How to Manage Teams Virtually During the Lockdown?

Let’s ‘zoom-in’ into our virtual reality - Social distancing has moved boardroom meetings from the conference room to the living room, meetings that were earlier mocked for their length have now become straightforward email threads, conversations with HR and brainstorming sessions have moved to zoom calls and the wall that once existed between your personal and professional life has now been erased. Welcome to our new normal.

During such times the absence of coffee and smoke break conversations with colleagues can burn and often demotivate remote employees. So how does one motivate and encourage employees to give it their best during times like this?

As per a Forbes article - Humans are, by nature, social creatures, and being physically cut off from colleagues can affect mental wellbeing and, ultimately, job performance. During this time, where uncertainty is the only thing we know for certain, business leaders must keep as much of an eye on employee morale as on the bottom line.

Like we earlier said - Some connections need to be stronger than wifi. Keeping that in mind here are a couple of things corporates can do to bridge the virtual distance -

  1. Tech It Out

    Zoom calls, Microsoft Team, Google Hangouts, Houseparty and so many other apps nowadays have the power to virtually connect you with your peers who are miles away during real-time. Some of us may not be the biggest fans of this technology because we might not want to get out of our comfortable clothes or make the bed in the background or even silence the noise at our house. For such people there are a few workarounds - 
    Too lazy to dress up? Just change your top because no one can see your pyjamas!
    Messy background? Microsoft teams can blur your background so only your face can be seen and Zoom calls have an option to put another background.
    Too much noise? Just mute and speak when you want to say something that way all that background noise is out of the way

    While these apps work great for smaller teams, upgrade to Microsoft Surface Hub that support high definition video conferencing and is great for bigger teams.

Other than these common tech resources for your employees, check this LinkedIn article that has listed out some great resources to help you increase and improve productivity while you’re working from home.

Another fun tech tool to break the ice between the screens is virtual games.

For instance - Can You Hear Me Now played in a virtual conference room, where you nominate one person to be the speaker and the rest are artists. The speaker uses a random image generator you can find online to source a suitable image, and the goal is to describe that image in such a way that the artists can draw it successfully. The one guideline that makes this task challenging is that your speaker must only use geometric shapes making it not only a challenging but exciting game that improves communication. Similarly, there are many fun and interesting ways to give employees a taste of team building activities on their screen.

  1. Coffee, Charge-up and Check-In
    Work from home has changed our routines, sleep schedules, body clock and timings for everything - from the time we wake up till the time we sleep and everything we do in between! Our professional and personal lines are blurred and that’s why it’s very important to keep clear temporal boundaries while respecting other colleagues schedules as well.

    At the same time, it’s important to regularly have check-in virtual meetings with employees and also hold virtual coffee breaks - for instance, check out this company that has been working remotely for years now and makes use of virtual coffee breaks to charge-up their employees. 

Apart from all this just providing the basic infrastructure and equipment to employees to enable work from home is extremely important for both the company and the employee.

Take for instance TCS that shifted 40,000 desktops to employees and Infosys provided high-speed broadband connectivity and expanded its own virtual private network bandwidth by ten times.

A lot of international companies have even gone the extra mile and sent out useful furniture such as ergonomic chairs and ergonomic desks to their employees’ home to ensure that their employees’ health is not at risk.

Companies have accepted and very rapidly adapted to this new reality which in the long-run could be extremely cost-effective as well. No wonder IT companies and furniture stores are seeing a surge in specific products that make work from home more comfortable.
3. Work, Work, Work...out
All work and no workout can make employees unhealthy and unproductive. Encourage and educate your employees about taking that short break to walk around, exercise and stretch. Circulate material that is helpful to employees over emails so they can practise desk exercises that are easy to follow. Conduct live workout routines, digital yoga sessions and dance routines to motivate your employees to focus on their health as well.

For example, Snapdeal has a ‘Hustle for muscle’ challenge through which they encourage employees to exercise at home by sending out email nudges which include curated links to Zumba, Yoga, Walk at home, among other home exercise routines. 

Working out is extremely important for employees who are constantly in front of their screens, but sometimes getting up and breaking the work-flow gets tough. That’s why its better to suggest simple exercises one can practise from their desk and chair to relieve those stiff muscles and help your posture.

Also, suggest tips and tricks that can help employees get some break from their screens. For example, the 20/20/20 rule says that for every 20 minutes spent looking at a screen, a person should look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

  1. Socially Distant But Always Connected

Other than physical exercises it’s also important to provide employees with useful ‘productivity’ tips that are related to mental health. Considering the fact that this is a very unusual reality, mental breakdowns, burnouts are very likely to occur. Constantly check and motivate your employees by appreciating their work, sharing their workload with other colleagues once in a while and giving them that occasional pep-talk can go a long way in helping someone.

Occasional meditation sessions, yoga sessions sharing calming music can also help.
For example Publicis Group set up ‘Publicis Plug-in’ as a way to support the mental wellbeing of its UK employees where they schedule a daily online activities such as yoga, coffee mornings, mindfulness sessions and foreign language tutorials that people are encouraged to tune into to help them feel more connected to their colleagues. Another media company We Are Social use facebook groups - ‘Home not Alone’ for everyone to share things like yoga, HIIT classes, or teach skill and ‘We Are Social Cooks’ for what to do with food in your cupboard.

So by just sharing coping mechanisms that help one personally with the rest of the team is also extremely thoughtful and uplifting. 

P.S. Since this article is all about helping one another through this phase - like, share and comment on this to help us spread the word because this too shall pass!