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  • Writer's pictureben nathan

10 top tips to engage your virtual team

How do we make meetings engaging, constructive and fun? How do we keep our team connected? We’ve all been there or heard the stories, confronted by blank, bored or frozen faces, not knowing what our audience is thinking…

Read our top 10 tips for managing remotely, with proven strategies from clients and colleagues.

1 – Change is different for everyone

It’s hard to feel connected and easy to feel isolated. As one client recently said, ‘the ones who struggle most are the ones who engage least.’

Discuss how the change in working culture is affecting everyone. Take time out to explore everyone’s new working environment, some might be juggling full time work with online learning for children, others struggling with being home alone all day.

As one colleague brilliantly puts it, ‘we’re in the same storm but in different boats.’

2 – Ask for feedback

‘Seek first to understand’ as the great Stephen Covey once said.

Everyone is adapting to a unique set of conditions and we all need help but how will you know unless you ask?

Ask your team how they’d like to operate going forward, for example how often should the team meet, when shall we use video/email/phone, how can we best plan work, how can we check on each other’s wellbeing? Shared rules are a great way to create togetherness, empowerment and harmony.

Some will feel uncomfortable giving suggestions, so why not create a poll so ideas are shared anonymously?

3 – What, why and how?

Reinforce company values and shared vision.

These principles can be quickly forgotten as we navigate unchartered waters. And with individuals scattered around the city, the country, even the globe, it’s even more important to repeat what we’re doing, why we’re doing it and how we work together.

It reminds us of our individual, team and organisational value.

4 – I can’t see in the dark!

Not everyone enjoys seeing themselves on camera but without face to face interaction, we’re in the dark.

If we agree domestic activity might go on in the background, everyone should feel comfortable with their screen on. Then it’s down to us to read facial expressions - that nod in agreement, that raising of eyebrows for surprise, that furrowed brow that someone doesn’t understand - key cues which tell how engaged our people really are.

5 - See it, name it

Be tough on the problem not the person.

You’re on a video call and someone looks distant, another distracted, don’t just keep going! If you see it, name it. We’re not saying name and shame but do name the ‘behaviour.’ Which might sound like, ‘I can see that some of you look distracted, raise your hand if you think we need a break?’

6 – I miss the water cooler

The water cooler is a place to bump into colleagues, have a chat and share valuable experiences but how do we recreate it in a virtual environment?

Clients tell us these initiatives work as a great substitute – regular coffee mornings in a ‘dip in, dip out’ format, a wider chat room for informal chat, meetings in smaller groups. One colleague did a virtual happy hour where everyone shared a drink, hung out and chatted about everything but work!

7 – Zoom, Zoom, Zoom

Video chats don’t suit everyone.

Different communication channels are there for a reason but do you know each team member’s preference? Maybe one person prefers communicating over email for a particular task, another doing 121’s by phone.

‘Karen, it’s Mike, I thought it would be better to call…’

8 – Embrace well-being

Most people are feeling a lack of safety with so much change.

In 121 meetings, or with the whole team if you feel comfortable, put well-being on the table. Ask how the team are coping with the transition, what they are finding most difficult, get each team member to share something about life outside of work, and remind everyone of the internal support services available.

Finally, when you’re discussing these delicate topics on screen, don’t forget the basics - nod to show you are listening, repeat back what you’ve heard and summarise too.

9 - Shared experience

Continue routines you used to have in the office or create new ones!

Get the day off to a positive start by sharing the priorities and objectives for the day. One of my clients loves her team manager’s visual plan each morning, she says it makes her feel part of the company vision. Another client asks the team to describe one thing nobody else knows about them each week, with great results!

10 – Thanks but not for me

Finally, you might not feel comfortable initiating any of the above, they’re new, they’re different, maybe you’re not convinced they’ll work. Whatever your thinking, your team will appreciate the attention, care and support you’re looking to provide.

We hope you like these thoughtful and easy to implement changes which will help your team feel more engaged, feel more supported and be more motivated to do great work!

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