines, hours of availability, and meeting schedules weeds out many of the potential pitfalls of remote communication.
Since you’re no longer working in a face-to-face environment at the office, a communication plan will safeguard your team from unnecessary conflict stemming from unknown expectations and violated boundaries.
No one wants to see important emails coming in at three in the morning or feel as though they must be available at all hours of the day.
These guidelines ought to be accessible through a centralized document that is sent out to all team members. This document should include expected hours of availability, scheduled times for meetings, and any other considerations to keep in mind.
Working remotely due to this virus means blending your home life with your work life. Not everyone is used to this situation, and if they aren’t ready for it, not having a communication plan can leave the door open for conflicts, resentment, and stress within your team.
Tip #2: Adopt a team collaboration tool(s)
Sure, it’s possible to manage all of your team communication through phone calls and emails, but that’s not the most effective way to keep everyone on track and in the loop.
We’ve all been there with important information lost in email threads and dealing with the nightmares of conference calls. Collaboration software is the perfect way to manage your team, host written communication, and either schedule or host video conference calls.
Team chat software lets you send direct messages, create chat groups, and some will even help you host video conferences. And many project management tools will give you the ability to track tasks and manage workflows.
The tools you choose will depend on the needs of your team, but if you can only afford one, I’d highly recommend that you go with a team chat application.
The ability to hold video conference calls with your team is an invaluable tool for catching up with everyone and discussing complex projects coming down the road, which leads me to tip number three.
Tip #3: Hold weekly virtual meetings
While direct messages and chat groups are sufficient to conduct most of your team meetings, there’s nothing quite like getting some face time with your team.
Weekly virtual meetings over a video conference are the perfect (and currently, only) way to get that time in while everyone is holed up in their houses and apartments.
Virtual meetings not only give you and your team the opportunity to freely discuss issues and ideas in an open format, but you get the added benefits of reading facial expressions and body language.
This is very important in order to give content to specific statements, especially when discussing new ideas. While the addition of emojis to chat functions helps give context to the intention of statements, video calls will help prevent any misunderstandings that come up from misunderstood messages.
Take it from someone who works from home more often than not, even when a virus is shutting down society as we know it. Video meetings help provide clarity where normal chat functions are prone to ambiguity in terms of intentions and emotions.
Tip #4: Don’t make everything about work
This tip is more important than ever. Right now all of the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 is bound to unsettle all of us at some point. That’s why it’s important to try to make some of your team communications about something other than work.
Even if it’s just a check-in to see how everyone is holding up, showing your employees or teammates that you care about them outside of just the confines of work is very comforting.
It doesn’t even have to be a check-in message or call. Why not try something fun like hosting a happy hour call with your team complete with games, beer, wine, and good conversation.
The importance of team building doesn’t go out the window just because of a virus. Perhaps a fun group video chat is exactly what your team needs during this time. Whatever you do, make sure you break up all of the work discussion every once in a while with some fun topics or simple check-ins.
Quarantine isn’t ideal, but it doesn’t have to be terrible
Nothing is for certain right now, especially a timetable for when we can all expect to head back into the office. These four tips are a solid foundation to start building a remote communication structure that’ll lead to an even greater bond once this is all over.
In the meantime, The Blueprint is continuously publishing COVID-19 specific content that SMBs can use to make the best of this situation. Our aim is to continue to provide the answers you’re looking for.