More than three years into the pandemic, it’s evident hybrid and fully remote environments are here to stay. However, effective collaboration and teamwork look a little different in the virtual world than they did in the pre-2020 office environment. Stopping by someone’s office or workspace for a question, having informal hallway conversations and making small talk in the breakroom are less possible when individuals are working from different locations. Today, it’s important to be intentional about how you’re building relationships and trust with teammates, while also being respectful of different work schedules and preferences.
Defined expectations, frequent communication and clear boundaries are essential for cultivating a positive team experience. No matter the makeup of your team, here are a few ways to be a valued colleague and collaborator in the current environment.
Value your working relationships.
Focus on how you can continually build trust and strengthen your working relationships. Deliver what you’ve promised and communicate if you’re not going to be able to follow through on your commitments. At the same time, create deeper connections by periodically taking a few minutes for more personal conversations with coworkers. Even asking how they’re doing or their plans for the weekend prior to the start of a video meeting can mimic the “water cooler talk” that no longer exists at many companies. Remember co-workers and managers have families and interests outside of work – showing you care helps build a connection that further enhances your working relationship.
Respect others’ boundaries and clearly communicate your own.
It’s likely your team members are working on different schedules and from a multitude of locations. Be clear with your colleagues and manager on your working hours, as well as how they can best reach you. If your team has collectively established specific tools and best practices for working together through the day, uphold those guidelines to the best of your ability. At the same time, be conscientious about others’ work days and avoid scheduling meetings when it’s more difficult for them to be available.
Make the most of meetings.
While meetings are often an important part of collaboration, be intentional about how you’re spending everyone’s time. Provide prep docs and meeting agendas in advance, as well as information around the meeting’s goals and desired outcomes. This ensures everyone is as prepared as possible and understands what’s expected of them ahead of time, leading to more impactful and efficient conversations.
Schedule meetings with participants’ time zones and work schedules in mind. Consider how you can ensure everyone has an opportunity to contribute, especially if some colleagues are together in a conference room and others are dialing in from their home offices. Avoid talking over one another, repeat key points and pause for questions as needed. Additionally, directly ask those who have not had a chance to speak if they would like to contribute. This helps all voices – not just the most outgoing ones – be heard.
If your team is primarily remote, communicating only through emails and chat tools can eventually lessen the sense of human connection. During video calls, make it a habit to have your camera turned on when possible and show you’re engaged and actively participating in the conversation. Refrain from checking your phone and email or multi-tasking during this time – similar to how you would behave in an in-person meeting.
Participate in face-to-face activities.
Many companies are bringing back periodic in-person events, even if their work environment is fully virtual. Make it a priority to attend, whether it’s a company-wide annual meeting, quarterly team building events or even small get-togethers with those who live close by. There is still value in meeting face-to-face in today’s environment, helping bring to life relationships that have otherwise been cultivated through screens, and creating opportunities to connect with those you may otherwise not have a chance to interact with.
If something isn’t working, say something. This could be how your team is currently using its collaboration tools, timing of meetings, expectations around preparation, frequency of team interactions or many other factors. Without providing respectful feedback and potential solutions, your manager or other leaders may not be aware of the challenges or inefficiencies you’re experiencing. Especially in work environments that value collaboration, the opportunity to talk through potential improvements will be valued.
Effective collaboration and increased team productivity and innovation is possible in today’s environment no matter where individuals are based. By being intentional about building relationships, embracing opportunities to connect and providing feedback, you’ll set yourself up to be a valued contributor, collaborator and teammate.