Remote work comes with many benefits, such as a better work-life balance, more time for hobbies and flexible hours. But there are many challenges that come with it, too. Many of these relate to communication because we are a social species. Problems with communication can in turn cause issues for collaborative work as well as employee wellbeing and your company culture.
Luckily, Teams can be utilised to bring your entire company together, even when you’re miles apart. Today, we’ll share some Microsoft Teams tips around collaborating effectively and building company culture for remote teams. Let’s get started.
Communication challenges for remote teams
For office-based teams, a lot of the chat around how a project is or isn’t progressing happens in casual moments – in the hallways and around lunch tables. Not so with remote workers. When you’re not in the same physical space, these things will instead get brought up in messages and formal meetings. But unless your team is actively encouraged to share and given the right channels and the time to do so, you’ll miss out on some important observations and ideas.
This is why you have to be more purposeful and strategic when it comes to communication when working remotely. One way to do so is closely considering the structure and purpose of your regular meetings.
Every organisation will have regular meetings to chat about projects and updates. However, you also need time dedicated to roadblocks, brainstorming, aligning work with roles, agreeing on goals and setting the vision for the next month, quarter or year. These are big topics that you have to be more mindful of incorporating into meetings in the absence of watercooler chats and easily popping over to a colleague’s desk.
Hosting strategic meetings
With all this in mind, it may be useful if you dedicate longer time for your general catch-up meeting once a month or so to go deeper into the strategic and problem-solving side of things.
This can become the forum where people seek input from others, new tactical teams are formed around strategic goals and you all brainstorm on the best ways to move forward. As always, have a clear agenda for these meetings you share with everyone beforehand and have someone take minutes on the meeting that you can refer back to later.
One of Teams’ most recent and eagerly anticipated additions, breakout rooms, can also help. This way, you can break into smaller groups during a meeting to brainstorm before coming back together again to share your ideas.
Another feature you might want to try out is the Together Mode, which makes it look like you’re all sitting together by cropping out your head and shoulders and placing everyone into a virtual meeting room on the screen. This can make it easier to make eye contact and read people’s non-verbal cues and as a result, the conversation will flow more naturally.
Working collaboratively while remote
Completing tasks when when working from home can feel lonely. Luckily, Office 365 makes it easy to work collaboratively in real-time, with multiple people being able to work on a single document at once, adding comments and suggestions where needed.
Make sure that when you need feedback on a piece of work from colleagues you communicate this as clearly as possible: that you define what you need from them and what the deadline for comments is. This way, you can avoid misunderstandings and unspoken grudges when you’re not in the same room.
You can also take advantage of Teams’ screen-sharing capabilities for collaboration: if you run into any issues while working on the same document, you can initiate a quick call with the other members of the channel to go through the piece of work together.
When working with one or two other team members on a task, there’s also no reason why you couldn’t do so on a call, even if for most of the time you’re simply typing away on your computers.
Not only will this make it very easy to address any issues that come up there and then, but it’ll also create an incentive to complete your task within a specific window of time rather than getting distracted by the washing machine finishing its cycle or wanting to make a snack in the middle of a task needing your full attention. This way, you can help keep each other focused and accountable.
Boosting employee wellness
The ability to create teams and channels around any topic or project means that if you’re not utilising them for company culture and employee wellness, you’re missing out.
Having dedicated teams and channels for things like mindfulness, fitness and making your home office a healthy space can help you create important resources for home-working employees and boost company culture overall.
A fitness team could have scheduled “meetings” for things like yoga, pilates or Zumba classes. All you’ll need to do is hire a qualified teacher to join you for an online class on Teams during a lunch break or bright and early before work starts for the day.
You can also use this team for sharing Youtube fitness classes or even hosting something like a running club on a separate channel, with everyone updating each other on their progress with pictures and running routes to help keep each other accountable towards a shared goal. You could even make this a charity initiative to raise money for a cause that is close to your heart.
A mindfulness team can share resources for meditation, including beginner-friendly articles and videos, as well as live meditations over a video call. Meanwhile, a team for organising your home office can have all the resources you need to make sure you don’t develop aches and pains while working, from checklists and ergonomic video guides to simple stretching routines to keep muscles loose and to ease stress.
You could also create teams and channels around things like sharing interesting reads, funny memes or other topics that create a “virtual watercooler” for more casual conversations. The sky’s the limit!
Hosting social events with Microsoft Teams
Working from home means people don’t have the same opportunities to socialise with their coworkers as they would have in the office. That’s why hosting company-wide social events can be such a great idea. Whether it’s a monthly wine tasting group, a birthday celebration or a Friday lunchtime hang, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t take advantage of Teams’ meetings for company culture.
Breakout rooms can be very useful here, too, as larger teams can easily break into smaller groups – you could establish rooms around a certain theme or purpose so that people can move from group to group much like they would in a face-to-face social event.