No one could have predicted an event that altered lives globally. No natural disaster could have reached almost every corner of the world the way COVID-19 has. And how could our world, where advances in medicine and technology are explored daily, have been ill-equipped for a pandemic? The harsh reality is that unexpected change is very often out of our control. For those of us whose largest disruption has been to quarantine and initiate remote work, you have much to be thankful for. You still have a job! Or, even better, your health. We all know too well that the pandemic has wreaked havoc on our economy and our front-line workers. This is the time for you to be thankful for your career continuing to move forward, even if it is remote.
A second wave of cases attacking areas of the United States and countries around the world reminds us that remote work is most likely here to stay. Swallow your complaints and frustrations: it is time to accept the situation. For your team members at work, for your organization, and for the future of your career, learn to grow from these challenges.
How to Work Collaboratively Alone at Home
Staying social and prioritizing good health are proven to increase a team's productivity. However, departing from the office has restricted our ability to socialize with coworkers. Many may feel less inclined to approach coworkers for advice or to share a novel idea if we cannot discuss it naturally face-to-face. Remote work also can make the day feel lonely. When your team is not collaborating in-person, the creative juices that spark new ideas are lost to feelings of isolation. Staying connected with your team solely through a screen can feel far-removed from typical team work. Thus, if working from home is inherently isolating, how can remote teams collaborate effectively?
The answer to this relevant question begins with three simple ways of changing your habits. Yes, I know that many of us have reached our limits with constant change, but view these transitions as a method of training; this is your career's next great endeavor.
Take control of your schedule.
The ideal schedule is balanced, not necessarily empty. If it is within your control, schedule your day with variety. Do not plan endless meetings scheduled one after the other. And do not schedule meetings for a full hour or two if that amount of time is not necessary. Very often we find ourselves scheduling standard one-hour meetings, but the task at hand could have been completed in half the time. Better meeting organization will keep your team engaged and eager to contribute, especially if they are not dreading each unproductive meeting. Arranging breaks is a crucial aspect of schedule control. You may find that your work days feel longer when you remove your commute or any form of typical travel, which is why breaks are vital for resting your active mind. Plan a longer lunch break where you can pack a quick picnic and eat outside if you have a porch, a backyard, or deck. If you live in a city, maybe go up to the rooftop deck or any open space that enables social distancing.
Working from home can make the separation of work and life challenging. You may find that leaving the stresses of work back in the office is difficult when your office is where you live. Balancing your schedule to allow for relief and refueling is not only critical for your mental health, but also for being present for your team. Without a break or the excitement of variety, how can you expect to collaborate in a meaningful way?
Consider your coworkers.
When working in a remote team, you must take everyone's day into consideration. Ask your team what their day or week is looking like in terms of work and meetings. Or inquire about their personal preferences for meeting times now that they are working from home. Their usual habits may be different than what they were back in the office. Perhaps you have a team member who prioritizes a daily workout in the morning; you and your other team members must respect their unavailability then. Or you could have a coworker who needs to look after their children at unpredictable hours. Be flexible with your team and communicate avidly. When you understand the nature of their lives, you will be able to manage expectations and keep everyone happy. A happy team lends itself to better engagement, boosting productivity.
Use technological tools.
Take advantage of the technological tools at your fingertips. We all like to joke about how Zoom has taken over. But at a time like this, where would we be without Zoom and other video conferencing tools to stay connected and share information? In addition to the plethora of video conferencing tools available, consider adopting productivity tools to better organize and collaborate with your team. Whether your team needs to improve their time management skills or is desperate for project management guidance, there are countless tools to assist your team. For instance, deepTalk - a smart meeting assistant that allows teams to work collaboratively and boost productivity during in-person and remote meetings. deepTalk generates automated meeting minutes and a transcription to organize your team with clear tasks, deadlines to meet, addressed topics, and more.
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Team Collaboration Starts With You
Remote work is absolutely an unwanted transition for many of us. Undesirable change can reduce motivation, directly influencing your ability to collaborate and feel inspired by your team work. This is why a pivotal aspect of increasing team collaboration while physically apart starts with you. I encourage you to put these suggestions into play; they can completely alter your perspective of remote work, and I promise your team will thank you.