Love it or hate it, our work environment may well be the four walls of home for the foreseeable. Leadership and mindset coach Gitanjali Trevorrow-Seymour shares her top advice on being a team when you’re miles apart
There are, of course, huge advantages to working remotely, like avoiding insufferable commutes and saving money on lattes. But how can we keep up the sense of being part of a team without the ‘water cooler moments’ that punctuate the working day in an office? With WFH being positioned as the future of the workplace, companies are increasingly looking for the right online work skills among job candidates - and a recent piece of research by StandOut CVshowed that ‘team player’ is the number one skill they demand.
So what does being a good team player mean if your team is rarely - if ever - in the same room?
Employers expect candidates to be capable of contributing to the team remotely and performing tasks collectively when not physically together. 'The fundamentals of high-performing teams remain the same,' says Gitanjali Trevorrow-Seymour, a leadership and mindset coach who founded High Definition You , which uses neuroscience to empower people to thrive in their careers. 'Ultimately what really helps is understanding who you are and how everyone prefers to work. Having open communication about this will reap huge rewards when it comes to your contribution as a team member.'
How to be a great team player when you’re WFH
1. Courageous communication
Whatever the default means of team and client communication, whether it’s Slack, email, instant messaging, video calls or an old school phone call, make a conscious choice about which channel of communication is best not just for you but for your colleagues. Zoom can be challenging. Slack can be abrupt. There’s so much room in our virtual world for misinterpretation and you may not get the opportunity to ask the right questions or explore challenges fully in group communications. Pick up the phone and have a 1-1 catch up with a colleague or have a de-brief with your line manager to fill in the gaps. Don’t be afraid to follow up and ask a few key questions and be direct if you need clarity, like 'So I’m delivering the market research for this project by 4pm on Friday - is that right?'
2. Take notice
In high performing teams, colleagues support each other. We don’t see the moments when team members are staying back late or overhear their difficult call with a client like we did in the office. Be proactive with your team - ask yourself what it means if a colleague is a bit quiet in a team meeting. Arrange ‘No agenda meetings’ and listen for where your colleagues might be struggling. And remember, it’s a two-way street. Can you let them know when things are tough for you? Suggest a virtual coffee with a colleague so you can get their help.
3. Be clear on who’s doing what
Roles and responsibilities aren’t clear at the best of times. When WFH, it’s even easier to get lost in the blur especially when everyone’s under the cosh. Being a good team player requires crystal clear clarity and management of expectations. It’s especially important when the landscape inevitably changes for you. If you can’t finish that project on time or a deadline gets moved, make sure you’re communicating it in good time and asking if anyone can suggest solutions. If you were all in the office you’d likely turn to someone on your team who’d help you figure it out.
4. Share your wins
You’re a team ‘player’… the key word is ‘play’! How can you create some of the fun you had in the office? Play is such a great way to deepen our connection as human beings. How do your colleagues (and your boss) know if you’ve had a great week? How does everyone feel heard and valued? Hopefully your department has a ‘win of the week’-type celebration - and if not, now is the time to suggest it. But also make sure you message or email your team when you get great feedback from a client or nail a new piece of business. This is not just showing off. Think about it: in the office you’d share good news spontaneously with the team straight away. Share your wins and encourage others to do the same so the team gets that great buzz of endorphins – emotions are contagious!
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Maria Coole is a contributing editor on Marie Claire.
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