Empty offices and full homes. It’s business as “unusual” as social distancing measures against the Covid-19 come into play. Driven by forceful circumstances, individuals and organisations are now working remotely from home, navigating what could possibly be the new norm for us.
In our recent virtual conference titled The New Virtual Reality, we invited a variety of remote team leaders to explore how we can remain resilient in these turbulent times. Here are three essential elements in leading a successful team remote team: maintaining high morale amongst coworkers through empathy, building a sense of community, and embracing one’s mental health amid isolation.
Lead with empathy
People naturally become more anxious over things they cannot control. Without proper management of remote teams, employees and employers alike could experience burnout, an enemy of productivity and motivation. That is why morale becomes especially vital in such times.
Manisha Seewal, CEO at Jualo, Indonesia’s largest e-classifieds marketplace, says when situations for teams become dire and their morale gets dampened, it’s a signal for the leader to be leading with empathy. To lead with empathy refers to managers and leaders “getting their hands dirty” with the team, as Manisha puts it. This means that leaders have to be more hands-on with the work of their teams, as it is likely leaders will be working with coworkers facing emotional challenges.
One example she gave is that in virtual meetings, managers shouldn’t be too quick to skip the small talk and jump right into the meeting’s agenda. Instead, get a pulse check on everyone’s mood for the day. Regular check-ins like these will help ease the tensions and stressors of WFH and boost morale.
So long as a leader ensures that everyone doesn’t feel like they are working alone, that they feel their emotional needs are being met with empathetic responses, one can be assured that this team is high in morale.
Build a remote team with shared experiences
Being in isolation does not necessarily mean being alone, and the role that having a sense of community plays a key role in creating a thriving remote work environment. So, what are the challenges for one to build a virtual community?
In a 2019 report by Buffer on remote work, it found that the biggest struggles for remote workers are unplugging after work, loneliness and communicating. With regard to helping workers unplug after work, Stephanie Lee, Team Experience Manager at the fully remote company Buffer, recommends that it is worthwhile to be accountable for the wellbeing of your remote teams and to remind each other to take breaks when needed. And with loneliness and communication, it helps to encourage people to connect and build a sense of virtual camaraderie, for example by having watercooler conversations online.
In all, what matters the most in creating an environment where a virtual community can thrive lies in creating shared experiences and memories for everyone. From organising your community events to feel like a campfire, to bantering about work or life in Slack channels, it's all about building bonds between people with shared experiences.
Detox from the digital
As companies around the world are suddenly building remote teams, it might not be a surprise to find that most of us might be working—and playing—on our computers or phones. But while we can be productive with our devices, sometimes technology can do more harm than good for our mental wellbeing.
Hence, Teodora Pavkovic, a psychologist and parenting coach, mentioned that while technology has become a big part of our work and personal lives now, it has never been more pertinent to our mental health that we should use technology mindfully.
That said, there are several ways we can improve our relationship with our digital devices. For starters, Teodora highlights that we should first be aware of what’s triggering some of our tech-induced habits, and then setting outcomes for what we want changed. For instance, one could be using their computers late into the night, which you might know can affect our sleep cycles negatively because of the screen’s blue light. In a case like this, the outcome, then, is to have better quality sleep.
This reminds us that we should be aware of what's triggering our tech-induced habits, and knowing what outcomes we want to achieve. You might want more happy moments with people you care about, and fewer moments having FOMO. Protect your digital wellbeing by ensuring that it adds value to your day, enhances positive feelings such as gratitude, and not let it be a quick-fix for boredom or anxiety.
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