How Remote Work Can Strengthen Your Team

Feb 3, 2022 | Culture

How Remote Work Can Strengthen Your Team

It is hard to believe, but at the time of writing this blog, it has been almost two full years of remote work. That means two full years of worrying about, quantifying, and theorizing the impact of remote work on organizations, teams, and employees. I’m sure we’ve all had our fair share of scheduled virtual team “fun,” virtual townhalls, virtual lunches, and virtual happy hours. Throughout, many of us have maintained the attitude that it’s fundamentally difficult to build relationships with team members when we’re not walking by each other in the hallways – we’ve been thinking that we need to “tough it out” until the time comes where we can be together, in person, again.

While we at MacPhie are anxious to be together in person again, we have found that we’ve been able to build stellar relationships and engage in exciting team camaraderie during our remote working journey. In fact, we have been able to build a stronger team through our ability to adapt and move forward as a cohesive unit in our ever-changing environment.

 

1. Increased Trust

Trust is the foundation of any team. At the start of the pandemic, the shift to remote work was the catalyst for many discussions around trust, mostly framed in a negative way: “If we can’t see butts in chairs, how will we know if people are working?” But, what we found – like many workplaces – was that people actually worked more during the pandemic. And we learned something very important: trust needs to be given freely, and not earned. People are worthy of trust. We found that, without water cooler chats where we could slowly get to know each other, we got to know each other more quickly than before the pandemic, as we dove headfirst into Zoom collaboration sessions and client engagements. Put simply, we had to trust each other. By freely giving each other trust – and seeing that trust manifest in the excellent work we delivered together – we grew as a team, even though many of us were onboarded in a remote environment.

 

2. Increased Communication

To be successful in a virtual setting, we adapted our working and communication styles to be more direct, clear, and concise. While a hybrid environment reduces casual run-ins and natural conversation, it paves the way for more purposeful and focused interaction. Building relationships online takes effort; therefore, we schedule consistent debriefs, re-loops, and touchbases to stay on top of our engagements and stay connected to each other. Feeling connected in person is easy; however, we have found that purposeful, scheduled conversation can actually be a catalyst for deeper relationships.

 

3. Increased Authenticity

Raise your hand if you’ve taken a Zoom call from the comfort of your bedroom, or maybe from your kitchen, or from your car on the way to picking up your children from school (cue several hand raises). Unfortunately, even in your secluded home office, sometimes you can’t stop your cat from walking in front of your webcam. Remote work has become a mechanism for living your authentic self in almost all facets of your life, which in turn, builds trust with your team, allowing them to see the more vulnerable parts of you. This is a catalyst for deeper relationships. The quick shift to remote work, combined with the encouragement of teams to remain “present” during meetings and collaboration (i.e., cameras on), plus increased personal conversation to make up for the lack of co-worker coffee runs and post-work meals, has completely normalized the perception of our teammates living their personal lives at work. Three years ago, the thought of having a meeting with your manager while they’re lounging on the couch in their living room seemed asinine. Nowadays, my colleagues have seen me wear basically every hoodie I own.

Although we can’t wait to have the opportunity to get back into our office when we can, we know that a hybrid – or even fully remote – working environment is here to stay. It isn’t productive to keep holding out until your team is able to be back in person. Remote work is a fantastic opportunity to focus on making your team stronger and more effective through practicing trust, purposeful communication, and encouraging each team member to show up as their authentic self every day.

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