Teams and teleworking: how to keep up morale during coronavirus

  • What are the challenges today?

If many or all members of staff in an organisation have to work remotely, for example in situations like the current coronavirus crisis, team dynamics might be impacted, making it more difficult for us to maintain our performance.

These dynamics, which are the forces between individuals, can strongly influence how a team reacts, behaves or performs. They include personality styles, team roles, environment, tools and technology, and organisational and team culture.

In the current context of uncertainty, when most of us have to work from home in isolation and potentially for a long period, we can imagine that some of the forces beyond our control can hinder team dynamics. For example, do we have an appropriate work environment at home? Can we use our IT tools exactly like in the office, or do we have more constraints? Does the lack of close relationships affect the team’s motivation? Is the current, unpredictable context affecting our morale?

We need to work on all these factors. Team dynamics are really dependent on every team member. We all have a role to play: team leaders’ roles, people’s mindsets and behaviours are critical forces.

  • So what can we do to maintain our performance and morale in the current situation?

Team leaders can instil the right culture, by clarifying expectations, by saying who acts as a resource when needed, or simply by giving the feeling that we are all in it together.

An important initiative that team leaders can take is to organise a meeting where people can share their concerns, frustrations, fears or struggles. Then they can invite colleagues to co-organise the following days. It can also be the opportunity to see that some tasks may not be so important, while others that are more complex or difficult may be better dealt with in this unusual period. Seeing the context of isolation as an opportunity to adapt our work or to choose more reflective tasks can also be a good thing to do.

On top of that, I recommend team leaders to abuse the power of informality, by giving out little treats from time to time to show that they care much more about their employees than their tasks. 

As to everyone’s mindset and behaviour, I humbly believe all of us have to show a sense of responsibility and conscientiousness as well as a growth mindset, fixing problems one by one. It is not good to blame without providing constructive solutions. It is not good either to think in terms of presence and being reachable rather than providing quality deliverables. We can do better than this!

  • How about relationships within teams?

Anything that can break the isolation will be good. So, as much as possible, use the collaborative platforms (e.g. M365, Jive) and instant messaging possibilities (e.g. Skype for Business, Signal) at your disposal.

Organise regular, online activities where you are as inclusive as possible. It’s not a good time for micro-management. On the contrary, more knowledge sharing and transparency will allow each of us to feel involved in something greater than ourselves.

I like the concept of a virtual social time once a week. Some tools (e.g Slido) can allow you to create quick polls and quizzes, which are great for stimulating interactions.

Of course, in all circumstances, be attentive to the consequences of too many distractions and respect the instructions from IT and HR central services.

  • What can we do to keep up our spirits and motivation?

Find a way to organise your days as efficiently as possible. You have the ‘pomodoro methodology’ for example, which says that you can concentrate better for 25 minutes, then you need a good break.

You can use mindfulness, meditation, or just focus on your breathing for 10 seconds.

Anything that can help you focus and unfocus will be good. There are tons of methods and tools that can help you let go, build resilience, and reach a state of calm.

And, have a sense of care. Try to help others, connect and talk with your colleagues. Don’t stay with your vulnerabilities. These difficult times call for a change of attitude.

(This article was originally written for the European Commission, following a webinar I organised on “Team Dynamics in a Crisis” on 20 March 2020)

Claudio team dynamics.jpg

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