What have we learned from this bizarre present that will change the way we work as a team in the future? Enforced remote working has given us insights we would never have discovered working in our old, established ways. Interestingly, the very things that we assumed would be problematic during this unusual time like cohesion, productivity and creative inspiration, have all ended up working amazingly well.
Since the beginning, Tenacity Works has always worked remotely with suppliers and client teams all over the world. Our model involves close relationships with international clients where physical meetings are a rarity. So what has changed? The very nature of the way we view work, the working day and how we work together as a team.
Ironically, this time of enforced separation has ended up bringing us closer together.
The challenge is how to find the right balance, maintaining connection without overwhelming people with a calendar full of video calls. It turns out that Zoom fatigue is a real thing! We all started off thinking that we were living the meeting dream; sitting comfortably in our own space, wearing a pair of old tracksuit bottoms and a nice shirt. Turns out, online meetings require you to be even more engaged and present. You can’t let your mind wander and, even if you could, there aren’t any of the usual distractions you’d find with a bunch of people in a physical meeting room. Virtual meetings are an always-on, spotlight in your face level of engagement and as a result, completely exhausting!
At Tenacity Works we have devised a relatively low-impact meeting schedule that keeps cohesion up and intensity down.
We start each morning with a thirty-minute check-in for the whole team. These calls aren’t too early so that everyone has a chance to get themselves up, fed and organised in their own time. Check-ins are mostly about catching up socially with maybe a few minutes at the end of each call given over to work stuff. Understandably, we’ve all been a little on edge lately so having this time together in the morning and hearing stories from each other’s lives has definitely helped keep spirits up.
We also have scheduled one-on-one lunch calls throughout the week. These tend to be work-orientated discussions where each team member can discuss their current and upcoming projects as well as any issues or concerns.
On Friday afternoons we round off the week with an hour-long team meeting. Each of us takes it in turn to share a couple of things we’ve come across during the week; sites, books, videos, courses or anything inspiring that has caught our eye. We usually close out these sessions with a light-hearted activity of some kind to end the week on a positive note. We’ve drawn portraits of each other, played a bizarre form of Pictionary and even had a goat join our call from a farm in Lancashire.
We were concerned that full-time remote working might lead to a dip in productivity as the team adjusted to working from home. But if anything, we’ve found the opposite to be true. Each team member has managed the change in their work/life balance and environment remarkably well and as a result, this has been an incredibly productive time for us.
Having a set of established processes in place to guide work coming into the studio, production, billing and to ensure client relationships are maintained, has also really helped keep things running smoothly and efficiently.
Some of us have children which certainly adds a whole new level of trickiness to the remote-working mix. One of the team has a three-year-old son and a husband who is an essential service worker which has meant him being out every day throughout lockdown. Keeping a young child stimulated and entertained whilst managing a heavy workload is a truly amazing achievement.
Throughout the pandemic, we have all defintely had our share of bad days. Not a real surprise at a time like this, but with some of the team living and working alone, those down days can be pretty tough. We have met this particular challenge by building on something that has always been an important part of who we are: our collective sense of humour. Sharing jokes, positive stories and even having a secret safeword to deploy on team calls when the mood gets a little dark!
The best way to counter increased anxiety levels and maintain cohesion as a remote team is open communication. We have a relatively flat organisational structure at Tenacity Works so internal messaging doesn’t need to travel through layers of management to reach everyone. We keep things simple and direct; if something needs to be said, we say it.
We are all learning, adjusting and coping the best we can. It’s completely okay that we don’t have all the answers, nobody does right now. For the moment though, this enforced digital transformation has been an absolute revelation.
We would be interested to hear how other teams have adapted to remote working during the lockdown. What suggestions or ideas do you have for distributed teams? Hit us up on social media or drop us a mail and let us know.
Excellent photo by Allie from Unsplash.