Finding a means of engagement in a virtual team

In response to the uncertainties during the lockdown over the past 28 days, my ability to be adaptable, uphold performance and remain engaged and focused while working remotely has been put to the test. Although I have always wanted to experience what working remotely would be like (I am an introvert after all), I have realised that there can be a downside to it.

My mood and level of engagement has fluctuated dramatically, where I have felt purpose, energy and a sense of flow. But there have also been days where I reflect on how unprepared we all were and how many of us are experiencing the “new normal” against a backdrop of worry and anxiety. This has influenced my focus and performance significantly.

This is a very tricky situation that a lot of people are experiencing. I have come to realise, however, that certain activities help me to maintain a sense of engagement. For example, in my team, I have realised that we have progressed into being more collaborative and supportive, where meetings and a daily touch base is crucial in countering a sense of isolation and to foster a sense of connection and culture. A little humour and laughter also goes a long way.

There are various actions you can follow to strengthen your engagement as an individual and a team in order to maintain higher levels of productivity, commitment and motivation.

Here is my approach.

Step 1: Communicate frequently with your team

  • Put your video on, this boosts your engagement with other remote employees.
  • Start all of your team meetings with a round of good news to uphold positive energy and to foster a sense of connection.
  • Have regular touch-base meetings and check-ins on each person’s emotional/mental state. We make this interesting and fun by using various descriptors to portray this like a colour, animal or a movie. We do this each morning and it has helped to form a deeper level of connection and sense of belonging to the team. It also allows us to share new ideas and discuss any challenges that we are facing.

Step 2: Provide direction and purpose

  • Let everyone know how they are contributing and why each person’s work matters. I feel a stronger sense of purpose when the vision, values and strategy are shared, and I can see how I am contributing during a difficult time. Regular feedback and transparency around the direction of the business helps me to feel more connected to the company and to stay abreast of the changing work priorities.

Step 3: Support and appreciation

  • During this abrupt time, I have realised how uplifting it can be for a colleague or manager to check in with a message to see how I am doing and to show appreciation. It’s critical for teams, but especially managers to acknowledge the concerns of employees with empathy. Each person is experiencing different remote circumstances, and there is no one size fits all approach. Some have children at home, while others may be experiencing bad internet connections. It’s important to maintain a balance of structure and flexibility to allow for each person’s transition to working from home.
  • According to an interesting study that I read on Emotional Intelligence; most individuals will look to their managers to see how they are reacting to the current environment. This, in turn, sets the scene for how employees will react to the changes that we are facing now. If we consider, stress and helplessness as a response it will have a ripple effect. This suggests that we as individuals, especially management should take a two-fold approach:
    • Acknowledge the stress and then provide positive affirmations, such as “We’ve got this, let’s look at our strengths as a team”.
    • That will show a team that there is confidence, purpose and focus for the activities being carried out.

Step 4: Uphold accountability and monitor performance

Check-in with others, even your team members to see what their workload and priorities are. Do they need guidance and support on tasks? Monitoring performance remotely requires more regular check-ins to review progress and one-on-one discussions to offer guidance.

  • As an employee, it is much easier to stay on top of your work and to be engaged when you have clear expectations of what is required and when your manager reinforces priorities. The opportunity to share any obstacles that you face whilst completing your work also helps.
Acknowledge the stress and then provide positive affirmations, such as “We’ve got this, let’s look at our strengths as a team”.
Suzanne Meyer
OD Consultant and Psychometrist

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