“Smart working’ does not have to be the opposite of ‘team working’. Affinity and team spirit are valuable assets for companies and employees. You can cultivate them even far away from the office. Here are some strategies to consider.
- Maintain contact continuity. In the office, daily interactions between colleagues foster a natural sense of community. In smart working, however, contacts tend to fragment. A programme of regular video meetings, even when there’s no compelling need to ‘see each other on call’, helps people feel part of a team. One idea could be a daily mini-meeting between colleagues: a 15-minute video call at the beginning of the day to say hello, check in and share experiences.
- Build trust. If your company has embraced remote working for a few months now, it might be time to ask for feedback. Has the transition posed any problems? Are the tools for remote working adequate? Are there any suggestions? An open and frank discussion with employees contributes to a climate of trust that is beneficial for the whole team.
- Give value to initiative. Johann Weichbrodt, a Swiss researcher studying new professions, is convinced that smart working is a unique opportunity to enhance individual initiative in teamwork. The recipe for this is to encourage organisational freedom by avoiding strict time or place rules on employees. Cohesion and productivity will benefit.
- Appreciate and motivate. A nod of agreement during a meeting with a client, a pat on the back after the task is completed, a “good job!” from the boss after a presentation: these are examples of communication methods that distance makes inaccessible. Even when working remotely, a close-knit team needs constant motivation and expressions of appreciation: don’t forget to express them regularly, perhaps by e-mail or in group chats.
- Create informal spaces. The ‘coffee break’ is another illustrious victim of the digital transition. This is a pity, because, as studies have shown, coffee breaks are an unsuspected catalyst for harmony between colleagues. Remote collaboration platforms such as Slack have introduced ‘virtual coffee breaks’ in the form of chats where you can have a relaxed conversation and exchange memes. You could simply set up a ten-minute ‘free chat’ on the sidelines of each group video call.
- Spread well-being. A beautiful and healthy workplace fosters interpersonal connections and helps productivity. This applies in offices as well as in home offices. Ensuring that everyone has a comfortable workplace and a balanced work-life is an investment that benefits the whole team. Safeguarding digital well-being may also require encouraging employees to ‘unplug’ when needed. In France, for example, the ‘droit à la déconnexion’ is now recognized by law for smart workers.