Connect Casually

Dear Dr. Jim,
What are some ways I can grow and develop my team virtually? 
– Anil

Hi Anil,

Think about what you were doing before working remotely to grow your team. Go through those elements and see what you can apply virtually.

I would recommend people meet with one another in a less than business-like way maybe once or twice a week to do a check in. At Vivo Team, we call that a D.O.S.E. (a Direct, Ongoing, Swift, Encounter) in which people do a quick check in about what their priorities current are, what problems or stuck points they’re and the impact on the team, as well as a ‘win’ they’ve had in the last seven or ten days and the impact on the team. That helps people stay connected.

I would also encourage people to check in with each other on a casual basis, with those colleagues that they feel close to and actually did connect with when they were in the office – that’s another way. One of the other things to do is to get together once a week or every two weeks and have a presentation on some new thing that you or somebody in the team has recently learned. These ways of staying connected can be really helpful.

There are lots of webinars, for example Vivo Team puts out lots of what we call “Swag Bags” for people to check-in. Watch one of those (videos), they’re only one or two minutes and then stay together after that to have a conversation about what you learned, how you might apply it, etc. It’s all with the intention of staying connected with one another, because what we’re noticing, working with a multitude of teams, is that people generally don’t tend to do the more casual connecting like they did in the office. You can do that virtually, it just takes a little bit more discipline to do on a regular basis.

So there are some tips to try!

– Dr. Jim

*names have been changed

Zoom Zombie?

Dear Dr. Jim,
We’ve all heard of Zoom fatigue, but what else should I be aware of or watch out for?
– Marie-Hélène

 

Hi Marie-Hélène,
During this time of Zoom meetings that seem to be back to back, by the end of the day you’re like a marathon runner who’s run out of gas – you’re struggling and trying to keep your thoughts together.

So that’s one thing: too many meetings too close together. Another thing is going to meetings you shouldn’t be in. You should also be aware of taking time off during the day. Go for a walk. Even 15 minutes can make a big difference.

Now, I want to explain something that goes on when you start getting Zoom fatigue, and this research is from Dr. Travis Bradberry (see diagram in video):

  • Boredom/Depression: When we’re down here, we’re kind of bored, depressed, and wondering “What am I doing?” We hear this from little kids: “I’m bored, Mom,” because there’s not much going on and there’s a low stress level.
  • Increased Attention/Interest: What happens as you start performing more and there’s a little bit more stress, you have increased attention and interest, and that’s why it’s really important to be doing things that are of interest to you because you can handle a fair bit of stress (which is part of life) and do well in terms of what you need to do at a certain level.
  • Optimal Performance: Then you get up to this optimal performance level, and that’s where we’re at our best. It depends on:
    • Skills
    • Motivation
    • Surroundings
    • Organizational impact (e.g., too many demands, not enough demands, unclear demands, etc.)
  • Strong Anxiety: What begins to happen when our stress levels get higher, but the demands are still there, people start feeling strong anxiety and then performance starts going down.
  • Complete Meltdown: After which you can get to an awful place of complete meltdown, where you just can’t function anymore.

One of the cues to look out for when you’re working is whether you can still have clear thoughts and move through your priorities that you have set. If you find yourself staring at the screen, unable to maintain concentration, you’re getting into anxiety area, and that, on a long term basis is very self-destructive to your health.

Take care of yourself.  Thank you.
– Dr. Jim

*names have been changed

No Show

Dear Dr. Jim,

My new manager is insisting we use our video cameras during virtual meetings. Is this really necessary? My previous manager was fine with us having them off.
– Holly*

 

Holly,

Would you go to a face-to-face meeting with a bag over your head? No you wouldn’t.

That’s what it’s like to be in a meeting where people are not on video. You can’t see them. Most people are probably multitasking and not fully paying attention, so it just kind of screws up the whole thing.

Now, I realize there can be connection problems and things like that, and that’s fine, but everybody should be up on video – ready and present, so you can SEE one another, and interact with one another, like you’re together, almost face-to-face. This helps reduce people not paying attention and multitasking.

So when you’re in meetings, whether it be Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Workplace, etc., come on video, look at one another, and be interactive and pay attention. Also look at the camera – that’s really important, too.

Your meetings will become much more interesting and you’ll be able to see each other. Get over your shyness – it’s fun! Once you get over it, you’ll find it much easier. It’s just a matter of moving into a different way of doing things. Hopefully this is helpful.

– Dr. Jim

*names have been changed

Digital Visibility Tools and Techniques

It’s not fun to have to track people down or be tracked down. Increasing digital visibility among your remote or blended team boosts productivity and reduces stress. With a bit of structure and accountability to digital transparency, your team will thrive.

According to our blended workforce poll, a whopping 75.9% of respondents are now working remotely at least some of the time (55.2% of respondents are working at home only, while 20.7% are working at home and in the office). That’s why it’s so important to consider the structures and tools available to help your remote and blended team succeed!

Business Communication Platform

Visibility into projects can greatly decrease errors and communication breakdowns. Does your team use something like Slack or Microsoft Teams to share information about clients or projects? If not, it’s worth investigating.

At Vivo Team, we share what our priorities are for the day in a Slack channel called daily updates. This can also be accomplished in a quick huddle. Our norm is to set ourselves to “away” if we need to be away from our computer to save our team members the hunt. 

File Sharing

If you are sick or on vacation or even unavailable because of meetings, do you have a way to access shared files that your team members are working on? This again can be a huge productivity stuck point for remote teams. Whether it’s an intranet or Google Workspace (formally G-Suite), there are lots of options for increasing file sharing capacities within a team.

At Vivo Team, we have a carefully organized file system in Google Workspace for project files, documents, spread sheets and more that the entire team can access.

Shared Calendars

If you are working on a remote team, there is a good chance that it will be time-consuming to book a team meeting. By sharing calendars, this time can be greatly decreased. It might be that you only show business times, but that in itself is a huge time-saving.

At Vivo Team, we are able to access all team members calendars so we can easily see when people are available for meetings. Our norm is, if the time is open in my calendar I am available for a meeting. We are able to book team or project meetings without sending a single email!

Popular Tools

Our poll indicated that the most used tools are Zoom (69%), Microsoft Teams (48.3%), Google Meet (27.6%) and Slack (20.7%). However, it’s less important what the tool is, the agreement is what is important. If you are in a smaller company who doesn’t have a business communication platform, the team can instead agree to share information in other ways, such as via email or through a huddle.

Has your remote team worked out ways to increase your digital visibility? If not, there’s an opportunity here – establish your norms today and stay accountable!

The Bigger Picture

Dear Dr. Jim,
I’m feeling disconnected from the bigger picture of the organization, I imagine many others are as well. How can I better connect with my team and my work? What is it all for!?!
– Jeff*

Hi Jeff,
Great question! It’s always good to have clarity in terms of what we are doing, why we are doing it, and how that contributes to the success of the organization. The first thing you could do is ask your manager one-on-one, or you suggest a team meeting to discuss how what we are doing—and why we are doing it—fits into the larger picture of the organization.

Explain that a better understanding and clearer picture will help you stay motivated and productive! Hopefully they will be willing to do that and you can get together virtually have a conversation that will get everybody clear and in the same boat, all moving in the same direction.
– Dr. Jim

 

Energy Booster

Dr. Jim,
Before covid we really thrived on each others energy and working closely together. With us now working remotely, I need to figure out how to get that energy back. What can I do?
-Beth*

 

Hi Beth,
We see this all the time when there is a major shift of some kind. This is a major shift for many people when they go from working in the office to working remotely. You’ll notice behavior changes, some people may have been really good at what they were doing before, but are maybe not so good now. Check in with them and ask how it’s going.

I also recommend that at least three times a week at an appointed time get together online and do a check in. Everybody goes around first and says what they are working on. You do another round of what are your stuck points or what am I frustrated about. Do a final round where everybody says a win they have had recently. So people are talking together and you are maintaining connection.

Another thing, it’s a bit radical, but you could for 1 hour maybe in the morning and one in the afternoon, everyone come up on screen and work together at the same time. You can see everyone moving around and doing their thing, you can have a little chat, just like in your office. There’s not much difference in many respects, except it’s virtual and some people may need time to get used to that. Again, it increases the connection and it can really help people in terms of stress and anxiety just to know people are there with them, even if it’s electronically.

Give it a shot, watch for changes in behavior and respond to help them get better, and encourage people who are doing well.
-Dr. Jim

*names have been changed