How do you strengthen ties with teams working from home?

A house with an insert of a woman working from home looking at her computer screen

With many people transitioning from the office to home or from infrequently in the office to permanently in the home, what are some ways to ensure collaborating, connecting, and networking with each other? Here are some ideas to help you. These are simply some initial ideas. You will need to tailor these to your own circumstances. Hopefully these thoughts may encourage you to develop your own ideas too. If you have other ideas too, I would welcome you to share those with me.

Why is this important?

It is important that people feel supported and connected with each other. Team members want to feel that they are part of the team. We can all do quite a bit by ourselves, but we do even better when we collobrate with others. We are better than the sum of our parts. Technology is important, but it too has its limitations. Feeling in on things and being tied to others helps bring us a sense of esprit de corps. This provides a chance to feel pride and honor with being a member of this team.

At first this may not seem like an issue, because everyone was getting along previously. It could be that having more team members working from home may be thought of as temporary. Do any of us really know? What is the new normal? The longer this goes on, the more some may develop a perspective of isolation. That is something that needs to be addressed. We need to stay involved. We need to be in contact with one another. Everyone needs to know what is going on with the organization and to stay in touch with others. Collaborating with others is important.

Collaborating

This blog site is all about overcoming conflict with collaboration to help people work better together. There are over 75 blog articles on different topics related to collaboration. The Collaboration Effect® is all about connecting relationships, listening actively, and educating judiciously to build bridges and negotiate closure. However, when people become isolated, without a concerted effort there is less connecting with one another. When we are by ourselves, we might multitask with something else when participating on a group call in a session with the team. We might not take the time to educate others or they may not be as interested in listening to what you have to say. We each have our own problems to worry about. So, how do you stay connected?

Connecting

Set up a specific time periodically (weekly?) for the team to come together. This should be mandatory. This could be an audio call in session. Check out a service like freeconferencecall.com or use your employer’s system. Consider going to a video meeting session with something like Zoom, Web Meeting, GoToMeeting, etc. This site offers over 150 alternatives with over 60 alternatives that are free. Personally, I use Zoom a lot with vendors, and I find it easy to use, so I recommend Zoom on several levels.

Have an Agenda

Prepare an agenda ahead of time. Consider asking for input from others for the meeting. Send it out well before the meeting (at least a day). This gives participants time to think about topics before the session. If participants have a given role or assignment make sure that is clear with expectations identified ahead of the meeting. To assist members, develop some ground rules for the meeting. Consider working with team members to develop your own group ground rules.

Addressing Individual and Group Concerns

Set up a time to address “dog cases”, obstacles, or various concerns. This type of meeting would likely be less often. Perhaps once every two weeks. Discuss what is working well and best practices as well as what are concerns. Share ideas to overcome various barriers. Don’t just let these go. Rather have follow ups with who will do what by when. Have action items and continue to focus on improvements. This will encourage others going forward.

Ground rules for communication

Have ground rules related to communication in general. For example, if after two emails back and forth on a topic that is unresolved, pick up the phone and call the other party. This can help alleviate questions or concerns in real time before they fester. Every email needs to be responded to every (you decide... 4 hours, 8 hours, 24 hours). Urgent emails should be responded to within a shorter time frame say 2 to 4 hours. Voice mails must be responded to within (you decide again). When you are on the phone with anyone, give that call your undivided attention. No multitasking. Practice active listening by summarizing, paraphrasing asking open ended questions and empathizing with others. Focus by giving your undivided attention to the presenter.

Determine how often written updates need to be obtained from others. For example, once a week, twice a week, or daily. Determine what a written update should look like for uniformity and clarity. Make the first ones a test and see what works. Then modify as necessary.

Health and stress

Force yourself to get up and move every two hours or so. Even walking around your house or apartment. Make yourself get up and go for a walk outside. Move. The key is to give your body and mind a break. Consider exercising as part of a normal routine at home. Start slow. Here are some great ideas from WebMD. This will help you better focus and feel better mentally and physically.

Be Patient and Be Kind

As overall commentary, keep in mind that when we are stressed, we tend to be less patient and may even lash out towards others. Remember to be gentle on the people and tough on the problem. With what is going on currently, others may have personal issues, be scared, have loved ones impacted, and could even be panicked. They could have sick family members, kids at home, or have other additional stressors. Practice compassion, caring kindness and consideration. Be there to help and be a friend. Keep in mind at some point you will be getting back together physically. The bonds you make now by practicing positive support will bring you together closer in the future.

Looking to the Future

When we are in the thick of it, it is hard to imagine the future. At some point you will physically come together. When you do have a physical get together, remember to let the introverts have their space too. You might have a group lunch, but then don’t expect everyone to go out for dinner. Give everyone their proper space.

These are some ideas for you and your team. Every team is different. Hopefully these will provide you enough starting information so that you can individualize ideas for your own situation. If you have other ideas you want to share with me, I welcome your thoughts too. We all do better when we all do better.

About the author

Mike is a professional speaker, and a mediator/negotiator that helps clients resolve issues and be more productive as a conflict resolution expert. You may contact Mike directly at mg@mikegreg.com and at (651) 633-5311. Mike has written 11 books including, The Servant Manager, Business Valuations and the IRS, and Peaceful Resolutions that you may find helpful. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, NSA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]