Building Team Practices Into Virtual Work

It’s easy to take for granted the rhythms of our daily work, and how it balances our days.

But as we shift to schedules driven by work-from-home decisions prompted by health concerns, we need to acknowledge new rhythms and team dynamics.

In the past two weeks, I’ve learned a lot about how to keep things moving forward,  working with team members, clients, and partners to meet their professional and personal needs at this stressful time.

Here are some practices that might be useful to you.

The morning meeting. Every day we meet at 10 a.m. in a Zoom virtual meeting. The daily gathering is calendared, and if someone has a conflict with the time (either work-related or personal), we move the team meeting in the calendar so that everyone can attend. We check in on how people are doing, how projects are progressing, and any blockers that may need addressing.



Communication channels. In the past few years, the number of communication channels has exploded. And now conversations often float across channels: email, text, Zoom, Google Hangouts, Signal, Skype, Slack,1-800 Conference and more.

My recommendation is that you agree, as a team, to choose as few channels as you can. We settled on Zoom both for our team group gathering, and our public-facing virtual events, which include small classrooms with 20 students, and public presentations with hundreds of attendees.

Slack, in particular, is ideally shaped for the new multimodal communications of our daily work environments. It allows teams to self-organize around projects, and invite users from outside to join groups and conversations. It also seamlessly provides a private one-to-one channel for direct communication.

Personal vs. work issues. Unlike face-to-face meetings, text often lacks human tone, so issues can snowball when one person's casual comment is mistaken as a criticism or personal affront. If you’re a manager, the best thing to do here is get a few folks on a video chat to defuse misunderstanding.

Humor and sharing. We’re in serious times, but it can’t all be bad news, work and deadlines. So use humor, but carefully.

Also make sure that within your team,  partners and clients, you make room for people to share updates to lead the pace and deadlines for projects and deliverables. Some of your clients will be trying to stay on schedule and plan for the summer. Others will want to dial back and cut budget, taking a wait-and-see attitude. This is a place where listening may be better than leading.

Finally, balance your team’s objectives with health and safety concerns. Let’s be clear about this: Your team members’ heath, and the health and safety of their friends and family, are always going take precedence over a work deadline or a client need.

We’re all facing challenges  and often work can be just what we need to stay focused and keep a rhythm to our daily lives. So providing rewarding work is part of what you can do to keep your teams moving forward.

But at the same time, don’t think that people are available all day. People need a lunch break. They need to go out and talk a walk. They need to use an app for a 30-minute  meditation or oniine yoga session -- keeping your team, and yourself, healthy in both mind and spirit.

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