Connected in times of teleworking: our tips against team-outs
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, many people yearned to be able to telecommute. To escape the stress of traffic jams or to get their professional and private lives in better balance. But after months of compulsory teleworking, many do not feel happier. Elita Schildermans, prevention advisor for psychosocial aspects at Mensura, explains why and what you can do as a manager.
“It’s been proven once again: people are social beings,” Elita begins. “We feel good about ourselves and perform at our best when we feel connected to our colleagues and our work. But the long isolation at the home office can put pressure on this need.
For some people, a team-out is lurking around the corner, this is a loss of feeling and connection with the team. The consequences of such a team-out include a lack of motivation, lower productivity, and increased stress.”
Connectedness: encourage and support joint initiatives
Elita continues, “To create a real connection between people through the computer screen is quite a challenge. Moreover, no initiative, no matter how well-intentioned, will match the spontaneous social interaction between colleagues at the coffee machine or in the canteen. Nevertheless, we must not abandon the human aspect, for it is this that makes work a shared experience. In other words, we just need to set aside more time to communicate.”
- Always include a relationship-oriented moment during meetings: ask how employees are doing, possibly using a tool such as Mentimeter.
- Meet regularly with each of your team members one-on-one to talk about their needs and requirements. This can, of course, be done virtually or by telephone, but why not – if it is practical – during a walk? Exercise is good for you and gives you a mental boost.
- Encourage your team members to play sports together or challenge each other – in corona-proof ways, naturally. For example, let each department walk as many kilometres as possible.
- Deliver a breakfast, snack, or packed lunch to your employees’ homes and agree on a moment to eat it ‘together’. This is also the perfect opportunity to stop talking about work altogether.
- Support initiatives that arise spontaneously among employees (e.g. quizzes, games, athletic challenges).
Besides connectedness, competence – the feeling that we have the skills to perform our tasks properly – and autonomy – the freedom to make our own decisions and organise our work – are the two other basic psychological needs that strongly determine our happiness at work. There are also techniques to boost these other basic needs.
Autonomy: reconcile targets with individual work rhythms
Elita explains, “Some people are early birds, while others like to work a bit longer after traditional office hours. Some enjoy a long lunch break for walking, cycling, or jogging, while others keep their lunch time to a strict minimum.
Give your team members the freedom to plan their day in harmony with their biorhythms or to better balance their work and family lives. Provided, of course, that targets or permanence are not compromised.”
Tip: open the dialogue with your team members. How do they want to address flexibility as a team? This way, you avoid imposing your own wishes in terms of (working) rhythm on them. Then, during each team meeting, you gauge the mood: does everyone still feel good about what was agreed? Are any adjustments needed?
Competence: zoom in on people’s strengths
Elita adds, “Employees find it important to do work that is in line with their talents and that makes a difference in some way. Feedback is the perfect way to give and receive direction. But giving feedback – both positive and constructive – is not really ingrained in our corporate culture. Let alone that many employees spontaneously ask for feedback. Remote working makes that threshold even higher. The consequence is that the lack of a sounding board causes people to get caught in their own thought spiral, which can even make them insecure about their skills in the long run.”
- Provide time in each team meeting to celebrate the successes of the past week(s).
- Systematically look back on completed projects: what have we learned?
- Shower a different employee with compliments each time.
- Continue to closely monitor the performance of your team members. So don’t do away with interim performance reviews, even if they are less obvious digitally than face-to-face. You may need more time for it.
- Organise one-to-one interviews with your employees in which you specifically focus on the workload and conditions: is the range of tasks clear and what is the employee currently doing? Does the workload feel comfortable? What about the working conditions? Should there be additional support?
And finally, start planning for when it will be possible to get together at the office again. Where will we have lunch together? Let’s set a date for a fun teambuilding activity. Who has an original idea for what to do? Looking forward to something together creates perspective, that other magic word for outsmarting a team-out.
Safe and healthy teleworking?