Ok, so we’re more than a week into self-isolation and the novelty is starting to wear off. Around the world, videos of people using sock puppets to eat cars and singing together from their balconies are going viral.
But beyond the laughs and catchy content, there’s a serious question for businesses about how to keep employees motivated and run effective virtual meetings and activities with their teams, so they can still make progress while working from home. Here are a few tips to help.
No matter what your business does, communication with your people is key right now.
With each passing moment, what we know about the spread of COVID-19 and the restrictions on life as we know it in countries around the world can change. That’s why staying in touch with your team and sharing your business’ information and response to it as soon as you can is a vital part of keeping everyone safe and together during this really tough time.
Jump on any social media channel and you’ll see the number of people staying in touch with their teams using conference calls or video chats is up exponentially — an estimated jump of 40% in internet use compared to January. We want to give a shout out to SaaS platforms like GoToMeeting, Zoom and Slack — which we all use at Planday — who are literally helping millions of people, including us, do their jobs from home.
But while the way we work has changed, keeping in touch and running a good meeting is as important as ever.
1. Check in on your team every day
These are crazy and unpredictable times and while we’re all bunkered down at home there’s more to life than the change in our working environment. Keeping in touch with your team and caring for their mental health and balance is every bit as important as measuring the productivity and success of the tasks they have to complete. Start every day with a catch-up call.
Maybe you’ve got a person in your team whose kids are not at school and finds getting the job done a challenge or lives in perpetual fear of them bursting into the conference call like that famous interview on the BBC a few years ago. Or maybe your team has an extrovert who’s now living alone struggling with the lack of contact with the outside world. These are all very real and very normal human reactions, and there are many mental health charities and support agencies that have stepped up their ability to help right now.
Checking in on people everyday with a simple “are you ok?” can go a long way to making sure your best asset — your people — can bounce back from the challenge of the coronavirus and make your business even stronger on the other side.
2. Video conferencing is better than teleconferencing
Like we said before, the SaaS companies which are helping the world connect from home at the moment are doing an awesome job keeping everyone connected and informed. But it also got us thinking about how to interact effectively with others when you’re not together physically — and how important video conferencing is versus a teleconference.
By using platforms that have video, you can see people’s reactions in real time, conversations can flow better and you can actually get to know a little more about the colleagues you work with every day.
Maybe they’ve got a nice artwork behind them — where’s that from? Maybe it’s some interesting books on the shelf or a treasured photo in the home office or kitchen. It’s a conversation starter about something you probably wouldn’t normally discuss — and that can help bring people together in a new way.
We’re even thinking about getting together as a team for yoga or exercise classes (but we’ll keep that feed for ourselves!), but it’s all made better thanks to the video platforms that help us each get a look into each other’s lives every day.
3. Have an agenda
The best thing you can do to keep making progress as everyone works from home is try to keep the routine as normal as possible. While the agenda for your meeting in the office might be fluid — or even something you’ll sort out with people if you run into them in the kitchen or coffee line — keeping things structured is vital right now.
A short, sharp agenda — maybe with a Slack channel where everyone lists what they’re working on each day — will help keep the focus and normalise (as best you can) the process of having everyone work from home.
For tips on how to have a good agenda, take a look at our recent blog on running effective daily stand-ups here.
4. Circulate next steps
A lot can happen in a team meeting, especially if the way you do business is changing quickly as a result of COVID-19. When you’re working remotely, it can be tough to keep up with what is a general discussion about ideas versus deliverables your team is responsible for right now.
More than ever, good note-taking and communication with your team is vital to getting the job done. Follow up by email or on your Slack channel with cleat instructions about who is responsible for what and by when. By keeping track of these things, and keeping in touch with people along the way, it will be easier to make sure your team’s progress continues while you’re working remotely.
For our tips on how to motivate your people and create a welcoming environment, head over to this blog post.
5. Host a virtual Friday bar or an afterwork chat-together
Social teams are special teams and if your business is used to getting together after work for a drink, that shouldn’t change if you’re in self-isolation. Get everyone together via videoconference and bring a drink of choice and have a chat and a laugh as you normally would.
Or maybe you could try taking people on a virtual walk — if you can get out of the house — and share your neighbourhood or your favourite park with your colleagues from your phone.
Sure, it’s a bit weird — but so are the times we are living in!
Keep safe. Keep informed. Keep in touch.
It’s easy to follow along with coverage of COVID-19 at the moment and get worried about what’s next. These are really tough times and the restrictions on the way we interact, socialise and travel are unlike anything we’ve seen before.
But the best thing businesses and leaders can do right now is adapt as best you can and try to keep everyone together. Look out for your people’s mental health and try to host a Friday bar and have a laugh along the way.