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Team building for effective remote working

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Author

Ishit Jethwa - CEO, JobSquare

20-Nov-2020

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Articles
An HR Managers role is now inclusive of few additional goals, providing the employee professional security, forging bonds within the team, creating a clear communication channel across the pyramid, and being approachable and available for your employees for all their concerns. These are difficult and challenging times, and the more supported your employee feels, it shall undisputedly lead to more engagement, productivity and loyalty for the long run. An MNC recently paid their employees parents medical bills for COVID; all it took was a simple request email from the employee to the HR.

A major part of 2020 has been about combating a pandemic and developing response and revival strategies; companies had to adopt the remote working model considering that the teams were distributed across cities. Gartner HR survey revealed that on the onset of the pandemic around 88% of organizations had encouraged or required employees to work from home, irrespective of whether or not they showed coronavirus-related symptoms. The physical distance with the remote working translated into the emotional distance, resulting in team members feeling isolated, de-motived, and also dejected in a few instances.

The above survey also revealed that 40% of organizations did set up additional virtual check-ins for employees with managers and 32% of organizations had introduced new tools for virtual meetings. But looking at the still on-going pandemic with few countries on a repeat lockdown due to the second wave, we say developing additional team-building processes for effective and productive remote working has now become the need of the hour.

Let’s look at a few ways to work:

Transparency on the roles:

In a group of different members (especially if it is a multi-generation workforce) there would always be disagreements further leading to a miscommunication, more so when you are working across miles. Have a complete clarity and precise communication on the hierarchy of the company – who will lead, who all will delegate and in what capacity, individual profiles with their assigned tasks and responsibilities, and who shall make the final decision. Create a streamlined process in which an employee can easily comprehend his work profile; with categorically keeping room for constructive feedbacks and grievances.

The distinction between work and personal hours:

There have been a series of complaints from the employees in the last eight months on how there are no concrete boundaries between work and personal hours, there are many employees who have been putting in extra hours and working on the holidays currently more as compared to pre-COVID. The reason behind this has been the downsizing which has led to the working employee now also managing his ex-colleagues work as well which has further resulted either into burnout or a resignation. Create a strict timeline of working hours and non-working days and abide by it as this on-going way of work is bound to have dire consequences, if not right now then definitely down the line.

An open-door approach:

An HR Manager’s role is now inclusive of few additional goals, providing the employee professional security, forging bonds within the team, creating a clear communication channel across the pyramid, and being approachable and available for your employees for all their concerns. These are difficult and challenging times, and the more supported your employee feels, it shall undisputedly lead to more engagement, productivity and loyalty for the long run. An MNC recently paid their employee’s parent’s medical bills for COVID; all it took was a simple request email from the employee to the HR.

Measures for mental health-being:

This is an extension to the above point, with respect to the measures the HR can take to ensure the mental health-being of their employees. Create an information broadcast system where the company shares regular statistics on the pandemic and their strategies to work around it. Normalize mental fatigue and burnout, recognize the employees in distress and help them before it advances. Check-in on your employees periodically. Create a ‘Buddy System’ in the organization if there are too many employees for the HR to look after; the buddy system is a procedure in which two individuals, the "buddies", operate together as a single unit so that they are able to monitor and help each other. Appreciate and reward good work, it helps with motivation at large.

Digital tools for team-building:

To begin with, not every call needs to be a zoom call; neither do all meetings need to be conducted on a virtual platform. There are a series of technology tools available (Zoom, Flock, Google Meet, Notion, etc.), but only use the ones that enhance productivity along with saving time and resources. On a personal front, virtual - concerts, stand-up performances, fitness challenges, trivia quizzes, scavenger hunt, ‘coffee or tea’ with colleagues, bingo, team book clubs and other similar activities shall help not only create a pleasant work ambience but also increase the team-bonding and the synchronization between employees.

According to a study by Gallop, psychological safety refers to an atmosphere where people feel comfortable being and expressing themselves without fear of consequence. Team building helps create this culture of psychological safety by bringing out your team’s strengths and giving employees opportunities to interact with each other regularly. Bottom line is that the HR today, in this age of the hybrid working model, needs to create a platform where there is a right balance between an employee’s well-being and the company’s goals, and team building is the route for it.