The 10 Best Practices For Successful Suddenly Remote Teams
Previously published on Forbes.com
Like many of you, most of my clients have had their co-located teams suddenly become remote teams in the previous month(s). Through guiding my clients and their teams to a successful new iteration of effective remote teaming, I’ve found these are the 10 most crucial things to get right for both great individual and team experiences of newly remote teams.
1. Set aside time with your team to create your new ground rules or set of agreements. Whereas before, people could poke their head into your office or catch you after a meeting, now your team will need to agree on new behavioral norms. Here are some questions, not an exhaustive list, to think about with your teams:
• How can you flag someone’s attention so it’s not just one of many emails?
• How can people signal when they’re “working and available” versus when they might be taking off time to shop before the stores are crazy, take a walk or homeschool their kids?
• What are your joint expectations of dress and/or camera readiness?
• What hours are off-limits for meetings? Many workplaces are mandating a 12-1 p.m. no-meeting rule so people can take a computer break and go for a walk.
• What turnaround time can people expect for emails? IMs/texts?
• What days/hours are “after hours” when people aren’t expected to respond so they can truly go offline?
2. Create a daily huddle routine. Ideally, it lasts no more than 15 minutes. It could be first thing in the day, right before lunch or even in the late afternoon, focused on checking in and problem-solving. Make sure everyone has a chance to briefly ask a couple of standard questions to check in on stress levels and what help/resources anyone currently needs. Then have one question that varies, depending on what’s happening at work or in the world. These huddles might move to every other day as things change less rapidly.
3. As a leader, find innovative ways to communicate with your team. It’s better to overcommunicate rather than undercommunicate right now. Be as transparent as you can be; you want to talk about what you know now, as well as what the gaps of uncertainty are.
4. Find new ways to mentor your team. One idea is weekly online office hours where you stay in a video room, and anyone from your team can drop in and ask questions.
5. Find ways to build fun rituals and connection into your teams that allow people to laugh together. Many people miss their office social lives.
• Your team could have fun Fridays, share-a-silly-meme day, play jackbox.tv together, wear-your-favorite-PJs days, online birthday parties, etc.
• Also take time to remind people of your shared purpose together. Why did you start working at this organization, and why do you all stay?
6. Make sure you check in regularly with your colleagues on what they are dealing with. Many people have new issues, from elderly relatives or young children at home all day to loneliness and isolation. It’s important to know enough of people’s other concerns to be able to appropriately support them at work, too.
7. Find ways to connect beyond your primary work team. Many people are finding it’s easy to connect with their team but harder to connect cross-functionally. What can you put in place to learn from what’s working for other teams and offer them resources where your team might be stronger now?
8. Create agreements with your ‘home team’ as well. What hours are you working and unavailable to those you’re living at home with? When are you willing to play a game, have lunch or talk through a homework assignment? What actually constitutes a “home emergency” (e.g., maybe not that the Netflix is freezing or there’s no milk)?
9. Make sure you prioritize sanity. Regular routines that can help include walks outside, workouts, closing the computer and having off-hours, regular sleep schedules and social/fun time. This is a marathon, not a sprint.
10. Do regular team post-mortems. Make sure to weekly (or at least biweekly) conduct an after-action review of the past week.
• What’s working well that we need to continue?
• What agreements do we have that are no longer working or helpful?
• What new agreements or processes do we need that we don’t yet have?
The teams I’ve worked with have found that this post-mortem practice is the most important of the practices to keep in mind. The world will change. Your team will change. Regularly revisiting what’s working and what’s not will help your team remain strong, no matter what is shifting in the world around you.