How to stay connected with dispersed teams during challenging times

Article by Rahme Mehmet, managing director at TechComms

diverse woman working from home on sofaTeamwork is often the lifeforce behind a company’s success and this is certainly true in my company, TechComms, an integrated B2B tech marketing and communications agency that was born within a virtual environment.

We have operated as a dispersed team of senior marketing and communications experts since the inception of the company; however collaboration is at the heart of everything we do. That being said, we would often meet in the office and now with having no choice but to work from home, we’re navigating the challenges of being physically separate while needing to remain connected.

Our team is continually learning new ways to collaborate digitally, it hasn’t always been easy or ideal, but we’ve found it can be done with some creative thought, a sense of humour and an open-mind.

Here are some principles that we follow to allow us to stay connected, while being productive and importantly, keeping our sanity!

  1. Use your voice: Unlike in a team meeting at an office, you may fade easily into the background on a video call; the prompts you could experience in a face-to-face meeting to encourage people to join the conversation are not the same on video. So, it’s more important to speak up if you have something to add to a discussion. For many this is not their natural inclination, it’s therefore incumbent upon the whole team to make sure more than one voice is talking in team calls. At TechComms, we are quite a vocal team, and because we have worked together for a long time, we always have many voices on any given call. It’s worth noting we must speak clearly and with volume, people need to be able to hear us, and there may be background distractions that make this more difficult. Outside of children, my main background distraction is my one-year-old Siberian Husky, who likes to howl when some members of my team start talking on video. Although it’s been extremely funny, it can also be frustrating – but somehow, we make it work.
  2. Limit video: No matter what platform you’re using, video fatigue is real, and it can start to work against you if you’re not careful. When we’re in face-to-face meetings in person, we have the benefit of direct eye contact and full body language. We also do not have to see ourselves (unless your conference rooms have mirrored walls – that is!). It can be incredibly distracting and affect our level of participation. Making it optional to turn on the camera and stating this at the beginning of a meeting is a welcome break from back-to-back video meetings. At TechComms we have made one day a week a ‘no internal video calls’ day to give our team a break.
  3. Set clear boundaries. Some of us are juggling school as well as work, all from our homes, and this means that our work time may not follow typical office hours. It’s important to give people the flexibility they need to attend to other matters and adjust expectations so that your team knows when they must focus on work (e.g., a daily staff meeting), and when they’ll be expected to respond to emails or messages so they can plan their day accordingly. At TechComms, we focus on working smart, which doesn’t mean working excessive hours to complete the job. We plan our work and use Asana for task management, providing all of us with a clear plan of our work actions to complete, and within realistic deadlines.
  4. Check-in about something other than work. Right now, there is no running into each other in the kitchen, going to lunch or walking to a meeting together where we can have small talk and discuss non-work life. People are being challenged in new ways during this time, and it’s important to be kind, patient and interested in how team members are doing. Take the time to listen. Call just to say hello and catch up. From time to time, our team schedule a video chats that has nothing to do with work projects to give us the opportunity to connect with one another about something other than work.

While we’re not sure what the future will bring, the one thing we can be pretty certain of is that social distancing will be part of our lives into the foreseeable future. Being separated isn’t easy, but with the right digital tools and an open mindset, we can still professionally collaborate and personally connect with team members as if they were in the next office.

About the author

Rahme MehmetRahme, the founder and managing director of TechComms, brings a wealth of solid experience in creating, directing and managing strategic communications campaigns for leading technology clients across the globe. With over 18 years’ experience in the technology communications sector, she uses her extensive contacts in the media and analyst community and knowledge of PR and AR best practices to help clients consistently achieve optimal results.

Rahme believes in bringing together experienced, self-motivated and best-of-class experts to help TechComms clients achieve success. Rahme started her career as a research analyst for InfoTrends, and has strong analyst expertise which she taps into when commissioning and managing projects to meet her client’s objectives. Her client successes include press coverage in national titles, including The Telegraph, Financial Times, and BBC Click, as well as across business and vertical sectors, and coverage in influential analyst reports such as Gartner, IDC, Strategy Analytics, Juniper Research and Analysys Mason.

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