Work together, apart: how to come together as a team when working from home
It’s time to put new technology to use… here are 5 tips for how to communicate well as a team whilst working remotely.
Most of us really value the flexibility that working from home has given us. We like feeling relaxed, comfortable. We like how practical it can be for family life. We really like avoiding the commute.
But it stops there.
In reality, working from home has never been enough for us. Those soft benefits - flexible, practical, relaxed… this isn’t enough for us.
We want to feel part of a team. We’re looking for drive and encouragement to get the job done.
These are the benefits that working together, in person, can offer us. So how can we reap these benefits even when working remotely?
The most important ingredient: collaboration
Collaboration is essential to enjoyment and success in our jobs.
IBM’s chief marketing officer shared the following quote.
"There is something about a team being more powerful, more impactful, more creative, and frankly hopefully having more fun when they are shoulder to shoulder," she said. "Bringing people together creates its own X Factor."
Bringing people together. That’s the critical sentence. And it can be hard to really do that when your team is working from home.
Hard - but not impossible.
Effective collaboration, a fun team environment, open, honest communication - we can have these even when working from home, if we have the right tools and routine. Technology is one way to help us get there.
How to create a collaborative team environment when working from home
What we need: lots of different points of contact throughout the day
Humans are social animals. We need lots of opportunities to talk to one another throughout the day.
In fact, studies show that on average British people have 27 conversations every single day, each lasting an average of 10 minutes each.
This time is vital to help us satisfy our social needs so that we can work effectively, instead of spending the day feeling lonely and craving human contact.
How to get it: use Calendly to schedule video calls
When at home, we miss out on many of the normal interactions we would normally have in the office. All of those social catch ups, tea breaks, break-out conversations to discuss a project. Those small interactions are actually vital - they help you feel engaged and motivated throughout the day.
So instead of keeping video contact to a minimum, schedule a variety of different calls.
Check in call with team in the morning
Three 10 minute social catch ups with colleagues
Social video call with team over lunch time
Here's a picture our most recent team video catch up!
What we need: distraction-free environment
When in your office at work, you are there to do work. You avoid distracting notifications and focus on the task in front of you.
This can be harder at home. There is less of a clear “workspace”, and distractions are everywhere around - phone, food, bed - there’s no one to stop us from procrastinating.
How to get it: use pomodoro or StayFocusd
Make sure you are limiting the technology you are using. Communicate with colleagues on web apps rather than on the phone, so that you can safely leave your phone in another room to avoid distraction.
Both of these apps limit the amount of time you can spend on time saving websites, and prompt you to take a focus for a certain amount of time before taking a break.
What we need: accountability to effectively meet our goals
A big part of motivating ourselves to finish a task comes from knowing that somebody else is sitting beside us, expecting us to get that task finished.
This sense of accountability can get lost when working from home. You suddenly have the option to procrastinate, and this can be devastating for reaching your goals.
How to get it: Focusmate, and beyond
Focusmate is designed exactly for this problem. Taylor Jacobson created Focusmate “to bring direct accountability to all workers”.
Focusmate works by bringing two people together on a video call, each working towards a different goal. At the beginning of the call, each person shares the goals they are working towards. For the next hour, they work towards those goals silently, “experiencing the power of human accountability”.
Having tried Focusmate, I can tell you - it works. I always, always had something to share with my partner at the end of the session.
You don’t have to use their software - you can create this for yourself. Try booking an “accountability call” with a colleague for an hour when you want to focus on something specific. You’ll see the results.
What we need: collaboration & sharing of ideas
One of the most energising parts of being in an office is the ease of sharing ideas and collaboration.
It’s easy to just pop over to someone and ask for their thoughts when you're in the same room, and this has huge benefits. Feedback that might take days to collect on email can be sought and implemented immediately.
How to get it: Slack
Slack allows seamless communication between colleagues. It’s almost like being in the same room!
You can share documents, spreadsheets, images, ideas. Anything you like. You can create different groups for different topics, and contact people individually or as a group.
If you haven’t already - get on slack.
What we need: the chance to have fun
When working from home, a lot of our communication with colleagues can become very goal-oriented.
When in the office, we often spend time together laughing or joking, which keeps us inspired, motivated and helps us work well together.
How to get it: use Slack for fun, not just for work
One of our slack channels at Higson is dedicated to sharing fun messages with one another.
Someone might share a joke, or even a cute picture of a dog.
Try creating a playful slack channel and see what happens. You might just feel inspired.
Put these technology tips into place, and let us know how you get on when you’re working from home. Get in touch with the team if you would like any advice or coaching for staying motivated and productive when out of the office.