I think we can all agree that 2020 has been a unique year. With the New Year just around the corner, the typical excitement of ringing in a new year, full of opportunities and hope, has been replaced with the reality that 2021 is bound to start with uncertainty and growing anxiety. Currently, many businesses are closed with no re-open date. Many people find themselves unemployed or working remotely from home. Initially, most found the idea of working from home enticing, cutting out the commute, more time to balance work-life situations. Although it sounds ideal, working from home is actually tricky. The usual problems of working remotely (lack of structure and routine, no designated space to work, constant interruptions, etc.) can be managed. Still, some issues require outside influences to execute properly. Specifically, I’m talking about keeping your team feeling like a team and not individual employees working from their home silos.
Is Technology The Answer?
I’m confident that the amount of Zoom meetings has increased exponentially since the Covid pandemic began. Although technology is an excellent addition to our work environment, it doesn’t replace human interaction. As Peter F. Drucker said, “The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.” It’s difficult to read that non-verbal communication from your computer screen. If you can get a video meeting off without any technical or equipment difficulties, it can be useful. Still, it isn’t the same as sharing a cup of tea or coffee during a break or being physically present to support each other. Video meetings do have their place, and they can save windshield time for people having to commute to one center for a face to face. Unfortunately, for the foreseeable future, face to face meetings are out of the question. So how can we use technology while still maintaining the team environment and camaraderie that we come to expect from a well-functioning team?
The Virtual Celebration
This last weekend we attended Jeffrey’s virtual Christmas party for his Fire Department colleagues. We weren’t sure if it would really provide a party atmosphere if everyone were remotely logging in, but we donned our Christmas sweaters (yes, we are those people), and the virtual Christmas party began. Everyone received an ample supply of snacks, three sample wine bottles, and three kinds of cheese per package. The night started with a greeting from the chief, followed by a wine tasting. The tasting was to last an hour – I thought that would be a little dry (no pun intended), but it was so interesting and entertaining. Then the group played some trivia and continued to visit. While we were all on the video party, we were also chatting with each other on our phones, allowing for smaller side conversations as you would have at a live event. I’m not sure what about the night made it so real. It certainly wasn’t the same as a normal Christmas party, but I think it was as close as we could safely get during this crazy pandemic. Above all, it was a fun night!
Team Building is More Challenging
The virtual Christmas party organizers did a great job of combining the virtual with the traditional celebration so that everyone was included, celebrated, and felt the team connection they have come to know. This Fire Department has struggled this year to have their routine practice and education sessions due to the Covid restrictions. As with most teams this year, the pandemic can lead to a disconnect among the team. Although this is an example of a Christmas celebration, it’s importance for team building cannot be overstated.
It can be challenging on a good day to keep your team motivated and collaborating effectively. This global pandemic has added a new twist to the game. Not only are we struggling with distance but increased personal demands as we navigate the ever-changing restrictions placed on all aspects of our lives. Does it mean your team has to suffer? I don’t think so. It just takes some creative thinking and more intentional communication and organization. Events like the virtual Christmas party shouldn’t happen only once a year. Indeed no one expects a party regularly, but connecting on a personal level needs to happen more intentionally now that people are working remotely. Now, more than ever, we need to have the support of our work family.