Remote work and collaboration – a perfect fit in a culture of trust

For a long time, companies would have very specific policies about presence times in the office. The reason we are even talking about newly found „work-life balance“ and flexible home office regulations is because this was not a given privilege before.

Obviously at these present times, trying to slow down the Corona pandemic and trying to avoid social contact, companies and teams embracing virtual and remote work will prevail over those who will not recognize the impact and adapt quickly. And this change and adaptation can be so much fun!

Along my way working with other leaders and people in charge of coordinating teams, I observed that many of them considered it necessary to literally watch their team to ensure they were doing their job. I even learned about cases where people would ring their employees at 9am sharp on their home office day to ensure people were working. Others were asking employees to send an e-mail every hour to show presence.

As in every modern culture of trust and employee empowerment, the first premise to any kind or working relationship or collaboration is trust. It seems obvious, but unfortunately, it is not. Being physically not able to shadow your employees while going about their business can make those people very nervous, who believe in control as an effective way to ensure productivity in their teams. This is natural, as this is the way we were trained to lead years ago. It makes team managers nervous because there is a fear that their manager could ask what the team is doing – and not knowing that would show weakness. But do not worry, remote working settings are a precious opportunity to show team leadership as well as the powerful resilience of team spirit and collaboration.

Let’s keep something in mind: Team dynamics are created from the interaction of people. The way we drive productivity together, how we use the best of our skills to get things done together, how we motivate each other and push each other to reach our goals together – it is all the result of interaction. That is why it seems so important these days to have rooms to discuss creatively; campuses to work on innovative ideas, tools and knowledge sharing capabilities: It is all about the interaction. But the interaction is between people, right? Not between places. An interaction in 2020 can take place digitally anytime.

Nothing makes us more productive, effective and happy than knowing that somebody trusts us and has faith in us. This is a proven thing. As a leader, your job is to enable your team to have clarity on their tasks and give them the necessary support to complete them. You hired these people to do their job and deliver. Let them do so. Trust them; you will be positively surprised when you do.

Of course, there has to be a framework around remote working to create a common understanding of team culture. Here are some tips that have proven to be helpful for teams I had the pleasure to work with:

  • Talk to all your team members about your expectations on how to deliver remotely. Do you need an extra report, do you need a summary at the end of the week? How will you measure success for the week remotely?
  • Let your team members openly discuss how they want to check in with each other to ensure effective collaboration and, most importantly, communication!
  • You can create a Starter Call with everyone present on a Monday to discuss the tasks of the week and put them in a shared Kanban board (Trello, Teams, Jira, Wrike, Planner, you name it)
  • Express encouragement on how you KNOW that everybody will try their best to get things done.
  • Define rules of communication within the team, such as checking into collaboration tools. A „Good morning!“ in slack in the mornings can get your day started with a ray of sunshine.
  • Checking-out is also important. People will know to not expect answers from you anymore.
  • All meetings can be re-assessed. Look at this as an opportunity for your organization to decide how collaboration and transparency will give you and your team back several hours of your days by skipping meetings that followed old patterns of auto-control.
  • Communicate tasks properly, defining deadlines and ways of sharing with the rest of the team or stakeholders.
  • Create collaboration boards that are openly shared across the teams involved to motivate people to show their work to others and encourage transparency within the organisation.
  • It does not require a lot of investment to set up a collaborative, transparent and fun remote culture! A lot of free tools like Slack, Trello, Wrike, Google etc. offer options that can be used immediately even without a budget
  • Team leads can create mechanisms or frameworks to trust self-administration and encourage self-discipline. The team as a whole will create a dynamic of exchanging information by seeing that from others.
  • Encourage your team to document their knowledge and experience in an accessible tool e.g. Confluence – never on personal drives and file systems only intuitive to the one creating them.
  • The whole team should be responsible to provide transparency over all processes and tasks of the team.
  • The whole team should be responsible for keeping the communication open and respectful and make appropriate use of collaborative tools. And YES, please share GIFs and funny cat pictures. You need to keep the interaction human, please.
  • The whole team should discuss topics openly in channels where the whole team can participate and document the learnings.

Remote working does not have to become a challenge for digital workers. It should be an opportunity to think about how your time is being invested effectively. Remote working will give you space to create and innovate and a new way to interact with other people. It turns out that a lot of people are the funniest when they do not have to crack the joke in the room, but on the super funny slack channel called „Fun stuff“. Try it. It will make you smile several times a day.

Being a team enabler or leader, you should create a culture of trust and empowerment. It is a great opportunity to grow – for your team and yourself!

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