Chamber Chat by Jon Powell

September 29, 2020 - 12:00am

Chamber Chat by Jon Powell

Covid culture – healthy, happy and hydrated teams

A lot of us are now getting used to the new normal of working from home. Now I don't have a crystal ball and I don't know what is going to happen long term but for many of us, home working will be our normal for another six months and then I expect many of us will work from home a lot more frequently than we did pre Covid-19. This is going to have a huge impact in a number of ways. Demand for larger office spaces where the whole company can fit together every day may well decline. Social distancing may well accelerate the impact (decline) of  the traditional high street as less of us commute to the city centre to work each day. Urban planning may continue to move towards the concept of garden villages or micro towns within cities rather than a business park over here, a retail park over there, residential that way approach we have had over the past 50 years. We realised a decade ago that we don't need shops to go shopping so why do we need an office to work?

But the aim of this blog is to focus on one key challenge we currently face and may well have for the foreseeable future. How do we maintain a healthy, happy and hydrated team dynamic when we don't have a water fountain. The answer to the question of productive and effective teams is nearly always culture. And remote working hasn't changed that, it has just made it that much harder! I wish I had all the answers here and could give you a simple step by step guide to building a strong team culture but I can't. But I can say there are a few areas you should focus on when thinking about how you can create the right environment for your staff and colleagues to build effective teams remotely.

Firstly start with the vision. What is the team trying to achieve and why? How are they contributing to the success of the organisation. How do you and they measure that success?

A good team culture isn't about management, it's about leadership. You want leaders in your organisation and teams not managers. Encourage a coaching approach and a culture where individuals and the team own problems and develop solutions.

Create an environment where the team can come together regularly. Put time aside for keep in touch (KIT) meetings, even a quick 15 mins online each day that everyone has to attend. Perhaps consider meeting physically once per week or once per month in a social distanced way to help reinforce the rapport and bond. Consider a day per week where everyone in the team comes together without external meetings to focus on development and improvements in the ways of working, systems, processes, products. And think about the value of away days for strategy planning.

Support a culture of continued development. Nobody is the finished article so encourage staff to develop their skills, knowledge and experience to prevent staff getting bored, especially when they are stuck at home most days.

Encourage staff to turn on their camera and get to know one another and where they are working from, the challenges the face and when they work most effectively. I find it really hard speaking to someone without their camera on. It certainly doesn’t help with team building. And in these times we all have challenges with childcare, other caring arrangements, pets, illness, isolation. Some people will be more effective in the morning, others in the afternoon or evening. Get your team to share this so they can complement one another.

We don’t know how long the Covid-19 pandemic will last but I am fairly sure it will have a lasting impact on the way we work. So don't wait for everything to return to the way it was. Act now to build effective teams in your organisation.

Jon Powell is Vice President of the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce, Director of Employer Solutions Ltd, your local leading HR specialists, and Head of Enterprise and Innovation Services at Lancaster University.