What have you put in your kitbag of tools to drive team culture this year that will help post pandemic.
So many things have been learnt this year.
One of the great challenges during the pandemic, and the resulting work culture shifts, has been how to keep your team culture not only surviving, but thriving.
Our company has been no different. We are focused both on how our internal team culture is managing and our clients’ team cultures. Taking clients through an agile transition during such a difficult year for many has revealed unexpected new tools.
These tools will be popped into our kitbag moving forward.
THE CASUAL CATCH-UP (keep the communication lines open)
Working remotely, we spend less time socialising – no chats in the corridor or by the coffee machine.
“This creates a risk of hijacking ‘serious’ business calls to socialise. When teams dedicate separate slots to socialising the business calls tend to be more focused,” says Slav Koziol from our European office.
This year we saw the virtual water-cooler conversation turn from “did you see The Bachelor last night” to “how’s your mental health?” – While important to ask, not ideal for a casual quick chitchat.
So, to make time for the casual catchup and ensure our employees still had opportunities to just hang out we have seen the rise in a lot of activities that aren’t work related to compensate.
“That ‘socialising’ time can take many forms – team working sessions, wormholes for team members, quizzes, team festivals. Whatever the form, teams need space for informal communication,” says Slav.
We are possibly more social now, than we were when working in person.
It’s driven home the need for people to have relationships with our co-workers outside of the backlog discussions.
Benny Ko, from our Australian office agrees, “Having regular casual team catch-ups and fun activities has worked well for us as a team to stay connected and strong. This is simple but effective and will remain in my kitbag going forward.”
Our Consultant-Associate-Graduate cohort introduced Coffee Roulette and it has really helped our company connect in an informal setting. From our Managing Directors down, every fortnight we are randomly matched to someone in the world to have a 20-minute casual chat.
There is no reason this shouldn’t have happened prior to 2020, but it’s taken everyone working from home, and feeling isolated to instigate it. We’ll continue this well after the pandemic is over.
“It’s a great way to shoot the breeze and catch up person to person and really get to know each other. I really look forward to my coffee roulette catch ups! We all share photos (ok, zoom screengrabs) of our coffee catchups on the #coffeeroulette channel on Slack,” says Rachna Verma, a senior consultant from our Australian office.
Brooke Pannell, a consultant in the US agrees, “Coffee chats have been an incredibly helpful way for me to get to know my distributed co-workers. Also the fun zoom happy hours with themes and games have been a great team building opportunity and method to bond with those across the pond.”
Quizzes on Slack
Rachna says, “We run internal quizzes on a range of topics, and it’s all about FUN! We’re a hugely competitive bunch and love to have a laugh together. Slack helps us facilitate quizzes with our dedicated #quiz channel.
THE BRIEF CHECK-IN, REGULAR AND CONSISTENT
Caitilin Studdert, a principal in Australia, says, “The brief ‘check-in’ when the team meeting starts can be hugely effective if facilitated well. Usually focused on the meeting ahead “how has your week been and what are you hoping to achieve in the next 40 mins of meetings?” they can be a really great way of discovering what the team is up to.
While we avoid hijacking the meeting, as Slav said earlier, we ensure there is time for people to just chat.
Due to more time spent remote working we have virtually brought people from different geographies closer together and worked as one team. Slav explains, “This proved that geography is no barrier for a high-performing team and opened a whole lot of new possibilities for cooperation going forward.”
While working remotely we’ve seen more and more organisations focus on outcomes rather than pure face time.
WE HAVE CHOICES ABOUT HOW AND WHERE WE WORK
“Creating an online culture takes intention, work and time,” says Shannon Gilliam, a consultant in the US. “Embracing aspects you may have been uncomfortable engaging with in the past (being seen via video, speaking up, really engaging in the conversation) are key to helping establish and nurture this type of work,” Shannon says.
This forced education of video etiquette from necessity will be useful when the business world moves into a hybrid work force of the future. With some people working from home and others working in offices, there will be a shared understanding of the elements required to make that work.
Steven Walton, a principal in Australia says, “I see choice being a much larger part of work. Choice of where you work, driving some choice in who you work with. The team you work with may not necessarily be based purely on geography.”
There is increasing recognition that the future will need a new normal. After years of talking about a future with “teleworking”, we have had a taste of it and many organisations are not going to move away from it.
What is the office space of the future for?
The value proposition for an office is being reframed as a place to meet and exchange ideas rather than where people need to work.
We expect hybrid arrangements to be part of our kitbag with office layouts being focused more on interaction with space for collaboration, such as more tech-enabled meeting rooms and coffee corners rather than rows of desks.
Steve explains, “Desks would still available for those who need or want them. People will plan their meetings more thoughtfully, with team members choosing the same days to come into the office to meet rather than doing so every day.
This pattern will enable more people to work further from the CBD, with potential hub offices supporting those for who working from home is not convenient,” he says.
NEW LEVEL OF TRUST AND RESPECT
We’ve all seen a new level of trust and respect that has come about from the stress of lockdown and the unknown, the intimacy of working from home, and the knowledge we are all in it together. As a world.
Age-old concerns of some managers, that employees have to be controlled or they will simply not do the work had to be revisited.
“Since we’re no longer able to track the time spent at the office we’ve built a lot more trust in people to deliver from whatever place in the world or time,” says Slav.
Laura tells us, “Both at ADAPTOVATE and the clients that I have worked with over the past 6 months I have seen a shift in team culture. Teams have come together on a deeper level, we have supported colleagues going through really hard times and had different conversations that we never thought would be workplace conversations due to Covid stresses.”
“A different level of trust and respect – both within ADAPTOVATE and our client interaction – we have opened up our homes and part of our private life to our business world,” Laura explains.
Laura also discusses the home intimacy. “The respect both from ADAPTOVATE and the client sites has been that families are not hidden and home life balance is tough.
“I’ve seen a real respect of family time and work time. I’ve seen Dads I work with pause on a meeting to wave to their kids going to school.
“It’s so great that out of a hard situation we have been able to still grow together and be human,” she says.
Taking this trust and respect forward to be real in the next 6 months is something that I will continue to push and ensure my teams are reflecting on,” Laura concludes.
So here is a list of fresh tools we’ll be throwing in the kitbag for growing team culture in 2021
- Ensuring there is time allocated for the casual catchup
- Randomised matched catchups – cross-regional and in-person
- Weekly trivia and quizzes, etc via comms channels
- Brief check-ins at start of meetings for our WFH staff
- Ensuring consistency for our now familiar video etiquette
- Using office spaces for more collaboration reasons. Not to just come in and work on our own
- Working from home as a choice
- New levels of trust and autonomy
- New level of understanding what a privilege it is of being virtually let into the homes of our co-workers and the aligned acceptance of allowing family norms to continue (kids interrupting, dogs being cuddled). We love that and respect that.