Skip to main content

How do you maintain a sense of team remotely?

14 April 2020

Let’s face it, it looks like none of us will be going anywhere anytime soon. But you know what that is ok.

As we enter yet another week of this new normal – where remote working is having it’s time in the spotlight – we asked some of our members to share their tips for continuing to maintain that important team spirit in the age of social distancing.

From maintaining working rituals and finding new ways to recreate those watercooler moments and virtual cuppas to remembering to be kind to each other and making time for creative projects there are so many ways to keep that sense of team going.

So here’s a few to get you started:

Open, honest communication, working rituals and being kind

For me, there are three things that are key to maintaining a sense of team when working remotely, especially in the current challenging conditions. The first is open and honest communication. When we are honest with each other and realistic about what we can achieve in a day, and our distractions, we form and maintain trust.

In times like these it’s also important to try to maintain some of your working rituals. You wouldn’t normally get to work immediately; you talk about life. Make sure that you add moments into your team’s day to allow for this, whether it’s a space to share on your internal comms platform or time at the start of a video call.

Finally, be kind to one another. We all need to recognise the effect of the current situation to our wellbeing. Having an awareness and supporting each other through this difficult time will not only keep your team safe now but will develop stronger bonds for the future.
Bobi Robson, digital comms and strategy specialist, Bobi Robson Digital

Virtual cuppas and taking an interest in people’s lives

With office banter stifled through tentative headphone connectivity and accidental muting, a strong sense of ‘team’ comes from cuppa catch ups: where your mug defines your mood and work chat is firmly off the agenda. I note people’s reading habits, hobbies and pet news so I can maintain a connection and follow up. This is also not an excuse to fall behind on birthdays – e-cards are king.

As instant messages and emails become our default communications method, phone calls stand out. Don’t just reserve them for prioritising tasks or discussing working patterns; show people how much you value their support.
Donna White, senior head of digital marketing, Prince’s Trust 

Don’t let the social side fall by the wayside, remember the little things really matter
I think the key thing to remember is that just because you are not physically together, doesn’t mean you are not still a team. It is more important than ever to do the social side, my tip would be creating a Teams channel devoted to chit chat and cute animal pictures or if you are used to having lunch breaks still making the time to do that or create a virtual pub.

Working from home can be tough, especially when you are not used to it, so I would recommend having more team meetings than usual to check in and also having informal quick messages throughout the day and over-communicating with each other. The little touches and nice messages really matter at this time, so reach out if you need support and think of how you can support others.
Emily Casson, digital marketing manager, Cats Protection

Keep people engaged and make space for creative projects

The Empower team are used to working remotely, but even this crisis means we’re working hard on building our team culture and keeping everyone engaged while working remotely. We’ve been having daily lunch sessions via Zoom, where people can join if they want and discuss non-work related stuff. We have Friday drinks at the end of the working week (via Zoom again) where everyone brings a cup of tea or glass of wine to decompress after the week, complete with a quiz. And we have projects outside of our core work to keep the team engaged and thinking creatively, such as the Charity Logo Quiz that we’ve just updated. And we always try to create a separation between work and time off, so we don’t expect anyone to work outside of their core hours – and actively encourage them to get offline too!
Ben Matthews, director, Empower

Talk team values and find ways to recreate watercooler moments

Culture can easily become a casualty of people not being together. The values of a team can seem less important or even irrelevant in such a completely unusual situation. But now teams need the values glue that binds them together more than ever. So talk together about your values and culture in this new light – what are the new behaviours that express your usual values in this unusual time?

Watercooler moments, corridor conversations, whatever you call them these informal human moments are ones we don’t realise how much we appreciate…until we don’t have them anymore. So get creative and make them virtual – an 11am team cuppa together, chats over lunch, a Friday end-of-the-week drink together, keep your team a social as well as professional one.
Lara Roche, founder, The Talent Sphere

Honesty is essential

My colleagues are inch-high heads clustered over icons on my screen. Cryptic clues about homes and families frame them as they speak, visible in the background. Voices echo and overlap, robot-like. Some I’ve never met in person but we’re laughing and feel like a tight team.

The critical ingredient is honesty – work and home are blurred, emotions are up and down – tangled in a global pandemic and office politics. So, tell your team if you feel overwhelmed or bursting with extra energy. Energy management is much more important than time management and keeping motivated and positive is more productive than sheer hours online. Laugh. Don’t batter yourselves with tight agendas and PowerPoints; build time to chat, catch up and laugh with each other. Don’t schedule these spontaneous and uplifting moments out of the day. Switch your camera on – see each other, be present, share smiles and laugh at the absurdity of a kid in a cowboy costume chasing a dog through your Zoom meeting.
Ben Holt, technology innovation lead, British Red Cross

Has your team got a great tip you want to share? We’d love to hear it, just tweet us @CharityComms to share with the network.

Photo: Laura Pratt on Unsplash

More like this:

Wellbeing Guide for comms professionals

How to support staff wellbeing during Covid19

Christine Fleming

Head of digital content, CharityComms

Christine is the head of digital content at CharityComms in charge of the commissioning and editing of all content on the site as well as leading on the project management of the new look best practice guides. A former journalist with a background in online news, she has a masters in Global Media and Transnational Communications and is passionate about comms and helping charity communications thrive.